Quarry next to Yorkshire nature reserve recommended for approval - for the third time

A local authority which has committed to ensuring environmental concerns are scrutinised in every decision it makes is set to have its green credentials tested as a controversial proposal to blast rock beside a nationally important nature reserve is considered by planners for a third time.

Brockadale Nature Reserve
Brockadale Nature Reserve

North Yorkshire County Council’s planning committee will meet for a third time on Tuesday to consider Went Valley Aggregates and Recycling’s plan to extend its quarry by 9.7 hectares next to Brockadale Nature Reserve, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) near Pontefract.

Planning officers have for a third time recommended the scheme to extract 4.9 million tonnes of road building rock be approved, subject to the firm meeting a list of 47 conditions drawn up to mitigate impacts of the proposed eight-year development.

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The committee’s first decision to pass the scheme in May, despite it generating some 333 objections from individuals and opposition from numerous bodies, triggered claims accusing the authority’s officers’ of showing bias towards economic rather than environmental concerns.

In an unprecedented move the council’s chief executive ordered the committee reconsider the scheme “for transparency and public confidence in the planning process”.

A planning meeting in July to reconsider the scheme saw councillors postpone a decision as it emerged they had not visited the proposed controversial boundary between the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserve and the quarry.

In last-minute bids to sway the committee’s decision, both objectors and the quarrying firm have submitted fresh documents.

A Wormersley Parish Council spokesman said despite the proposed mitigation the authority remained strongly opposed to the scheme, adding experts had condemned the firm’s proposed plan to safeguard the SSSI from dust.

It stated: “The parish council is of the view that the proposal would cause catastrophic and irreversible harm to the rare flora and fauna of the SSSI.”

In response, Went Valley Aggregates said objectors had provided no evidence that dust would harm wildlife.

A spokesman for the firm said: “Rare flora appears to be flourishing despite the presence of the quarry. It is not unusual for recommendations for developments of this nature to have over 40 conditions to address the matters they do; compliance with the conditions can be monitored in accordance with the council’s chargeable monitoring and enforcement regime.”

The report adds the firm has argued the need for the rock outweighs the short-term nature of the proposed extension, that its restoration proposals will provide net gains for biodiversity and that there would be no impact from noise, dust or vibration.

Planning officers have concluded the principle of the development is acceptable as, subject to a range of controls, it would not have an adverse impact upon the landscape, ecology, local residents or those visiting the reserve.