Cheshire Councillors green light controversial quarry plans

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019 8:43am

By Stephen Topping & Richard Hilton

Map of the proposed site plans for the sand quarry at Allostock and Cranage

Cheshire West and Chester Council have joined Cheshire East in approving plans for a sand quarry at Allostock and Cranage.

A packed public gallery was left stunned after Sibelco’s proposal to build a quarry in Cranage and Allostock was comfortably approved – despite hundreds of objections.

After little more than an hour, all but two members of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s planning committee voted to grant the Belgian firm permission to build a quarry at Rudheath Lodge Farm.

It marks a major stride forward for the company, which wants to extract 3.3 million tonnes of silica sand from the site over a 12-year period, with a further two years to complete its restoration.

Adam Daniels, operations manager at Sibelco, told the committee that the site would support a range of industrial firms across the north west – including companies in Ellesmere Port, Winsford and Crewe.

He said: “There are many companies, many jobs and many families that are supported by the minerals industry.”

Mike Hurley, sustainability manager at Sibelco, added that the company has a ‘strong track record’ of being a good neighbour.

Cheshire West And Chester (CWAC) officers had recommended the scheme for approval despite receiving more than 800 objections.

But residents Pamela Garnett and Dr Ken Morris both warned the committee that neighbouring residents could be affected by silica particles from the site, which have been found to cause silicosis – a type of lung disease – and cancer.

Councillor Mike Cohen, representing Allostock and Cranage parish councils, insisted that rejecting the proposal would be ‘for the greater good’.

He asked the committee: “Do you side with a large, multi-million pound oversees company which is in this for sheer greed – or do you support the thousands of residents that will actually be affected?”

Councillor Mark Stocks, Conservative member for Shakerley – which includes Allostock, also suggested the site would have a severe impact on traffic on the A50.

“Many people who have experienced the last 18 months or two years will know the A50 has been nothing short of horrendous with the closure most days of the M6,” he said.

“Sixty-five HGV movements might seem a small amount but the reality is it will have a huge impact.”

He also raised concerns that Sibelco’s own plans suggest the quarry could not operate at a level quiet enough to meet the needs of nearby Jodrell Bank.

However, officers insisted that the University of Manchester – which runs Jodrell Bank – will oversee Sibelco’s final mitigation plans for the scheme and that it had not objected to the plans.

The committee visited another working sand quarry as part of its site visit for the application, and Councillor Peter Rooney, Labour, was satisfied that the new one would not cause residents too many problems.

He said: “There was very little noise, the actual dredging was almost silent. We were able to hold a fairly normal conversation.

“I take on the concerns of local residents but unfortunately I have not heard any planning reasons on why this should not go ahead.”

The site crosses the border of CWAC and Cheshire East Council, and the latter’s planning committee approved the development last April.

CWAC is now waiting on a further report from the Environment Agency, after objectors submitted fresh environmental information in the days leading up to Tuesday’s meeting.

Should the Environment Agency object to the quarry in light of the new information, the application will go back to CWAC’s planning committee.

CEC approved the quarry last April, and it has already confirmed that its own strategic planning board will consider new information from Environment Agency at a meeting this year.

Provided the Environment Agency still supports the scheme, Sibelco’s application will then be considered by the Government for the final decision.

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