Pendrathen Quarry Recycling Can Continue, Says Council
Councillors have granted a certificate that will allow current recycling activities at Pendrathen quarry to continue.
But in a heated and lengthy debate during Tuesday’s Planning Meeting, many committee members expressed their concern that they now have no control over how that work is carried out and the Council Chairman apologised, on behalf of the authority, to nearby residents.
Planning Chairman Cllr Gaz O’Neill explained that applying for the Certificate of Lawful Use was not a planning application and no conditions could be imposed.
It’s come about because the operators of the quarry, Mulciber Ltd, say they have been using it as site for recycling excavation and building waste for more than 10 years.
Under planning law, they can now apply for the certificate, which means they can continue operations without any enforcement action being taken by the Council.
But Cllr Christine Savill laid the blame for the situation with the Authority.
She said the Planning Officer’s report stated that in 2012, they had advised the operator to regularise the use of the site.
Christine said it was “regrettable” that the Council didn’t follow up on their own advice.
“If that had been acted on,” she said, “we’d have been in a completely different situation than we are today.”
Christine wanted to know whether the operators could increase the hours of operation without any control, while Cllr Gordon Bilsborough was concerned there could be an increase in heavy traffic along McFarland’s Down.
But Planning Officer Craig Dryden said the Environment Agency had issued a permit for the work, and it was up to them to regulate it, not the Planning Committee.
And Planning Chairman Gaz O’Neill warned that councillors, “need to be careful not to send the wrong message to the community about what is in their power.”
Gaz said they were not making a decision about the future use of the site or the working hours – that was down to the Environment Agency, the Duchy or the applicant.
“This is an application to acknowledge previous use – it’s already happened,” he said. “Try as we might we can’t change that. We’re good, but we’re not that good.”
He added that members could only refuse the Certificate of Lawful Use on the grounds that the quarry hadn’t been operated continuously for 10 years.
Mulciber submitted over 90 pages of evidence to show that it had been used over that period, including statements from the Duchy and former employees, as well as invoices for material supplied from the quarry.
Planning Officer Lisa Walton told councillors that, on the strength of evidence submitted by Mulciber, it did appear that the site had been in continuous use since 2004 without a significant break.
But several residents of McFarland’s Down sent letters to say that there had been periods when the site wasn’t operating, particularly prior to 2012.
And members of the public seated in the audience at Tuesday’s meeting interrupted proceedings several times to ask why their claims hadn’t been taken into account.
Council Chairman Amanda Martin said residents had “every right to feel aggrieved and let down by the local planning authority” and she apologised for that.
And she said the Council should offer to mediate between the applicants, the Duchy and the residents about future use of the quarry, particularly over the condition of the road and the hours of operation.
Cllr Andy Guy wanted to defer a decision to get more legal advice. He felt a decision was being “pushed through very fast without relevant information.”
Other councillors backed his request, although they were told that if a decision wasn’t made by the 14th December, the application could go to appeal.
Cllr O’Neill “guaranteed” the Council would lose that.
In a vote, councillors rejected deferring the decision.
Instead, seven members voted to grant the Certificate of Lawful Use, while three voted against and one abstained.