Ruling today on quarry plea

Council committee urged not to ignore voice of the people John Roberts COUNCILLORS have been warned not to ignore the voice of the people when controversial plans to allow public moorland to be used for quarrying come under the spotlight tonight.

Midgeham Cliff End Quarry wants to carry out test drilling on 12 acres of land on Harden Moor which is owned by Bradford Council to see if the site could be used for quarrying.

A campaign has been launched to fight the plan with more than 400 people signing a petition to stop the company extending quarrying from its existing site.

Residents say the moorland between Keighley and Bingley is public access land used by walkers.

But Midgeham Cliff End's managing director, Roger Adler, said the extension was necessary to allow quarrying for sandstone to continue on the site because existing supplies were almost exhausted.

Bradford Council's Shipley Area Committee will be asked to rule on the plan tonight before a final decision is taken by the authority. The committee launched a public consultation in June to find the views of residents.

A 438-signature petition and 87 letters and forms opposing the plan were received by the council with just three letters in support.

Coun Mike Ellis said: "The public consultation has been overwhelmingly against the plans for the quarry to be extended and as councillors I think we have to take that into account.

"What is the point of going out to public consultation if we are not going to listen to what the public has to say?

"The responses have not just been from local residents but from people further afield who use the site for orienteering."

The Open Spaces Society, Britain's oldest conservation group, has also backed the campaign to save the moor.

Its general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, said: 'It has been recorded as open-access land under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, and the public has the legal right to walk over every square inch of it and to enjoy it for quiet recreation.

"It would be a tragedy if it were to be sacrificed for quarrying."

He added: "There is no overriding reason why the land should be quarried when that particular type of stone is available elsewhere in the neighbourhood."

Gill Penny is landlady of the Guide Inn which is close to the proposed 12-acre quarrying site.

She said: "Extending the quarry to take up another 12 acres of very beautiful and treasured moorland will mean the number of vehicles going to and from the quarry will increase by another 150 a week on country lanes which are not built for it. The roads are already deteriorating. A public consultation meeting held at Harden Primary School was attended by 177 people. When a show of hands was asked just five were in favour of it with 172 against. If the council approve this, it will prove it was not consultation, they were just paying lip-service to us."

But Mr Adler said extending the quarry would not mean increasing its operation and stressed extending existing quarries instead of building new ones was in line with Government policy.

He said: "Nobody wants quarries but everyone wants to be able to have a stone fire place or stones for patios and garden walls. We need to extend the quarry to be able to carry on quarrying here to maintain a successful business."

Mr Adler said stone merchants were going out of business because of a lack of locally-produced stone."