Shaftesbury Town Councillors have deferred making a decision on plans to quarry at Cann.
Alfred spoke with two Planning Committee members and heard why this controversial application could leave councillors between a rock and a hard place.
Up to 8,500 tonnes of greenstone could be extracted from the hillside at Valley Farm in Cann over the next ten years, if planners agree. The stone will be excavated in sections of 10m by 4m, which will then be filled with inert material. In Tuesday’s planning meeting, Cllr Phil Proctor described the process as, ‘a hole moving across the field that is backfilled’.
There have been emails and letters of opposition. Town Clerk Claire Commons read out correspondence from locals raising objections on environmental grounds. Meeting Chairman Cllr Matthew Welch was concerned about the visual impact of a quarry on this site. “You can see this from the footpath at the top of The Wilderness,” said Matthew, who added, “It’s very pretty and a fantastic walking area. It will destroy it for the residents.”
He says the quarry would be seen from a highpoint in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. “As you go up on to Melbury Hill, you can see directly into that area as you walk along the footpath. It would just ruin the view going down across our slopes around Shaftesbury, and it would really upset me.”
Cllr Peter Yeo pointed out that site was actually on private land and it was not accessible by walkers, but he too was concerned at the potential impact on the landscape. “I do go down French Mill Lane and I turn left towards Melbury Hill. I look back and I think that it is a great view from there,” he said.
Peter wanted to know whether an artist’s impression could be provided to show what the site would look like after ten years of extraction and backfilling. “It’s going to be quarrying over quite a large area, although I believe there will only be a small strip quarried at any one time. I do think we should have some sort of idea of what it is going to look like afterwards,” he said.
Cllr Alex Chase warned councillors that artwork may not provide a realistic impression. Mathew Welch agreed. “Any artist could draw whatever they want because it’s in ten years’ time. It’s very difficult to say what it would look like afterwards.”
The difficult decision councillors might have to consider is whether the appearance of the countryside or the town is more important. Phil Proctor pointed out that the Shaftesbury Neighbourhood Plan is recommending that local greenstone is used in appropriate building developments. Its supply is fairly restricted.
Cllr Andy Hollingshead suggested that the local stone could be sourced from Marnhull, but Cllr Proctor disagreed. He said that the stone wasn’t the correct colour. Phil pointed out that The Wilderness had once been a greenstone quarry and he backed the project. “It’s as good a place as any. It has got to be done,” said Cllr Proctor.
Cllr Yeo appreciates the dilemma. “We want Shaftesbury to have developments in keeping with the existing buildings, particularly in the older part of town and in the new part of town as well, if you can use some of that sort of stone on new developments. It has got to come from somewhere,” said Peter. “Obviously, there is a benefit if it is quarried locally because there will be generation of some jobs. We need to have a clear understanding of what the environmental impact will be before we approve the go ahead, because we didn’t have all the paperwork that we should have done.”
The Council has deferred making a decision because an ecological assessment of the quarrying had not been submitted with the application. Peter raised concerns about noise and he hopes that the missing document will provide some answers. “There was nothing in that plan about how they were going to do the quarrying. Is it going to be explosively quarried or will it use large machines? There are houses not that far away. Obviously, noise travels, particularly with the wind. I’d like to see more details of what the environmental impacts on the locals will be,” said Cllr Yeo.
Shaftesbury Town Council will debate the quarry application again after they have received the ecological survey. Dorset Council has the final say and Town Clerk Claire Commons told councillors they need to submit their response to Dorset planners by 12th July.