Protest mounts against plans for damaging super quarry

Over 70 people joined a protest wildlife walk on Saturday 11th March against Hanson’s plans for a highly damaging new super quarry. Somerset County Council’s (SCC) Regulation Committee had been expected to decide the Hanson planning applications this month. But, at short notice, this was inexplicably delayed.

Local people formed a massive human ‘NO’ on Saturday to mark their strong objections to the new quarry. Saturday’s walk is the latest in a series of highly successful events organised by the Stop Hanson Expansion at Westdown Quarry community group. It follows a demonstration with a samba band in Frome on Saturday 25th February that drummed up fantastic support and interest. The samba players had come from all across the South West to perform in Frome market and across the town.

Hanson submitted applications in May 2021 to Somerset County Council (SCC) to ‘re-open’, but in reality to significantly expand, Westdown Quarry onto over 100 acres of farmland. The quarry, near Nunney, has been disused for over 35 years. It is next door to the ancient Asham Wood in the Mendips – a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. The plans also include dumping oolite waste from the land into the old Asham quarry, the 79-acre Asham Void, burying 35 years of natural regeneration. The total application area for extraction is 168 acres.

The super quarry is likely to result in:

** A probable 33 per cent increase in quarry HGV traffic
** Dust, noise and likely damage from vibrations to homes from quarrying and traffic
** Material impact on habitat of Asham Wood, home to protected animals such as otters, dormice, bats and owls
** Potential risks to the water table posed by pumping water out of the quarry
** Light pollution
** The extraction of an estimated 160 million tonnes of carbon-rich rock, probably into the next century, contrary to the national climate emergency, Environment Act and Somerset County Council’s own Climate Emergency Plan.

The council has already received over 500 objections to the plans from local communities, and over 2200 people have signed a petition.

In early 2022, SCC asked Hanson for more information which it submitted in June. Notably, all four statutory ecology consultees – the Environment Agency, Natural England, Somerset County Council’s own ecology experts, and Somerset Wildlife Trust – reiterated their previous objections to the plans. But since then, the Environment Agency has withdrawn their objection despite no new information in the public domain.

Richard Mawer of the Stop Hanson Expansion at Westdown Quarry group, said: “I’d like to say a massive thank you to all those who joined us last Saturday for the protest walk and to the fabulous samba band who performed in Frome so brilliantly. There are many ways people can get involved with the campaign – it’s not too late to stop these dreadful plans which come as research shows that the UK is one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries.*”

There are already four quarries near to Westdown, including Whatley and Torr super quarries. Somerset County Council has already approved a planning application to reopen one of these (Bartlett’s) and there are two more applications in the pipeline over the next two years. In addition, Aggregate Industries’ application to quarry the area currently occupied by their brickworks at Torr quarry is being decided by the council’s Regulation Committee this month. If approved, as is likely, this would mean quarrying right next to Asham void, with further cumulative impact on the habitat of Asham Wood.

Find out here how you can get involved in the campaign.