SOMERSET COUNCIL: Quarry reopening refused
Plans to reopen a Somerset quarry to provide construction materials during the HS2 rail project have been refused by the county council.
Aggregate Industries UK was recently awarded a contract to provide material for the concrete beds on which the new high-speed trains will run between London and Birmingham.
The company applied to reopen Bartletts Quarry in Nunney near Frome, arguing its existing operations at the nearby Torr Quarry could not cope with growing demand from London and the south east.
But Somerset County Council said the case for reopening the quarry was “weak” and would impact negatively on those living near the site.
Aggregate employee Chris Herbert spoke in favour of the proposals at a virtual meeting of the council’s regulation committee on Thursday morning (January 14).
He said: “Aggregate Industries employs more than 200 people locally, either directly or indirectly.
“Investment in our infrastructure will be a key part in our economy recovery. We ask the council to help us to support the recovery of the economy.”
The company’s contrast for HS2 stipulates that the limestone for the concrete beds must come from the Torr Quarry from Shepton Mallet.
By reopening the Bartletts Quarry, the company can deal with localised demand by road while transporting stone from the Torr Quarry to the south east by rail, meaning there would be “no increase in traffic over already permitted levels.”
Despite this assurance, a number of local residents spoke out against the plans, arguing the environmental impact outweighed the economic benefits.
Chris Potter said: “The concurrent working of two quarries, as proposed, will have a negative impact on both carbon emissions and sustainability.
“The extraction of crushed rock for HS2 is not sustainable. Once the rock is gone, it’s gone. Once the land is ruined, it cannot be reinstated.”
Claire Martineux added: “Is it the council’s view that Nunney should put up with more quarrying, as it’s always been a quarrying village?
“Quarrying in 2021 won’t just be picks and shovels – it will be noisy, dusty lorries, jaw-crushers and sirens.
“Please don’t just wrap yourselves in the comfort blankets of planning procedure. There could be serious far-reaching consequences of what you decide today. This breaches your own commitment to the local community.”
Mendip District Council approved plans for 82 new homes near the Nunney Catch roundabout, not far from the quarry, in July 2020.
District councillor Michael Gay, who represents several villages near the quarry and the new homes, said: “How will we get to a carbon-neutral Somerset if the south east’s carbon cost is transported to us?
“The level of road traffic is already very high, and could increase by 62 per cent. Such an increase would be extremely detrimental to our parishioners.”
Councillor Martin Dimery (who represents the Frome East division) said it would be absurd to approve these proposals only two months after the council adopted its plan to tackle the climate emergency.
He said: “The quarry train runs right through the middle of Frome and is very close to my house. An increase in rail traffic, while preferable to road traffic, is a negative impact.
“It sounds like the thin end of the wedge to me. Only in November did the council adopt its climate emergency plan – if we approve this, we will fail to meet this at the first hurdle.”
Councillor John Clarke (Frome West) said reopening the quarry would lead to “inescapable daily disruption” for residents.
He said: “I was contacted by a resident of Nunney, who’s lived there since 1990, and they were worried their windows would break from being shaken.
“Is there substantive evidence of market pressures, or is it just that
Aggregate has entered into a contract with HS2? Whatever your feelings about HS2, there is no guarantee post-covid that this project will be a part of our recovery.
“We have to balance between the needs of Aggregate and the needs of our communities.”
Councillor Mike Rigby (Lydeard) added: “I haven’t seen anything really properly justifying the need for the stone.
The construction managers’ purchasing index suggests the market is growing, but the figures suggest it’s just a bounce-back from the lockdown of March to July last year.”
The committee voted unanimously to refuse the plans to reopen the quarry on the basis that the company had “not provided sufficient justification for running both of these quarries in tandem”.
Aggregate Industries UK has not yet indicated whether it intends to appeal the decision.
Words: Daniel Murphy, Local Democracy Reporter
Watch the channel on TV