PLANS to extend Denbigh Quarry and allow it to continue for another 25 years were opposed by councillors, but the Welsh Government may have the final say.
Mr C. Burgess of Breedon Southern Ltd has applied for planning permission to extend Denbigh Quarry, also known as Graig Quarry, on Graig Road on its western side.
If the planning application is granted, it will release an additional 4.4 million tonnes of saleable minerals, extending the life of the quarry for another 25 years.
The most recent planning permission was granted on 3 October 2022, allowing the remaining quarry reserves to be extracted until 31 August 2028.
Speaker Mair Jones reminded councillors that 284 residents had already objected to the plans during the consultation process.
“284 people have made their legitimate objections crystal clear,” she said.
“Breedon want to extend the operations by 25 years. You should be assessing this application as if it were a brand new quarry application. The report states that the nearest residential property is over 250 metres from the proposed extended quarry boundary, outside the recommended 200-metre-buffer zone. There are 24 properties within the 200-metre buffer now. Some properties will be 90 metres from the new boundary. I implore you to think about that.”
She added: “A bill going through Westminster now is proposing a distance of 1,000 metres from homes, due to the toxic effect of mining. A loss of four hectares of the best and most versatile agricultural land in a climate emergency with decreasing food security is a travesty.”
But the company says the application would boost Denbigh’s economy, save 100 jobs, and reduce the business’ carbon footprint, negating the need for lorries to transport limestone from England.
However, councillors voiced their objections.
The planning committee, though, could not outright refuse the plans because the Welsh Government has stepped in with a holding order so they can assess the application, which could see the final decision made by government ministers.
Denbigh Quarry is an active limestone quarry, located to the north of the town. The permitted site comprises approximately 28 hectares of land with the proposed extension area amounting to a further five hectares.
The current use of the land cited for development is agricultural, used for grazing and pasture.
But this land is surrounded by woodland, some of it ancient, including Crest Mawr Woods, and two sites of special scientific interest (SSI).
At the planning committee meeting at Denbighshire’s Ruthin County Hall HQ, most councillors said they were against the development, despite officers recommending the plans for approval.
Cllr Delyth Jones proposed the committee voiced their objections to Welsh Government.
“Planning policy Wales states extensions to existing mineral working, whether they be time, lateral, or depth extensions should be considered in the same manner as applications for new sites,” she said.
“I believe, therefore, that the key task for us as the planning committee is to determine whether we can justify granting permission for this effectively new endeavour on five hectares of best and most valued agricultural land, outside the development boundary.
“I would liken this to us having to decide as to whether we are happy to grant an application for a new golf course and a clubhouse on the same site.”
Cllr Jones’ proposal was seconded by Cllr Arwel Roberts, and the committee voted to advise that the application is refused.
Both councillors cited the negative impact on protected species within the SSI area and the environment as well as the development being outside the boundary of the local development plan (LDP), and negatively affecting residents’ lives.
Denbigh Town Council had also objected, listing reasons that included environmental issues, wellbeing, damage to properties, dust and noise pollution, loss of green spaces/public space for recreational purposes, and traffic on an already busy road.
The town council claimed the development would be of no benefit to Denbigh residents, insisting there was no need for the products from the quarry in Denbighshire.
North Wales Wildlife Trust also objected to the planning application and had concerns about the impact on wildlife.
Cllr Pauline Edwards added: “The concerns people have are around increased noise and dust and particles in the air from both the quarry and the heavy traffic and unacceptable levels of noise from the quarry, including machinery and operational noise, loss of green space and the loss of environment used for leisure activities, and the loss of a well-used public footpath, which has historical importance to many.”
She added that the people of Denbigh would be ‘sentenced to 25 years of noise’ when the limestone wasn’t required locally.
Cllr Jon Harland also had concerns about the environment.
“The extension of this quarry will yield 4.4 million tonnes of limestone. If this is used for the production of cement, that will give off an extra 4.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere,” he said.
“This represents 285,000 tonnes per year over the next 15 years. The council’s net carbon zero position in 2020 was only 16,500 tonnes per year, almost 20 times lower.”
Cllr Arwel Roberts said: “It is going to affect people who live in the town. The air is going to be affected. Also the houses that are nearby. I cannot be in favour of the quarry.”
But speaking in favour of the quarry extension and representing Breedon, Mr Malcom Ellis said: “The application in front of you is to provide limestone for the area for another 20 years, around then.
“It will give benefits to the community and the economy, to reduce the carbon footprint, and (promote) sustainability.
“The approval of the request will give a future to the quarry and also job security to around 100 workers and their families, directly and indirectly.”
He added: “It would ensure a supply of limestone for the area, rather than transfer from quarries in Derbyshire or further afield.”
Denbighshire will now inform the Welsh Government it opposes the application whilst the holding order is in place and officials decide who will make the final decision.