Considering the planning application to build a potash mine near Whitby has cost the taxpayer in excess of £1.4 million, it can be revealed.
A freedom of information request put to the North York Moors National Park Authority reveals the levels of staffing and resources which were dedicated to the York Potash application which was first submitted in 2012 and eventually given the go-ahead a month ago.
A sum of £711,000 has so far been paid to specialist consultants, AMEC Foster Wheeler Environment and Infrastructure UK Ltd, who were appointed to provide specialist minerals planning and environmental advice on both the original York Potash application which was submitted and later withdrawn, and the second successful one.
It is estimated that there are a further £25,000 worth of invoices yet to be submitted and the amount of North York Moors National Park resources in terms of staffing has been equated to £725,000.
Costs are further expected to escalate as pending the planning approval there is still work to be done before construction starts.
Former borough and county councillor Jane Kenyon said the figures brought the role of the North York Moors National Park Authority into question and that it should concentrate on looking after “flora and fauna”.
She said: “The Authority should be responsible for the flora and fauna and protecting the beauty of the moors. Major decisions on economy and planning issues should be returned to unitary authorities.”
The Authority said: “There is still considerable work to be undertaken in sorting out the planning conditions under which York Potash can proceed with the development and the terms of the Section 106 agreement need to be formally developed and agreed.
“There will also be on-going costs associated with monitoring planning conditions during the construction phase and beyond.”
However, the North York Moors National Park Authority has re-couped £440,000 from York Potash “to partially offset” the costs of dealing with the application and chief executive Andy Wilson revealed that it is in discussions with York Potash about further payments it wants the company to make after admitting the whole process “has been a problem for us”.
He said: “There is no getting away from the fact we have had to take money out of reserves and have been kept away from doing other things and there is the staff time.”
Mr Wilson added that the money spent so far was to deal with both applications and had York Potash submitted a better first application some of these costs could have been avoided.
He said York Potash had been made aware that it could have opted for its application for a potash mine and underground transport system in the rural village of Sneatonthorpe to be considered at national level.
But he believed that the company knew it would be processed quicker at local level.
He said: “We spent a huge amount of time and money on the application that the company then withdrew. It cost the public money. If we had had a better application and a more thought through scheme the first time we would not have had to spend that.”
Mr Wilson said he had also been in talks with the government about how much his Authority could charge in relation to planning application fees.
“At the moment that is capped at £60,000. But when you get something on this gargantuan scale, it is not a problem if we can charge a decent level of fee.”