The Stop Hanson Expansion at Westdown Quarry group

We are an umbrella campaign group made up of people who first came together in 2021 to challenge Hanson’s expansion at Westdown Quarry. We include the original Stop Westdown Quarry group.

From all walks of life, our ranks include parents, grandparents, residents, local businesses, doctors, nurses, community groups, naturalists, teachers, media professionals, farmers, care workers, shop workers, scientists and environmentalists, from the local community in the Mendips and the wider west of England.

Hanson's Plans

Westdown quarry has been disused for 40 years and adjoins the ancient Asham Woods in the Mendips – a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special area of Conservation.

In May 2021, Hanson submitted applications to Somerset County Council to update planning consents to reopen and expand the quarry onto 100 acres of farmland at Westdown Farm. The land has 160m tonnes of proven reserves. And to bury the 80 acres of natural regeneration over the past 40 years in Asham quarry.

The Environment Agency, Somerset Ecology Services, Natural England and Somerset Wildlife Trust have all submitted strong objections to the applications. In addition, objectors believe that the applicant has not provided the Council with adequate information such as properly conducted assessments and environmental studies to make an informed decision. The date at which the applications will be determined has been delayed accordingly.

You can view the planning applications here

Watch the video below to find out more

Super quarry impacts and Hanson’s claims

More HGV traffic

Hanson’s plans will generate a probable 33% increase in quarry HGV traffic.

Hanson says that  “Westdown Quarry will be able to handle local demand using road haulage on the arterial A361 – leaving the nearby Whatley Quarry to focus on supplying national infrastructure projects ..through its mainline rail link”. It states that “this “combined approach” would “bring benefits to the neighbouring communities” – especially when it comes to minimising traffic through the villages nearest the two quarries.”

But road-borne aggregates could rise by 33% to the permitted 4m tonnes a year – 2m from Whatley, 2m from Westdown. Together with the Bartlett’s approval, a potential increase in quarry traffic of 44% to the permitted 7m tonnes a year.

More Jobs?

In a press release, Hanson estimates that the Whatley and Westdown quarries operating in tandem would protect 200 jobs directly at the quarries and around 700 jobs in the surrounding communities.

But its website says that Whatley employs only 60 people.

Hanson’s claim just doesn’t stack up. How can it protect 200 direct and 700 indirect jobs when it employs 60 people at Whatley, some of whom would be redeployed from Whatley to Westdown?

Far more likely is that jobs in the local economy, especially in tourism and hospitality, will be put at risk by the further industrialisation of the East Mendips.

Nature and Hanson’s ‘restoration’ plans

A new super quarry at Westdown would impact the habitat of Asham Wood on the quarry’s edge.

Asham Wood is the largest and most diverse of the ancient semi natural woods in the Mendips and has a permanent stream that runs through it feeding Chantry Pond to the east of the wood. This is home to bats, otters, dormice, polecats, owls and other protected animals. Twelve per cent of the UK’s Greater Horseshoe bat population are within the planning proposal catchment area.

The Environment Agency, Somerset Ecology Services (the county council’s own ecology team), Natural England and Somerset Wildlife Trust have all objected to the re-opening of the quarry .

Hanson says that a stretch of Somerset woodland could be “seamlessly extended” and enhanced for future generations if a nearby quarry is allowed to reopen.” It says it will “enhance Asham Wood and the former Asham quarry”.

But Hanson’s “restoration” of that part of Asham Wood it calls “Asham Void” would use it as a dumping ground for millions of tonnes of quarry waste from Westdown Farm. This would bury the already advanced 33-year natural regeneration and have a material impact on the habitat of the Site of Special Scientific Interest that is the remaining Asham Wood, with industrial activity over at least 20 years.

Hanson has produced restoration plans of Westdown within the 20-year time frame. However, the quarry would produce 2m tonnes a year over 20 years, equating to 40m tonnes, meaning there will still be 120m tonnes left to quarry. In the current application, Hanson says that it proposes “a separate planning submission, closer to the end of the current permissions, to extend the life of the quarry.” Simple maths shows that it would take another 60 years to quarry the remaining 120m tonnes, meaning the quarry could be operating into the 22nd century.

Despite this, Hanson’s restoration plans show the restored flooded pit whilst planning to extract the remaining 120m tonnes of permitted reserves.

Production and demand

Hanson says: “Our overarching principle is that the combined operations of the two quarries, including mineral volumes and vehicle movements, will not exceed the current levels for Whatley. Whatley Quarry currently has permission to extract eight million tonnes p.a… Should Westdown Quarry reopen, Whatley’s annual output will drop to six million tonnes a year.”

However, their website says that they already produce 6m tonnes a year at Whatley.

There is no evidence of the need for expansion of this site which is near one of Europe’s biggest quarries at Torr. Torr Works quarry and Whatley quarry are not operating at full capacity.

Water table

If the super quarry goes ahead, pumping water out of the quarry and the existing quarries nearby, poses potential risks to the water table and water quality, threatening wells, boreholes, streams, habitat, and Chantry pond. The proposal is to treat water and then void it into Whatley Brook .

The Chantry is grade II* listed and its grounds are a Grade II* listed Registered Park and Garden of which Chantry Pond is the centrepiece. Fed by Whatley Brook, it is only 200m from the proposed quarry.  

Professor Rick Brassington, a highly-experienced and renowned hydrogeologist, has reviewed Hanson’s water environment study and identified several fundamental areas where the current absence of information would preclude any lawful decision being taken by Somerset County Council on the applications. 

Carbon emissions: practising what they preach?

Hanson says it has already reduced its UK CO2 emissions by nearly 50 per cent between 1990 and 2020, and is investing a further £55M by 2025 in a bid to reach net zero by 2050.

But opening another super quarry would breach Somerset County Council’s own Climate Emergency Plan to achieve Zero Carbon by 2030 and national Government climate change policy enshrined in the recent Environment Act.