A PLAN to extend a limestone quarry by an area the size of 18 football pitches, bringing it close to a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) has been recommended for approval despite generating hundreds of objections.

Went Valley Aggregates and Recycling hopes to blast 4.9 million tonnes of magnesian limestone from nine hectares of arable fields next to its quarry near Kirk Smeaton in North Yorkshire’s Selby district, where the road building material has been extracted for at least 75 years.

The proposed extension area is in designated Green Belt area, beside the River Went Valley and the northern, north-eastern and east boundary of the site is next to a SSSI - Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Brockadale Nature Reserve.

The reserve is so popular with visitors that the trust has recently issued a plea for people not to visit it, saying it is experiencing unsustainable numbers of people.

Ahead of the plan being considered by North Yorkshire County Council’s planning committee on Tuesday, the firm has stated its plans would not have any significant impacts upon the natural or built environment, and would not affect the openness of the Green Belt as all the activity would be 30 metres below the surface.

In planning documents, a spokesman for the firm states: “The whole site will be restored over the next ten years to complement the woodland and meadow to the north of the application site. It is estimated that the quarry provides £3 million to the economy of the area and supports over 50 people with work, family and a secure future.”

However, the scheme has attracted 244 objections over the landscape impact, consequences for residents from noise, dust and vibration and impacts on the nature reserve, such as potential ground water pollution, surface water run-off, water depletion, dust migration and impacts on wildlife such as badgers.

Objecting, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust said the quarry extension featured an area of designated ancient woodland, which had been described as an “irreplaceable habitat”.

The trust said the proposal “has potential to damage a nationally important SSSI”.

A spokesman for the charity said: “The trust is aware that there are potential plans to widen the A1 next to Brockadale reserve. These plans could have very negative impacts on the western area of the reserve and in combination with impacts to the south of the reserve, due to this application, could lead to serious deterioration of the SSSI.

“The council has a duty to preserve biodiversity and should consider the likely implications of other schemes and proposals within the area and which may have an impact upon the designated site.”

Nevertheless the trust said a careful restoration combined with a fully-funded long-term management plan could potentially lead to a net gain in biodiversity and an increase in valuable habitats.

Planning officers said the main issues were over the impact on the Green Belt, change in the landscape and potential impact on the SSSI against the need for the mineral as an extension to an existing quarry.

They concluded the proposal would not be inappropriate Green Belt development and while it would bring quarrying closer to the SSSI the proposed mitigation measures would minimise impact and meet Natural England’s requirements.