The Peak District is in danger of being ravaged by uncontrolled quarrying, unless the Government stumps up cash to help the national park protect its landscape.
That’s the view of an unprecedented new coalition of groups formed following a High Court ruling that allowed quarrying at Backdale, on Longstone Edge near Bakewell in Derbyshire. A public inquiry ruled that excessive extraction of limestone must stop, but a judge overruled the inspector’s decision.
Save Longstone Edge Group
The British Mountaineering Council and the Ramblers’ Association are among both local and national organisations which say urgent action is needed. Others include the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Council for National Parks, Friends of the Earth, Plantlife, Friends of the Peak District and the Save Longstone Edge Group.
Crucial to the coalition’s argument is the need for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to provide money to the Peak District national park to carry out revocation of quarrying permissions, some dating back more than 50 years, and compensate quarry owners. It is also urging planning minister Hazel Blears to challenge the High Court judgement.
Coalition spokesperson Ruth Chambers, deputy chief executive of the Council for National Parks, said: “Quarries like Backdale, whose planning permission dates from the 1950s, can cause enormous environmental damage to the countryside if they are not subject to modern environmental standards.
“This case must now be regarded as a priority for Government intervention if landscape protection in our national parks is not to be made a laughing stock.”
Dr Steve Furness, a local resident and long-time member of the Save Longstone Edge Group, added: “Unfortunately, local planning powers have failed us so far and so we implore anyone who loves the Peak District to write to MPs and the ministers concerned to ensure a permanent solution is found quickly.
“Otherwise we will lose the Edge we love forever.”
The Backdale quarry case hinges on legal interpretation of an old consent, which permitted ‘the winning and working of fluorspar and barytes and for the working of lead and any other minerals which are won in the course of working those minerals, by turning over old spoil dumps, by opencast working and by underground mining’. Opponents say the quarrying of limestone has now overtaken the mining of the rarer minerals in the rock.
The High Court judgement, delivered by Mr Justice Sullivan in February this year, ruled that the owners of Backdale could extract and sell as much limestone as was necessary, as long as some fluorspar was also recovered. The location of the quarry in a national park had little bearing, the judge said.
Bleaklow Industries, the quarrying company, maintains: “We say that the permission contains no limitation as to the depth of working, the quantities of minerals worked or the proportion of minerals worked.
The company also hit back at the park authority, saying it offered to screen the workings and that the authority’s action has cost the taxpayer a huge amount of money.
The MP for the area, Patrick McLoughlin is meeting with Hilary Benn to urge him to act quickly. In the meantime, members of the BMC are urged to contact their own MP to put pressure on Environment Secretary Hilary Benn to act quickly to protect the park from further quarrying.
Similar enforcement action at the Wager’s Flat quarry was withdrawn in the light of the Backdale judgement.