Environment News Service (ENS)

British coalition seeks to block quarry in Peak District national park

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Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

The Longstone Edge Coalition is asking the British government to provide an urgent rescue package to enable the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire central England to protect itself from a limestone quarrying operation.

The coalition of environmental and conservation groups formed in the wake of a High Court judgment in March. The High Court overturned the 2007 decision of a government planning inspector that the quarrying at Backdale Quarry on Longstone Edge in the park was illegal and must cease.

This week, the government and the Peak District National Park Authority decided to appeal against the High Court decision, a move welcomed by the coalition.

Using a mineral permission granted in 1952, the landowner Bleaklow Industries and the operator MMC Mineral Processing have resumed mining at Longstone Edge since the High Court judgement was handed down.

The High Court ruling overturned a public inquiry and a stop notice served by the Park Authority to prevent quarrying at Backdale on Longstone Edge.

Planning permission was granted in 1952 by the Minister of Housing and Local Government to allow 'the winning and working of fluorspar and barytes and for the working of lead and any other minerals which are won in the course of working those minerals, by turning over old spoil dumps, by opencast working and by underground mining.'

The Longstone Edge Coalition is calling for urgent revocation of the 1952 mining permission to prevent continued damage to the park.

The Peak District National Park Authority has expressed its gratitude to community and environmental groups for their continued support in its action to stop alleged harmful quarrying on Longstone Edge.

At a public meeting after the ruling in March, Authority Chair Narendra Bajaria told the conservationists, 'We very much share your genuine concern about the impact of these operations on Longstone Edge and on the local community.'

'We are also grateful for your support in working with us to try to achieve the end we all want: a permanent solution to the problems on Longstone Edge,' said Bajaria. 'Our united approach can only emphasize its significance.'

Bleaklow Industries maintains that the mineral deposits on Longstone Edge have been worked since before Roman times for lead, fluorspar, barytes and limestone. Large areas have been mined, and virtually all the landscape at Backdale Quarry already has been disturbed.

In 1952 the land was, for the first time, subject to a planning permission,' notes the company, adding, 'We say that the permission contains no limitation as to the depth of working, the quantities of minerals worked or the proportion of minerals worked.'

The company has won a series of court rulings leading up to the High Court's ruling in March, and the company has won court costs repeatedly from Peaks Park.

The company says it has offered better screening from view than would be won by court action and a full modern restoration.

The coalition maintains that the quarrying operation is in 'direct contravention of the spirit of all national parks which exist to protect areas of great natural beauty, and threatened species and habitats.'

New or extended quarries need to demonstrate a special case for being in such sensitive locations, based primarily on the lack of alternative means of meeting a proven national need, the coalition says, acknowledging that where old permissions exist, this is more difficult to control. The coalition says up to 20,000 tonnes of limestone per month have been removed in the last few years.

'We believe that the national need for limestone should not be served by sites within the Peak District when there are plentiful supplies elsewhere,' the coalition states.

The coalition is calling on the government to prepare a rescue package for the park to meet the costs, warning that the National Park Authority would not be able to meet these without government support.

Ruth Chambers of the Council for National Parks says, 'Protection of land of immeasurable beauty and value at Longstone Edge is a matter of vital national interest. Responsibility cannot be shouldered by the beleaguered Peak Park Authority alone. We are calling on the government to act now to support the Park Authority and protect it from potential financial ruin.'

The coalition is calling for revocation of the 1952 mining permission and full financial and legislative support of the Peak Park Authority.

Coalition members are pinning their hopes on a meeting with MP Patrick McLoughlin and Environment Secretary Hilary Benn scheduled for May 24.

They say the case has exposed a loophole in the 1995 Environment Act, which has allowed the owner to evade best practice regulations.

The Act should have forced the operators at Backdale Quarry to draw up a new set of environmental conditions for working the site, the coalition says.

While the review process requires that environmental information be provided by the quarry operator, the Park Authority, acting as the Mineral Planning Authority, has been given no power to demand this information.

'This leaves sites like Backdale in a permanent state of limbo as information is withheld, effectively halting the review process indefinitely,' the coalition says.

John Lambert, a local resident and secretary of the Save Longstone Edge Group, says, 'This is a problem created in 1952 by government, and it is government's responsibility to sort it out.'

The coalition includes - the British Mountaineering Council, the Council for National Parks, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Friends of the Earth, Friends of the Peak District, Plantlife, the Ramblers' Association and the Save Longstone Edge Group.

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