Quarry bosses have promised to protect a network of precious waterways relied upon by farmers for their livestock after unveiling plans to dig deeper into the Yorkshire Dales.
At community consultation events over the last week, Tarmac, which has operated Swinden Quarry near the village of Cracoe for decades, revealed that it was proposing to extend the depth of the limestone quarry by a further 50 metres.
It is a scheme that Tarmac said would protect a total of 120 jobs and one which would have no increased visual impact on the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
A planning application is expected to be submitted to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority for consideration towards the end of the year, but some local residents are concerned.
One Cracoe resident, who did not wish to be named, told The Yorkshire Post that a previous deepening project had caused some streams on nearby farmland to dry up and that there were fears this would happen again.
Cracoe Parish Council is due to discuss the proposal at a meeting on Wednesday next week.
Tarmac’s estates manager Matthew Pixton admitted there had been some “reduced water flow” but no major water courses had been affected by deepening the quarry before.
Explaining the plans, Mr Pixton said: “Tarmac is seeking to deepen Swinden Quarry by 50 metres, which will provide approximately ten million tonnes of additional limestone. These proposals will not extend the site boundary and will therefore have no increased visual impact on the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
“We held two public exhibitions last week and, whilst there were naturally some concerns, we received positive feedback from local residents. We understand the sensitivity of the local area and will continue to engage with the community fully ahead of submitting a planning application towards the end of this year.”
Addressing the water concerns, Mr Pixton said: “In 1993, we installed an intensive monitoring scheme to check groundwater levels and flows in the springs and streams surrounding Swinden Quarry. Whilst there have been a small number of minor springs showing reduced water flow during periods of low rainfall, the results of this monitoring have shown that the main streams and rivers have been unaffected.
“We remain committed to protecting the water environment and those people who rely on it, which is why we enhanced the monitoring scheme by adding an additional seven boreholes in 2016 and will continue to work closely with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and the Environment Agency.”
Tarmac’s plans are intended to extend the quarry’s useful life by an extra nine years and they would protect some 35 direct and 85 indirect jobs.
The number of lorry movements would be reduced in favour of rail, Mr Pixton said, with Tarmac committed to a 36 per cent fall in lorry movements.
Richard Graham, head of development management at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said the authority will consult residents, the Environment Agency and others if a planning application is submitted.
An environmental impact assessment would need to be included in any application to identify any adverse impacts and how they would be mitigated, he said.