After a Dales environmental group criticised a decision to extend two quarries, the Mercury put their complaints to the Peak District National Park Authority direct in advance of story being published in the September 19 edition.
A spokesperson for the Peak District National Park Authority responded: “We have taken each point made by Stanton Against the Destruction of our Environment (SADE) in turn and have provided answers. I realise they are probably too long and complex to be published, but these are legal matters and have to be presented in legal language in order to state our case correctly.”
As the statement was indeed far too long for the paper, we have published the full transcript below and copied this web-link into the newspaper article, just so the authority can have its voice. Of course, it also mean readers can make their own minds up.
A spokesperson for Stanton Action Group (SADE) said: “The Peak District National Park Authority seems untouchable when it comes to quarrying applications. This planning application contravenes numerous national park policies.”
Peak Park response: The applications were considered in the light of the policies in the Peak Park’s Core Strategy policy document adopted in 2011 and took account of the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework document that was issued in March 2012. With regard to mineral development in designated areas (e.g. national parks) the government advises that planning permission should be refused for major development in national parks except in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated that they are in the public interest. This has been the case with the two applications, which also accord with a considerable number of the Core Strategy policies.
SADE spokesperson said: “We question whether it is even legal for the authority to re-open Barton Hill and Dungeon quarries - which were closed by order of the Secretary of State in 2010.”
Peak Park response: Birchover Quarry is currently operating under the ministerial planning permissions granted in 1952. Dealing with the review of some of these old mineral planning permissions under Schedule 13 of the Environment Act 1995, has been delayed because of case law which has held that the review of old permissions need to be assessed against the environmental assessment regulations. New regulations were enacted in 2008 to deal with the stalled ROMPs. This required the applicant to submit further environmental and other information to enable the review to take place. However, there was also the provision in the Guidance accompanying the 2008 Regulations (see para 3.11) to allow flexibility to extend the period for provision of the new environmental information where the applicant is intending to submit or has submitted, planning applications to consolidate several permissions (thus avoiding the need to progress the review of the old permission(s)) or planning applications for permission to work replacement sites. In this instance an extension of time was agreed, since it followed the Stanton Moor Principles previously agreed by the Authority for quarrying sites on Stanton Moor and also the Authority’s Minerals Action Plan, and has resulted in the submission of an alternative planning application. This application considered by the Planning Committee on 13 September contained the proposals to consolidate and bring all development, operations and uses under one permission, with alternate reserves, moving the working area away from a sensitive area of Stanton Moor, which has considerable archaeological, ecological, recreational and amenity interest, in exchange for giving up the rights to work the 1952 permissions. This proposal was approved by the Planning Committee subject to the signing of a legal agreement and conditions attached to the permission to control and protect the landscape, environment and amenity of the area.
SADE spokesperson said: “How is it even possible that one committee meeting can overturn an order by the highest authority in the land?”
Peak Park response: The Planning Committee has not overturned the revocation orders confirmed by the Secretary of State on Barton Hill and Dungeon quarries in 2010. The revocation orders confirmed by the Secretary of State were issued by the Authority in 2010 in connection with applications that were previously approved by the Planning Committee, dealing with an extension to New Pilhough Quarry in exchange for giving up the rights to work Dungeon Quarry and the granting of permission for housing at Birchover which included giving up the rights to work Barton Hill Quarry. The revocation orders specifically relate to the old mineral planning permissions issued in 1952 at Dungeon Quarry and Barton Hill Quarry. The revocation orders issued means that these old mineral permissions no longer exist. Revocation Orders do not prevent other development taking place at the sites, subject to applications being submitted and approved by the Planning Committee.
SADE spokesperson said: “Now this has been done, what is there to stop companies opening their revoked quarries? Which are, often, areas of natural beauty.”
Peak Park response: New mineral planning permissions would be required if an applicant wished to undertake further mineral extraction at the Dungeon and Barton Hill quarries, since the old mineral permissions no longer exist. An application would need to be submitted and would be assessed against the core strategy policies, and other material considerations, including the government’s National Planning Policy Framework.
SADE spokesperson said: “All three quarries have been in breach of their planning permission over the years, so why has no action been taken?”
Peak Park response: There has been no mineral working at Dungeon Quarry and Barton Hill Quarry for a number of years. Recent activity at the Dungeon and Barton Hill sites has been in connection with the housing permission following its implementation. There has been some unauthorised development at Birchover, such as the erection of a water treatment plant and the temporary tipping of quarry waste, which the Authority has investigated and considered what action was needed. The application considered by the Planning Committee includes matters to regularise the unauthorised development.
SADE spokesperson said: “You try building garden wall without permission and see how the authority comes down on you. Yet when companies quarry far more stone than they are allowed and do not follow tipping regulations or restrictions on lorry movements, no action is taken?”
Peak Park response: The mineral planning permissions at Birchover Quarry, issued by Government in 1952, are still valid, with very few conditions controlling the development. There are currently no conditions on these permissions covering the quantity of stone that can be extracted or the number of lorry movements. The permission approved by the Planning Committee on September 13, to replace the old mineral permissions, will contain conditions covering the annual output and total tonnage of stone that could be removed from the site and the number and timing of lorry movements from the site.
SADE spokesperson said: “We keep getting told by Jim Dixon that enforcement action is discretionary - ridiculous!”
Peak Park response: The Government’s National Planning Framework (paragraph 207), consistent with the longstanding government advice, advises that enforcement action is discretionary, and local planning authorities should act proportionately in responding to suspected breaches of planning control.
SADE spokesperson said: “To conclude, we feel a dangerous precedent has been set in Birchover and our concerns are so great we are taking legal advice.”
Peak Park response: There has been no precedent set as a consequence of the two applications dealing with Birchover Quarry and the restoration works at the former Dungeon and Barton Hill quarry sites.