The potash minehead is less than a mile from the route of the Coast to Coast Path. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The polyhalite minehead is less than a mile from the route of the Coast to Coast Path. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Work has begun on constructing a controversial potash mine in the North York Moors national park.

The park authority confirmed Sirius Minerals has started building the facility near Littlebeck, close to the route of the Coast to Coast Walk.

The mine, when it goes into production, will be the world’s largest potash mine.

Conservation groups opposed the development, but national park planning committee gave the go-ahead for the mine, which will extract polyhalite from a large underground area and convey it by a tunnel to a berth on the River Tees.

The mineral is used as a fertiliser.

Sirius Minerals has named the new development the Woodsmith Mine, after two of its geologists, Peter Woods and Frederick Smith.

North York Moors National Park Authority said: “Sirius Minerals has confirmed that the construction of its polyhalite project at the Woodsmith Mine site near Whitby formally commenced on 4 May 2017.

“The North York Moors National Park Authority continues to work with Sirius Minerals to ensure that the amenities of local residents and the surrounding sensitive environment are adequately safeguarded from the impacts of the construction.

“A number of arrangements have been put in place to ensure that the agreed environmental mitigation and compensation works detailed in the associated s106 agreement will deliver the positive mitigation measures proposed to help offset the impacts of the mine development.”

Section 106 agreements made under the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act are private agreements made between local authorities and developers and can be attached to a planning permission to make acceptable development which would otherwise be unacceptable in planning terms.

The land itself, rather than the person or organisation that develops the land, is bound by an s106 Agreement, something any future owners will need to take into account.

The authority’s chief executive Andy Wilson said: “We appreciate that there will be some disruption during the construction stage of the mine and are working closely with all parties to carry out mitigation and ensure that we can deliver the range of positive projects funded by the s106 agreement.

“The authority has appointed two key posts to lead on the monitoring of the mine construction. Briony Fox, director of polyhalite projects joined us on 3 April and Robert Smith will take up the position of senior minerals planner later in May. He will be responsible for ensuring the mine is delivered in accordance with the very detailed planning approval.”