Opposition mounts in Pontefract against controversial Went Edge Quarry expansion - but it may still go ahead
Controversial plans to expand a quarry could be approved despite nearly 250 objections, including one from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.
Went Edge Quarry lies just to the south of Darrington, near Pontefract.
Its managers want to expand the site, where limestone is mined, by nearly 10 hectares.
But furious objectors say the proposals would lead to serious damage to animals and plant life at the nearby Brockadale Nature Reserve, which is a popular haven for people living in Pontefract and the surrounding areas.
It is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI), such is its significance.
The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, which runs the reserve, claimed the plans have the "potential to damage a nationally important" site through dust and disturbance coming from the quarry effectively running nextdoor.
Natural England, Darrington Parish Council and Kirk Smeaton Parish Council, based just the other side of the North Yorkshire boundary with the Wakefield district, have echoed those fears.
However, the quarry owners insist the impact on nature from the expansion would be "negligible" and provide jobs for local people.
The application, which will go before North Yorkshire's County Council planning committee next week, has been recommended for approval by officers.
But Celia Loughran, who recently stepped down as a councillor for Pontefract South, said she and many others were deeply worried about the proposal.
"I’m very concerned about the effect on residents in Wentbridge and the damage this could do to an important nature reserve," Mrs Loughran said.
“We’ve got an environmental problem here and we have species which could be threatened if this goes ahead."
Mrs Loughran and Darrington Parish Council expressed concerns that they were not approached about the proposal by the quarry when the application was first lodged.
Councils with boundaries close to the site of planning applications are normally informed out of courtesy when proposals are first submitted.
Pontefract South councillor David Jones said he too had concerns about how "wide the consultation has been".
He added: "There are serious question marks about this development and the suitability and need for it.
“It's a big concern, the environmental impact of this both on the landscape and on the people living nearby.”
Tricia Storey, the chair of Kirk Smeaton Parish Council, insisted that her council was "not against quarrying per se", citing the fact it had not objected to the recent expansion of Barnsdale Bar Quarry, around three miles to the south.
Professor Storey said: "The issue for the parish council and so many people in the village is how close this extension is to a nature reserve which has SSI status.
"We had an online petition set up just two weeks ago, which has already had 1,170 signatures, mainly from people saying that this is awful, it’s such a special place and it’s been so important during the pandemic.
"All of these things make it very disappointing that it’s been recommended for approval."
However, the quarry owners say they will restore the land to grassland by 2032, in a scheme they claim will "benefit the area".
In their planning statement attached to the application they said: "The impact of the proposed extension on the locality and residents is considered negligible.
"The quarry provides highly paid skilled jobs and the company have invested large sums of capital in modern quarry plant and machinery, waste processing plant and a wash plant to recover as much material as possible to be sustainable.
"The quarry employs 35 people to operate that machinery and supports over 50 families when the employees and the contractors are considered.
"The company assists the local villages of Wentbridge, Kirk Smeaton and Little Smeaton in any projects that they have to landscape the area, renew fencing or provide materials for repair or refurbishment."
On the issue of consultation, the applicants said information had been sought on protected species from Natural England, North Yorkshire County Council, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Selby District Council.
A decision on the application is expected on Tuesday.
Local Democracy Reporting Service