Posted: 14.01.22 at 13:50 by By Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Mumby
Quarrying materials will be dumped on farmland in the Mendips to allow a nearby quarry to continue extracting limestone.
Aggregate Industries operates the quarry at Torr Works, located north of the A361 arterial road between Frome and Shepton Mallet.
The company has applied to store limestone scalpings – smaller chips of stone often used to build road surfaces, patios or driveways – on agricultural land west of Tunscombe Lane at the quarry’s northern tip.
Somerset County Council has given these plans the go-ahead, arguing they will ensure the remaining limestone in the quarry can be properly removed.
Numerous local residents spoke out against the plans at a meeting of the council’s regulation committee in Taunton on Thursday morning (January 13).
Michael Thompson said it was foolish to make a decision on these plans without taking plans to reopen the neighbouring Westdown Quarry into account.
He said: “These projects will endanger Asham Wood, a site of special scientific interest. A 1.3 million-tonne pile of scalpings, with numerous lorry movements, will not enhance the natural environment.
“Asham Quarry is now a re-wilded ecosystem. Doing this would remove key habitats.
“If the two projects were to run concurrently, there would be immense activity on either side of Asham Wood – essentially a pincer movement on ecology.”
Jessica Rothwell accused the quarry company of trying to sneak the plans through before the higher biodiversity standards codified in the government’s new Environment Act came into force.
She said: “Cheating the realities of our time by approving plans which undermine biodiversity before 2023 is appalling.
Ecological networks should be preserved and enhanced by the planning system. This devalues healthy, ancient woodlands in favour of finding loopholes.”
Neil Crump added: “In recent years several riding schools have closed. The right of way [through the site] is the primary and only route in the area available to novice riders.
“The people most affected have not been heard, and the impact has not been accurately described. The quarry is going for the easy option – they should find a more sustainable one.”
Chris Herbert, representing Aggregate Industries, argued that leaving the scalpings in their current location (on the quarry floor) would prevent valuable reserves from being extracted, which could impact on both the local and national construction industries.
He said: “If the scalpings remain where they are currently, millions of tonnes of rock will be sterilised, limiting Somerset’s ability to meet demand.
“This scheme means that they just have to be moved once – it is, therefore, the most sustainable option.”
Alex Johnson, Aggregates’s quarry development manager, added: “The stockpile is sat on top of millions of tonnes of permitted reserves.
“We cannot wash scalpings at an increased rate since there is no room for a larger washing plant.
“The stockpile currently covers one-tenth of the quarry floor. The current quarry bench will last three years; over the life of the quarry, this would have to be moved multiple times, which is impractical.”
Around one millions tonnes of scalpings are produced by the quarry ever year, with the proposed pile on the farmland expected to reach a maximum height of 19 metres.
Councillor Philip Ham (whose Mendip Central and East division includes the site) said: “These scalpings when washed are a very saleable product, but only so much can be processed per year.
“I believe this is the best way forward to prevent waste and protect jobs.”
Councillor Mike Pullen (Mendip Hills) added: “I’ve known this site for many years, since I was a young farmer.
“The owners have always done their best to mitigate any problems with locals – walking around last week, I was very impressed.”
Councillor John Clarke (Frome West), however, argued that the environmental damage to the surrounding land outweighed any economic benefits.
He said: “Perhaps delaying the restoration is preferable to the harm that will be caused by transferring these scalpings to the farmland.
“We’re facing a climate emergency and that should be our priority. It should not be about maximising profits, but about community well-being.”
The committee ultimately voted to approve the plans by a margin of six votes to one.
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