A quarry and its associated saw mill in a Calderdale village can carry on for another ten years, although councillors queried the exact nature of the operation and applications were passed on the Planning Committee chair’s casting vote.
Mytholm Stone Sales Ltd had asked Calderdale Council for permission to continuing quarrying until 2030 and separately for permission to its associated saw mill to continue until the same date – December 2030.
Planning officers had recommended to the committee that the proposals be permitted but some councillors were unhappy at the situation, as was Town ward Coun Bob Metcalfe (Lab) who opposed the applications for Mytholm Quarry at Sunny Bank Farm, Sunny Bank Lane, Southowram.
Councillors heard that over the ten years – previous approval is set to run out in 2020 – it was expected 60,000 tonnes of resources were expected to produce 40,470 tonnes of building stone for the saw shed.
When processed this would produce around 20,000 tonnes of finished building stone product including flag stone, sawn block, lintels and stone for dry stone walling, rockeries and crazy paving offcuts.
Remaining offcuts would be stored and crushed for aggregate along with the remainder of the resource.
Restoration work which followed would see the quarry filled in to a level of 170 metres on the north west side gradually sloping down to Sunny Bank Lane, incorporating pasture with a mix of trees, shrubs, grasses and other ground flora.
But councillors were concerned when they heard that as well as stone from the site, stone was being imported in to be processed by the saw shed.
They heard a close neighbour of the site object to the proposals fearing increased noise and dust and posing questions about the amount of stone remaining.
It was an industrial concern unsuited to the green belt, he said.
“We have been plagued with this for years. For me and my family we have had 30 years of this, with 45-tonne excavators there.
“This is an industrial activity that goes on, importing stone. We are now told there are thousands of tonnes of stone yet, so ten more years are needed. We have heard this before.
“I know stone is important in Calderdale but so are human beings. We have had enough.”
Coun Carol Machell (Lab, Todmorden) said the ten year period seemed to be such a long time when it was causing such stress.
Speaking to the committee, Coun Metcalfe said he supported the objections, with other considerations, particularly relating to the saw mill application, including highway safety matters as well as noise issues.
“We never reach the time when this is ended. It just goes on and on and on,” he said.
Considering importation of stone, Coun Metcalfe added: “It’s an industrial process and should be carried out on an industrial site. The saw shed is there mainly to cut imported stone.”
An agent for the applicant said the time period was needed because until you exposed the stone by drilling you did not know exactly what it was going to be, but it was good quality.
Coun Stephen Baines (Con, Northowram and Shelf) said he had sympathy with objectors but felt refusing the application would risk it going to appeal and he proposed supporting officers’ recommendation.
Coun Machell asked if the period could be time limited to five years but officers said that would be considered too limited.
Coun Paul Bellenger (Lib Dem, Greetland and Stainland) said it was a difficult application and he was torn between the two points of view and would abstain. “I have nothing against the business and we should be proud to produce stone but I always look at the impact things have on people’s health. This to me has definitely impacted on people’s health,” he said.
Coun Colin Peel (Con, Brighouse) said he also felt compromised. “When you are importing stone into the area it’s not a quarry it’s a factory,” he said, but also agreed with Coun Baines about the risk of a planning appeal.
An amendment to turn down the plans was defeated with Coun Sweeney (Lab, Todmorden) using his casting vote to support officers’ recommendations after councillors were tied.
When considering the saw mill application, the objector added: “For goodness’ sake when is there going to be an end? It’s ridiculous.”
Reservations were expressed by Coun Machell and Coun Faisal Shoukat (Lab, Park) because five times as much stone was being brought in as quarried, but again the application was carried with Coun Sweeney’s casting vote for officers’ recommendation to approve when councillors were again evenly split.
Officers’ briefing notes to councillors said national planning framework guidelines recognised the small scale nature and impact of building and roofing stone quarries and the need for a flexible approach to the duration and planning permissions reflecting the intermittent or low rate of working at many sites.
“Stone raised has a number of uses and modern techniques allow for a larger proportion of stone to be used than has been the case in the past.
“It is considered the extension of time would allow the sustainable use of the finite resource and appropriate restoration.”