Proposal submitted to create quarry the size 50 football pitches on arable fields in North Yorkshire

A proposal to create a quarry the size of 50 football pitches across arable fields would have few environmental consequences and could lead to a range of long-term ecological benefits, a study has concluded.

Lightwater Quarries plan to extract up to 500,000 tonnes of limestone annually between next year and 2037 from its Gebdykes Quarry site near Masham

The Environmental Impact Assessment report by consultancy Wardell Armstong was triggered by the scale of Lightwater Quarries' plan extract up to 500,000 tonnes of limestone annually between next year and 2037 from its Gebdykes Quarry site near Masham.

Planning law requires firms to carry out a study of the effects of their proposed developments upon humans, flora, fauna, soil, water, air climate the landscape, material assets, cultural heritage, and the interaction between these.

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Stone from the quarry has been used to restore numerous historic buildings and villages in the Lower Wensleydale and Ripon area, including Markington, Masham and the Howe Hill Tower. The firm’s limestone is also used for path chippings, roads and for concrete mix.

North Yorkshire County Council will ultimately decide whether the 33.7-hectare quarry which has been worked since 1949 and is nearing exhaustion of the currently permitted reserves can be extended by 27 hectares.

As part of scores of documents lodged with the authority, the impact study states despite the size of the quarry, its impact on the Lower Wensleydale landscape would be minimal as it would be "very well screened".

The extension area would be included in a new restoration masterplan for the whole quarry to a low-level scheme including agricultural land, woodland and grassland.

The report states while there are a number of other active quarries in the area, including Bell Flask Quarry, Ripon sand and gravel quarry, Nosterfield sand and gravel quarry and Potgate limestone quarry, restoration proposals will result in "a likely enhancement of ecological resources".

It states the northern extension at Gebdykes Quarry would result in disturbance or displacement of ecological receptors, but mitigation and habitat enhancement measures would provide an increase in habitats, foraging and commuting resources and connectivity on site, extending to the wider area in the longer term.

The report also found the loss of the farmland would only be temporary, that the quarry would not impact on any designated heritage assets and the cumulative effects of the existing working quarry and proposed extension would be negligible.

Councillor Neil Pickard, chairman of Masham Parish Council, said the quarry extension would have little impact on residents' amenity, but would help continue the benefits the local economy felt from nearby quarrying, including jobs for HGV drivers.

However, Cllr Pickard said the parish council awaited plans to see how the developers proposed to link the quarry to the north and south of Limekiln Lane.

He added the industry could bring further benefits to the area in the coming years with plans expected to be tabled from another nearby quarry which would see the issue of flooding in shops and properties in Silver Street dealt with.