Plans to extend Mepal Quarry could be rejected for failing to meet policies on creating wildlife habitat

Plans to extend Mepal Quarry look set to be refused by Cambridgeshire County Council's planning committee.
Plans to extend Mepal Quarry look set to be refused by Cambridgeshire County Council's planning committee.

Plans to extend Mepal Quarry off the A142 by over 62 hectares of farmland look set to be refused when Cambridgeshire County Council’s planning committee meets on Thursday (7).

There are raft of reasons why the application by Aggregate Industries UK should be refused according to a report to tomorrow’s meeting, from lack of information on the site’s archaeology, to the fact the majority of the land is to be returned back to agricultural use rather than be made into wetland habitat to enhance the adjoining Ouse Washes.

Plans to extend Mepal Quarry look set to be refused by Cambridgeshire County Council's planning committee.

Plans to extend Mepal Quarry look set to be refused by Cambridgeshire County Council's planning committee.

The report explains the applicant wants to extend the quarry in eight phases over 62 hectares of intensively farmed agricultural land owned by the Sole family.

The land contains 1.9 million tonnes of sand and gravel which would be worked over six to nine years at a rate of 211,000 and 317,000 tones a year.

It says in phases 4, 5 and 6 soil storage bunds would be created to protect nearby homes from visual and noise impact of the work. The minerals would be transported to the existing processing plant by a field conveyor and would then be despatched by HGV via the private haul road and Block Fen Drove on to the A142.

Inert waste would then be imported at a rate of 120,000 – 130,000 cubic metres per year to enable most of the site (53 hectares) to be restored in phases to agriculture at original ground levels. This would allow the landowner to resume intensive arable farming.

It is proposed the remainder will be a “3.6 hectare area of open water body and two small water bodies with aquatic marginal vegetation surrounded by wet grassland and bordered on the southeast and southwest by a hedgerow and on the northeast by a spinney. A corridor managed as species rich grassland would link the proposed extension area with land within the 2001 and 2011 permission areas which it is proposed will be restored as meadow grassland and wet grassland with furrows.”

However, the report says it is a strategic objective of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough minerals and waste development core strategy that enhancement habitat will be created adjacent to the Ouse Washes through mineral extraction and restoration.

This means the proposal, which will see only 5.3 hectares or just nine per cent of the land made into wet grassland, not only does not meet the strategy but the report says would make the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Minerals Waste Development Plan Block Fen/Langwood Fen Master Plan “undeliverable”.

The strategy shows the proposed quarry extension area as being restored to complementary Ouse Washes habitat.

Othere reasons listed for refusing the application include:

The applicant has not provided sufficient information to determine the character extent and significance of the archaeological interest of the proposed extension area. Without this information it is possible that undesignated heritage assets could be harmed by the proposed development.

The applicant has not provided sufficient information to establish the impact of the proposed development on all of the application site particularly any protected species that may it.