Government approves application to extend Hermitage Quarry in Maidstone
Oaken Wood, off North Pole Road, Barming
An 80-acre swathe of ancient woodland will be lost after the government gave the go-ahead to a quarry extension.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles approved an application by Gallagher Aggregates to extend Hermitage Quarry in Maidstone.
The decision comes after a lengthy public inquiry which began in November.
The company says the extension is needed to extract and supply more ragstone used predominantly in house building.
But it means the loss of part of Oaken Wood - an area of ancient woodland which sits off North Pole Road in Barming.
The quarry plan sparked the formation of the Save Oaken Wood campaign, which saw hundreds of people living nearby protest against the extension.
Protesters also took up placards outside last year's public inquiry.
The Woodland Trust and the Maidstone Green party both said they were disappointed by the decision - the first big test of new government planning rules.
Demonstrators from the Oaken Wood Action Group outside the public inquiry
But Mr Pickles said the economic benefits of being able to produce more ragstone and crushed rock from the site outweighed the loss of the wood.
He also claimed the area of woodland being lost was not the most ancient part. Some areas of Oaken Wood date back to the 1600s.
Gallagher welcomed the decision and said the larger quarry would create extra jobs.
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