Potash mine plans move a step closer reality but opponents will consider legal challenge

PLANS for one of the world’s largest potash mines to be sited in the North York Moors National Park moved a step closer yesterday when the Government ruled out holding a public inquiry into the controversial proposals.

The proposed site for the York Potash Mine near Whitby in the North York Moors National Park

Opponents of the mine, planned by York Potash on a site on the outskirts of Whitby, had hoped the Department for Communities and Local Government would call the application in. But yesterday the DCLG said it would not be doing so.

A spokesman said: “Ministers have today decided not to call in the York Potash project planning applications. Only a very small number of planning applications are called in to be decided by central government.”

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Sirius Minerals, the parent company of York Potash, said the decision meant that local planning authorities can now proceed with finalising the remaining issues. The company said there will be no public inquiry, and there is now “no other barrier”.

Chris Fraser, managing director and CEO of Sirius, said: “This is yet another positive step forward on our pathway to developing the project and increasing shareholder value.”

The plans for the £2 billion mine were approved two weeks ago by North York Moors National Park planning committee, by a majority of just one vote. After four years of planning it is expected works at the former Dove’s Nest Farm site in the village of Sneatonthorpe near Whitby will start later this year or early in 2016. An underground pipeline to transport the mined fertiliser product polyhalite to a plant on Teesside will follow.

Planning committee members spent hours debating whether the benefits of the mine could justify the impact on the landscape. Opponents fear the mine will harm the environment, and the Campaign for National Parks had hoped the plans, which it fears will damage to the area’s landscape, wildlife and to local tourism, would go to a public inquiry.

CNP policy and research manager Ruth Bradshaw said: “We are very disappointed with the decision. We felt that as it conflicts with the national park policy and as there has been such controversy, that it met the criteria where an inquiry was justified. The only option now would be a legal challenge.”