The Government will not be calling in controversial plans for a quarry in part of Cheshire.
Sibelco wants to extract 3.3 million tonnes of silica sand from Rudheath Lodge Farm in Cranage and Allostock over a 12-year period, with a further two years to complete its restoration.
Both planning committees for Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Chester councils gave permission for the quarry to be built at meetings earlier this year, subject to a possible ‘call in’ decision by James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
But now the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has confirmed that Mr Brokenshire will not be calling the decision in for further scrutiny.
In a letter sent to both councils, Lorraine Gamble, senior planning casework manager at MHCLG, said: “The Secretary of State has carefully considered this case against call-in policy.
“The policy makes it clear that the power to call in a case will only be used very selectively.
“The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.
“The Secretary of State has decided not to call in this application. He is content that it should be determined by the local planning authority.”
Both CEC and CWAC were required to give planning permission for the quarry as the site straddles the border of both boroughs.
And both councils gave the green light earlier this year despite fierce opposition from residents, ward and parish councillors and the Residents Against Quarrying campaign group.
More than 1,000 objections in total were sent to the two councils – with residents concerned about the quarry’s impact on neighbouring roads, the environment and drainage issues which could impact on the nearby New Platt Mere fishing lake.
Councillor Andrew Kolker, Conservative CEC member for Dane Valley, called for the application to be refused by the CEC strategic planning board when it debated the application in two meetings – last April and this February.
He said: “I am disappointed that the decision is not being called in. I think it would warrant another examination by the secretary of state so I am disappointed that it is not being called in.
“I think that the community put up a very convincing case for it to be refused and I am disappointed that it was subsequently approved by both Cheshire East and West councils, and that the land will now be lost to a quarry.”
Councillor Mark Stocks, Conservative CWAC member for Shakerley, was also a vocal opponent of the scheme. “I think it is very disappointing,” he said.
“At the end of the day the site in Cheshire East was not an allocated site, and I believe there is not sufficient demand for a new site in Cheshire West at this point in time.
“So I am disappointed that the Government has decided against calling the decision in.”
Following the Government’s announcement, a Sibelco spokesman said: “We welcome the Secretary of State’s decision and look forward to working with the relevant authorities to settle any outstanding matters.
“In due course we will meet with community stakeholders to establish the Rudheath Lodge Liaison Group and ensure that open dialogue between ourselves and residents is maintained.
“Sibelco has always pledged to be a good neighbour and that is a position from which we have not moved.”