A PROPOSED quarry extension that will boost employment but has prompted environmental concerns has been recommended for approval by council planners.

W&M Thompson Quarries wants to extend its operations at Bishop Middleham Quarry by 15.7 hectares, westward towards the A1 motorway.

The Prudhoe-based company has operated the quarry on the edge of Bishop Middleham, near Sedgefield, since the early 1970s.

Loading article content

Its proposed extension would enable the company to extract a further 5.5million tonnes of magnesian limestone over a 14 year period.

That would be followed by the 20 year restoration of the land, by backfilling with imported waste soils and clay, so it can return to agricultural use.

The company says the extension would help secure 30 jobs at the quarry where most employees live nearby in villages such as Bishop Middleham, Coxhoe, Cornforth, Ferryhill and the Trimdons.

It also creates indirect employment for HGV drivers and explosive experts, which could continue.

Thompsons say the quarry underpins its construction and demolition operations in the region and there is continued demand for aggregate, for all types of construction particularly roads, and lime, for use as fertiliser.

Planning authority, Durham County Council, received 75 letters from residents, businesses, quarry staff and farming customers supporting the scheme because of the employment benefits and product demand.

Bishop Middleham and Mainsforth Parish Council did not object saying it has worked well with Thompsons on community projects in the past, which the firm says will continue.

Through consultation on these plans the company agreed to carry out improvements to the kerb line on the road entering the village in a bid to tackle drainage issues.

But objections have been raised by residents whose main concerns focus on road erosion and dirt left on the C46 road and the junction with the A177 by trucks moving in and out of the site.

Objectors also argue that there is already adequate supply of lime in County Durham, don’t want to see good farmland lost and have pollution concerns about dust and noise.

The existing site operates from 7am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 7am to 12pm on Saturdays, which would remain the case as will vehicular access, from the C46.

Planning officers will recommend the proposed extension, and an application to vary existing conditions to accommodate the work, is approved by the county planning committee at County Hall, in Durham, on Tuesday, September 2.