The proposal involved extraction of 5.65 million tonnes of limestone over a 30-year period from an existing, but dormant, quarry covering 77 hectares which would be backfilled in phases with inert waste to pre-extraction contours. The quarry was subject to existing old mining permissions, OMPs, valid to 2042 which could be reactivated by review under the 1995 Environment Act.
One of the main issues in this case was whether there was a need for the limestone or additional waste capacity in the first place. The inspector considered, based on the recent 2017 needs assessment evidence that there was no need for either. He also felt the proposal would involve the use of a significant area of best and most versatile agricultural land contrary to the NPPF and it had no transportation advantages over and above other existing quarries.
The inspector went on to consider whether the reactivation of the OMPs, without quarry backfilling, was likely to be a commercial proposition and therefore a fallback position, and whether it was more environmentally damaging than allowing the appeal. For the former, he felt the quantity of limestone that could be extracted was unlikely to have sufficient competitive edge without the backfilling of waste. In environmental terms, apart from the impact of the quarry face, the inspector felt reactivation of the OMPs need not be any more harmful than the proposal.
The inspector concluded the restoration of other quarries in the county was a far more sustainable option than the establishment of new quarry in an area where there was not a proven need for mineral extraction, simply to provide an alternative and less expensive location to dispose of inert waste.
Inspector: Melvyn Middleton; Inquiry