Quarry firms criticise council for allowing “unregulated mineral extraction”

The entrance to Metcalfe Farms' site near Leyburn.

Two of the country’s leading building materials firms have accused local authority planners of allowing a large mineral extraction operation to continue unregulated.

Tarmac and Cemex UK said Richmondshire District Council’s planning department had failed to properly assess what was happening at Metcalfe Farm’s Washfold Farm site at Leyburn when officers granted plans under delegated powers to build two 90m by 30m barns at the long established dairy farm last October.

Planning officers agreed as the buildings were to be very large, they could be dug into the land to “minimise landscape impact to a large degree”.

However, Cemex and Tarmac, which are also objecting to a current application by Metcalfe Farms to launch a ready mix concrete batching plant at the farm, said the barn-building scheme also involved “the removal of some 200,000 tonnes of limestone from the site through the use of blasting and crushing techniques, involving the use of quarry machinery and plant”.

Mark Kelly, planning manager of Cemex UK, said its review of the planning officer’s report and the decision notice associated with the development had demonstrated the absence of any assessment or evaluation as to the depth and volume of fill being removed, its treatment and its removal off site onto local roads.

He said: “As the development materially involves significantly more development than the simple erection of agricultural buildings we are consequently considering our options relating to a complaint of mal-administration and potential legal actions against Richmondshire council.”

Tiffany Lloyd, of Tarmac, said the firm had become “increasingly concerned with the Washfold Farm development” after schemes approved by the council had “resulted in the lowering of ground levels and subsequently the unregulated extraction and processing of limestone”.

She said: “This sizeable tonnage is comparable to the annual production rates of a small limestone quarry. In addition, because the previous permissions, when completed, will yield some 170,000 to 250,000 tonnes, some clarity is required as to whether the development should be considered as a mineral operation, especially as it is estimated there are further opportunities to develop the site and release yet more limestone.

“It is considered that this piecemeal approach to planning is enabling mineral extraction to proceed unregulated by the appropriate legislation and environmental controls, whereas the two local quarry operations are subject to and look to work within these necessary controls.

“It seems clear that there has been a lack of appropriate assessment and evaluation of previous applications which have permitted the Washfold Farm development…”

A Richmondshire District Council spokeswoman did not to comment on the firm’s claims that it had not considered the barns scheme thoroughly enough and said North Yorkshire County Council was the planning authority responsible for mineral extraction.

After being asked to comment on the claims that mineral extraction was continuing unregulated, a North Yorkshire County Council spokeswoman said: “As this is a planning application which has yet to be determined by Richmondshire District Council it would be inappropriate for the county council to make any comment on the application.”