THE firm behind plans to build a £1.5bn polyhalite mine in a national park says it is confident changes to its proposal will address environmental impact concerns.

York Potash is set to submit its planning application for the mining operation at Sneaton, near Whitby, late next month, a year after deferring a decision on the project.

The deferral followed a report by consultants to the North York Moors National Park Authority, which said the plan overstated the need to locate the minehead within the park.

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Ahead of a series of public exhibitions to highlight changes to the plans for the mine and mineral transport system, which includes a materials handling centre at Wilton on Teesside, York Potash has claimed the operation would be less visible than in its previous proposal.

The firm’s spokesman, Gareth Edmunds, said while the plan it revealed in February to replace the overground pipeline to Teesside with a conveyor belt in a tunnel 250m underground would involve creating mine shafts at the minehead, Egton, Lockwood Beck and in a plantation, when the mine was operational they would not be obtrusive.

He said: “We are pretty pleased with it as a concept. There is a higher cost to it, but it does have operational savings, so we think it is a genuine win-win.”

Mr Edmunds added the construction area in the revised proposals had been cut by 70 per cent and there would be fewer buildings at the minehead.

He said: “We acknowledge that we are in a sensitive location and if we could sensibly be somewhere else we would be.

“We think we have a very strong case.”

He said while the projected period for building the scheme had increased to four years, the firm was trying to avoid underestimating the project’s impact.

Tom Chadwick, chairman of the North Yorkshire Moors Association, said he remained convinced the plan represented an industrial intrusion in the wilderness area.

He said: “It is a re-run of the application last year – the only changes are that they have abandoned the overground pipeline and replaced it with the equivalent of the Channel Tunnel.

“The overall footprint will be bigger, it is just spread out more.”

Mr Chadwick added the increased timescale for building the project added to concerns that the area’s tourism industry would be damaged.

The first public display of the new plans will be held on Wednesday (July 2), from 2pm to 7pm, at Sneaton Village Hall ahead of exhibitions at Low Hawsker, Sleights, Egton, Moorsholm and Guisborough.