Decision on proposed quarry near Preston delayed over environment questions

A decision on whether to grant permission for a huge sand and gravel quarry close to the River Ribble is unlikely to be made for six months while the firm behind the plans updates its assessment of their potential environmental impact.

Monday, 25th October 2021, 2:59 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th October 2021, 9:22 am

Papers presented to a meeting of Lancashire County Council’s development control committee revealed that the proposed scheme – on a 90-hectare site at Lower Hall Farm off Preston New Road in Samlesbury – will now be subject to further consultation.

Members were told that “a number of issues” had been raised in response to the contents of an environmental statement provided when an application for the project was first submitted by Harleyford Aggregates back in March. Supplementary information is now being prepared to support the original document.

However, the agent for the applicant said that the firm is still awaiting clarification of some of the points made by consultees, resulting in a delay in the application being ready to be determined.

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Part of the loop of the River Ribble at Samlesbury, near Preston, which adjoins the proposed extraction site (image: Kelvin Stuttard)

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The Environment Agency objected to the proposal as it stood and demanded further details of how the environment would be affected by the plans – although the organisation stressed that it did not oppose “the principle” of sand and gravel extraction at the site.

The Lancashire Wildlife Trust, which operates the nearby Brockholes Nature Reserve on the opposite side of the river – an attraction which was itself created on the site of a former quarry – also registered opposition to the scheme in its proposed form.

It described the application as “premature”, decrying what it said was a lack of consultation with the trust – and branded as “insubstantial” a plan for how nature would be enabled to recover at the location once the extraction work has been completed. A phased restoration is proposed to return the area to a wetland and woodland space, to which there would be no public access.

It is expected that the quarry would be operational for 20 years, removing three million tonnes of material during that time – and resulting in 50 heavy goods vehicle movements a day. A new junction would be created on the A59 to join up with an access road to be constructed for the site, crossing farmland and Potter Lane.

The proposal for the greenbelt plot – which currently comprises eight agricultural fields on a meander in the river – has also attracted opposition from locals, with a Stop The Quarry at Samlesbury petition so far generating more than 500 signatures.

County Hall planning officers recommended that development control committee members visit the site before considering the application, because of the difficulty of visualising such a significant scheme “on paper” alone.

The committee unanimously approved the visit and was told by principal planning officer Jonathan Haine that a new period of consultation into the updated environmental statement would mean that they would likely be asked to deal with the application in “March or April” next year.

John Cowley from the applicant’s agent, Mineral and Resource Planning Associates Ltd, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the meeting that Harleyford Aggregates had expected the committee to go on a site visit “so as to ensure that members can understand the setting and extent of works properly before coming to a decision”.

He added: “The county council has to, by statute, consult with numerous agencies and interests on an application. The county council has asked Harleyford to respond to those consultation comments or questions. Members were advised that Harleyford is undertaking such work.

“We are in the process of responding to comments [and] questions. However, a number of the comments have only recently been received -and indeed we still await information from consultees on some points raised – and to address those fully and properly will lead to further delay in determining the application,” Mr. Cowley said.