EXPANSION: Quarry near A303 to expand
A quarry near the A303 in Somerset will be able to expand despite an outcry from local residents.
Ham & Doulting Stone Company Ltd. applied for permission to extend Blackford Hill quarry, which lies south of the existing dual carriageway between Sparkford and Wincanton.
The plans have been met with significant criticism from neighbouring residents, arguing that more than a decade of further “noisy excavation” would damage local businesses.
But Somerset County Council has now ruled the expansion can proceed though it has placed restrictions on what work can be carried out at weekends.
The council’s regulation committee met in Taunton to discuss the proposals on Thursday (June 24).
Under the proposals, up to 21,000 tonnes will be extracted over 14 years, being transported to the company’s masonry works at Tout Quarry in Charlton Adam to be cut, dressed and sold.
The extraction would involve an additional two HGV journeys per week, with the land being returned to agricultural use after the 14-year period was up.
Company owner Zac England told the committee: “I can say with confidence that the stone from Blackford is one of the principle walling stones found in historic buildings in the Wincanton, Gillingham and Sherborne areas.
“My company has been regularly contacted by builders and architects looking for this stone. It is therefore clear to me that there is a market for this stone, which would benefit Somerset’s economy.”
Members of the Blackford Quarry Action Group said the proposals were “wholly inappropriate and unacceptable”, arguing the expansion would negatively impact local tourism.
A spokesman said: “You can’t sell that in the brochure: come to Somerset, listen to the noise and see the quarry. It’s not a strap-line that anybody would come up with.
“These wide and heavy vehicles will completely fill this narrow lane which is in daily use by walkers, horses from the local stables, and cyclists on the Wessex Cycle Way – all of whom would be in great danger.”
Councillor William Wallace (whose Blackmore Vale division includes the site) said he was disappointed that a formal site visit had not taken place even after the coronavirus restrictions had begun to ease.
He said: “It’s imperative that we hear what the locals say. I have visited the site and know the area very well – I went there on a wet day and there was mud everywhere.
“The roads and lanes around there are highly unsuitable for HGV traffic. Keep in mind that Somerset is full of quarries, including one on my own land which I don’t use – they were created when we transported stone by horse and cart.
“I think it is an unsuitable site for a quarry such as this.”
However, members of the committee spoke largely in favour of the proposals, arguing it would bring more jobs to the area.
Councillor Mark Keating said: “I’m a great supporter of enterprise in small communities. We need to find a balance here – maybe we can do something about weekend working.”
Councillor Nigel Hewitt-Cooper added: “It’s a case of trying to tighten things up as best we can.
“Taking a decision based on hearts over heads can get you into a lot of trouble.”
After nearly two hours’ debate, the committee voted to grant permission, with the condition that no activity on-site be permitted at weekends.
Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter
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