Disused quarry to re-open despite objections

Five children hold protestor signs opposing Westdown QuarryImage source, TAL TAKING PICS
Image caption,

About 150 adults and children have protested against the re-opening of Westdown Quarry

  • Published

A Somerset quarry that has been closed for 40 years will resume operations in 2025.

Located near the A361 between Frome and Shepton Mallet, the re-opening of Westdown Quarry was approved by Somerset Council on 6 June.

More than 1,100 people sent letters to the council objecting to the proposals. They cited a range of factors, including concerns about the impact the quarry will have on biodiversity.

Developers Heidelberg Materials had pledged to "protect neighbouring woodlands and restore nature around the site".

Image source, DANIEL MUMBY
Image caption,

More than 1,100 people sent letters to the council objecting the proposals in advance of the hearing

Westdown quarry adjoins the ancient Asham Woods in the Mendips - a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Heidelberg Materials originally put forward plans to "quarry void" near the ancient Asham Wood - but these proposals were withdrawn.

Somerset Council’s strategic planning committee approved the proposals by eight votes to three.

Under the plans, excavation of 168 acres of “wildlife rich landscape” in and around Westdown Farm would take place north of the A361.

"A lot of the materials" from the quarry intended to go abroad will travel via rail, a Heidelberg Materials spokesperson confirmed.

Image source, TAL TAKING PICS
Image caption,

Permission to quarry in the Site of Special Scientific Interest, Asham Wood, lapsed in 1998

Head of nature recovery at Somerset Wildlife Trust, Simon Clarke, told the meeting that amid the "climate emergency" his organisation had concerns about the quarry re-opening.

“We are not clear on the phasing of mitigation measures and whether sufficient time will be given to habitat establishment," he said.

“At a time of climate and ecological emergency, key policy considerations such as climate change and biodiversity net gain must be taken into account."

Campaigner Simon Pugh-Jones said he was pleased that "Asham Wood’s future was at least secure".

“Despite the loss, the campaign is really proud of the work we’ve done together," he said.

He added that the group's "legal research" partly helped to save Asham Void.

"It's a remarkable symbol of resilience," he said. "Winning 78 acres of new forest next to a site of special scientific interest is no small achievement."

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