The operator of a former quarry in Chorley has been forced to stop stabilisation work at the site after it emerged that the necessary planning conditions had not yet been approved.
Ruttle Plant Holdings Limited was given the go-ahead to import 47,000 tonnes of soil to Little Quarry, in Whittle-le-Woods, to make the land suitable for a planned housing development - but only if certain criteria laid down by Lancashire County Council were met first.
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The authority’s development control committee granted the conditional permission in May. However, work cannot begin until the council has assessed detailed plans about how water will be drained from the area and also how local roads can be kept free from mud and debris.
But now county hall has confirmed that some soil has already been been brought onto the seven hectare site on Hill Top Lane “before details reserved by the conditions [have been] approved”.
Mark Perks, who is the county councillor for the area and reported the planning breach, said: “What’s the point in having conditions imposed when they are ignored and the work carries on anyway?”
In objecting to the original application, he described earlier infilling activity at the site as a “nightmare” and said the quarry should be left to nature so that residents can regain “some quality of life”.
Outline planning permission for up to 85 new homes was granted by Chorley Council back in 2013, ten years after a previous plan to turn the former gritstone quarry into a dry ski slope was first mooted.
The planning conditions for the stabilisation work were set because of concerns about flooding in the area and deposits from heavy goods vehicles leaving the site. A report presented to councillors earlier this year noted that water “occasionally spills out of a gully, flows over Chorley Old Road and then down Hillside Crescent, leading to hazardous conditions and deterioration of the road surface”.
It added that “mud and dust episodes still occurred occasionally” on nearby roads - in spite of the introduction of wheel baths for HGVs servicing the quarry.
As part of their application, Ruttle proposed a new drainage pond to help regulate the flow of surface water into the surrounding area. Meanwhile, a -surfaced parking bay was planned to allow HGVs to make deliveries without having to deposit material directly in the muddier ‘earthworks’.
It was these proposals which Lancashire County Council demanded to see in detail before soil importation could commence.
The authority said the plans have been submitted for approval. A spokesperson added: "The developer did begin the importation of soils before details reserved by the conditions had been approved. They have also carried out some site preparation and minor re-profiling works, which are allowed under the existing permission.
"The site has been visited on a number of occasions recently, along with the developer and their agent to discuss the situation. They have stopped importing soil materials while the submitted details are being assessed and reviewed.
“We are investigating an issue relating to surface water drainage in this area, however there may be a number of sources for the water that is contributing to the flooding."
The outline permission granted by Chorley Council for housing development is dependent on the successful completion of the stabilisation work. The application for that work suggests it will require an average of nine HGVs to enter and leave the site every weekday for twelve months, although that figure could increase to 25 during the busiest periods.
Lancashire County Council’s highways department noted that up to 100 daily HGV movements were permitted when the quarry was operational and so it did not object to the application on road safety grounds. However, it stipulated that vehicles must take a prescribed route to and from the site in order to avoid the possibility of lorries having to pass each other on narrow sections of road.
Ruttle Plant Holdings Limited was approached for comment.