A major legal ruling has seen Secretary of State for local communities, Eric Pickles, backing plans to grant permission of extension to a quarry in Kent that will protect 130 jobs.
The site, off junction 5 of the M20, is operated by Gallagher Aggregates Ltd, came under the spotlight with its plans, which were opposed by the Woodland Trust on environmental grounds.
Consequently, in being granted approval, the construction company will have to agree to strict 106 legal conditions on ecological mitigation works surrounding its application.
The Secretary of State’s decision follows a Public Inquiry, which led the Planning Inspector to conclude there is a need for a steady supply of high quality Kentish Ragstone.
He also agreed with the Inspector’s conclusions that there was no suitable alternative site and on the negative socio-economic impacts, in terms of the loss of jobs, if the quarry was forced to close.
Speaking after the decision, Nick Yandle, Chief Executive of Gallagher Group, said: “As well as recognising the pressing need for the material, the Inspector accepted that no other site was available. He also received and accepted evidence that showed that the proposed site is of low ecological value. “The Inquiry accepted the evidence that 31 of the 33 hectare site is ‘plantation on an ancient woodland site’ - Sweet Chestnut coppice planted in the 19th century. The Secretary of State also agreed with the Inspector that the woodland was of ‘relatively poor quality’.”
The permission allows the quarrying of 33 hectares (80 acres) near Barming, over a 23 year period from 2015.
Nick Yandle added: “We have always maintained that that there is a strong case for extracting high quality Kentish Ragstone from Hermitage Quarry. The decision confirms our view, and upholds the previous recommendation by Kent County Council, the Mineral Planning Authority.
“This is good for Kent, good for local jobs and, will result in new woodland that is double the size of the effected area, with native species planted such as oak. The future wellbeing of some of the country’s best-loved ancient buildings has also been secured as many were constructed with, and are preserved by using Kentish Ragstone. For this reason the continuing supply of Kentish Ragstone is supported by English Heritage.”