Every single plan to quarry on greenbelt land in North Yorkshire approved over last 20 years, councils claim

The chairs of five parish councils have issued an unprecedented and scathing attack over North Yorkshire County Council’s (NYCC) environmental record, claiming the authority has passed every single plan to quarry or process waste on Green Belt land made to it over the past 20 years.

In a 2,700-word letter to MPs Nigel Adams and Yvette Cooper, the parish council leaders in the Selby district allege NYCC has been working behind the scenes with developers to get their plans approved.

They have also accused the Tory-run authority of flying in the face of Boris Johnson and MIchael Gove’s policies, approving major developments on agricultural land despite a litany of significant environmental concerns and failing.

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The letter emphasises NYCC is particularly poor at enforce planning conditions introduced to make harmful developments acceptable.

North York Moors

The letter, from Kirk Smeaton, Darrington, Heck, Womersley and Cridling Stubbs parish council chairs, follows contentious plans being approved in the area last year in the face of overwhelming local opposition and testimony of leading environmentalists.

These have included a large-scale quarry extension beside the popular Brockadale nature reserve and a plan to create a waste plant on land at Gale Common that would have been returned to farmland had the county council not failed to enforce its planning conditions.

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The letter states: “We write to you because there appears to be a mindset in NYCC to approve every Mineral and Waste planning application in the Green Belt regardless of whether a planning application is in conflict with the Local Plans and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), and in disregard of legitimate concerns of local people, communities and organisations.

“Our understanding is that NYCC have not refused one Mineral and Waste planning application in the Green Belt for over 20 years – they have received over 20 applications and approved every single one.

“We are not aware of any other Mineral and Waste planning authority in the Country who have approved every Mineral and Waste planning application over this extensive period of time.

“Our belief is that the nation, Government and local policies are nowadays much more sensitive to environmental impact, whereas the decision-making on mineral and waste matters at NYCC has not progressed with the times.”

In an apparent critcism of the integrity of the council’s planning process the letter questions why, given the length of time it took NYCC to consider one major development, why the applicant did not apply to have it considered by the Planning Inspectorate instead.

The letter states: “It would appear that NYCC has been working with the applicant from the very start to approve the application.

“The [planning officers] report to the Planning and Regulatory Functions Committee was not impartial and it was not balanced. The case officer in his presentation to the planning hearing gave absolutely no weight to any of the representations objecting to the application and chose to completely disregard the expert ecological evidence presented at the hearing.”

Ahead of a unitary authority being established in the county, the parish council chairs have also underlined concerns about “catastrophic” decisions being made by people with little knowledge of communities on the other side of England’s largest county.

The letter states: “It cannot be a fair and just process where councillors who do not have an affinity with an area and who live miles away can be allowed to determine such an important planning application, when most of those who voted against the application were the local councillors living south of Selby. The decision appears non-democratic and it does not give rise to local accountability.”

In response to the criticisms, Matt O’Neill, NYCC’s assistant director Growth, Planning and Trading Standards, said the authority appreciated applications for minerals extraction “can be sensitive and we understand the strength of local feeling they can generate”.

He said: “Our thorough consideration of each application recognises that strong local feeling.”

Referring only to the criticisms relating to the Kirk Smeaton quarry, Mr O’Neill said the application had been considered by the planning committee three times and councillors made two site visits to understand fully the nature of the application and the relationship of the site to the local area and nature reserve.

He said: “Extensive consultation took place on the initial application and on subsequent amendments. Several representations and presentations were made to the planning committee by individuals and parish councils and all were taken into account in committee members’ careful consideration of the application.

“As with all planning applications, this one was carefully assessed against national policy and guidance, local policy and emerging policy, with reference to representations by consultees and views expressed by groups, organisations and individuals. All were given appropriate weight before its determination by the committee.

“The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government received a request to call in the application for his determination. He concluded that it would not be called in and should be decided by the county council."