Quarry expansion 'will secure 50 jobs'
PLANS to extend Wickwar Quarry have been approved by councillors.
South Gloucestershire Council's development management committee granted permission for the northern expansion of the quarry and the extraction of another 17.7 million tonnes of limestone despite suspicions that blasting has caused cracks in historic neighbouring properties.
The quarry's operators say the expansion will secure 50 jobs at the site, which would otherwise have run out of limestone in the next 18 months.
Members heard the nearest homes in the hamlet of Churchend would now be just 170 metres from the application site boundary.
But a report to the committee said the council’s environmental protection officer had no objections and that limits on noise, dust, vibration and traffic movements were acceptable.
Shaun Denny, on behalf of applicants Breedon Southern and Tortworth Estate Company, told the meeting at Kingswood civic centre: “This will secure the equivalent of 50 jobs for 18 years which would otherwise be lost as the quarry would run out of limestone in the next 18 months.”
He said the quarry, which celebrated its centenary in 2019, changed ownership last year but the management and regulatory team remained the same and that the successful quarry liaison group, which includes parish and district councillors and residents, would continue.
Charfield Parish Council said in its representation: “The extension to Wickwar Quarry brings operations very close indeed to the hamlet of Churchend and there is reasonable concern that nearby residents may be adversely impacted by noise, vibration, light pollution and dust.
“The extension moves the quarry much closer to Charfield village, and the parish council has the same concerns.
“In recent years investigations have been carried out to try to ascertain if quarry workings were a cause of cracks appearing in Churchend residents’ homes, many of which are without foundations and are several hundred years old.
“No definitive evidence was found, but as quarrying advances towards these old homes it is reasonable to fear the vibration from operations will impact them.
“Vibration may also cause significant further deterioration to the church.”
The parish council said the plans would blight a well-used public right of way, which would have to be diverted.
Seven residents, including two involved in the Churches Conservation Trust, objected with concerns about noise, HGVs, blasting and the impact on the Grade I-listed St James church.
But the report to members said there was “minimal risk” to nearby buildings from ground-borne vibration.
It said: “It is considered that given the location of the quarry in relation to the nearest properties and the environmental requirements of the conditions proposed that sufficient distance remains and that measures can satisfactorily address any issues of local amenity.”
The report said the operators were donating about £3,000 towards the church to “help redress any ongoing deterioration of historic assets”.
It said the public right of way across the 36-hectare extension site would be kept open until an order for a diversion was made by a different committee.
Wickwar Parish Council said it supported the proposals, which include a new tunnel under Churchend Lane at the southern end of the new working site to link it with the existing quarry, because of the “positive impact on the local economy”.
The site will be restored as a lake as operations cease.
Members approved the plans unanimously yesterday.
Picture: Google Earth image of Wickwar Quarry (in the middle of the picture) with the area to be extended ringed in red.
By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service