Brockadale Nature Reserve campaigners welcome new twist in battle against Went Edge Quarry expansion near Pontefract
Campaigners battling to preserve an area described as one of the most "beautiful places in Yorkshire" have welcomed a new twist in their bid to block a quarry expansion.
Went Edge Quarry, around six miles south-east of Pontefract, was given planning permission to extend operations to within around 50 metres of Brockadale Nature Reserve, in May.
The decision was slammed by critics, including the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, amid concerns about the impact on rare species of wildlife at the nature reserve, which is designated as a site of special scientific interest.
But North Yorkshire County Council, who made the original decision, has now decided to reconsider the matter at a public meeting later this month.
Selby MP Nigel Adams had written to the Secretary of State for Local Government, Robert Jenrick, to raise concerns about the expansion.
Mr Jenrick opted against calling the matter in, which would have seen the Government make the final decision on the matter.
But the council's planning committee will reconvene again on July 27 to discuss the issue in person, after the original decision was made at the end of a chaotic four-hour virtual meeting.
Objectors to the scheme have welcomed the news as a second chance to make their case.
Michael Britton, the chair of Darrington Parish Council, said: "Our objection remains the same as before. It’s a beautiful part of Yorkshire, probably the most beautiful part of Yorkshire within this area.
"For the council's committee to just override the protection the reserve has just seems so wrong.
"Obviously regardless of the reasons, we’ll be happy if the outcome is that planning permission is refused this time.
"It’s not in our parish but so many people from round here use the site because it is so beautiful."
Tricia Storey, the chair of Kirk Smeaton Parish Council, said: "The community are absolutely delighted that there is a second bite of a cherry here.
"They’re so passionate about saving this reserve and they’re just so fearful that years of limestone quarrying will have a devastating impact on it.
“At a time when the government is focusing on an Environment Bill and on the preservation of meadows, we’ve got something so precious here. Why would you want to cause such a problem to it?"
The quarry's managers have said that the expansion is necessary to meet growing demand for building materials across Yorkshire.
They also claim that the risk to nature will be limited and minimised and that extending its area of work would give a £2m boost to the local economy.
The council's planning committee had voted six to three in favour of the application on May 18, but the meeting, which was streamed over YouTube, was heavily disrupted by squabbling.
Independent councillor John McCartney was strongly rebuked by the committee chair after accusing a planning officer of "lying" in a report on the application and branding the council "corrupt".
Speaking on the move to have the application reconsidered, the council's corporate director for environmental services, Karl Battersby, said: "In the event that the Secretary of State did not call in the application, it was always our intention to take the application back to the committee to clarify a technical planning issue.
"This will ensure that committee members have every opportunity to review all the relevant information and people will have a further opportunity to raise concerns.”
Local Democracy Reporting Service