Published: 10:19, 12 October 2018
| Updated: 21:15, 15 October 2018
A quarry which has stood unused for a decade is set to resume its operation despite concerns about the impact it could have on those living nearby.
The Stonecastle Farm Quarry in Five Oak Green, near Tonbridge, will be brought back into action by Tarmac, which wants to recommence extracting sand and gravel from the site by the end of the year due to “an improvement in the market conditions”.
Changes to the site’s existing planning permission and increasing the period of its excavation campaigns from three to six months were agreed by Kent County Council’s planning applications committee on Wednesday.
This includes the ability to ‘work wet’, which involves using a wet drill, reducing the amount of dust thrown in the air.
No work has been carried out at the site for up to 10 years.
Nearby resident Alan Chilvers said: “At double the duration of working, this would significantly impact the enjoyment of outside activities during the entire summer – and an increase in noise and dust into our homes at a time when windows are frequently opened.”
Committee members were reminded on a number of occasions that the existing planning permission was still valid, meaning Tarmac Trading could carry out work “this afternoon if they wanted”.
Cllr Ian Chittenden (Lib Dems) sympathised, telling colleagues: “It must have come as quite a shock for local residents because after having years of peace and quiet, you come to a stage where you think ‘great, they’ve walked away and we’ll never see them again’.”
Stonecastle Farm Quarry was first given permission to be used for the extraction of gravel and sand in 1981, with a total of two million tonnes believed to be on the site.
Brendan Kelly, estates manager at Tarmac, told the committee that six months of extraction would still see the same amount of mineral extracted – but would mean it would be less intrusive.
He added: “The principle of mineral extraction from Stonecastle Farm Quarry is long-established and is secure until 2062.
"These are minor tweaks to improve the efficiency, sustainability, and environmentally friendliness of the site.
“This is a question of the acceptability of these minor changes to benefit the wider permission, and it is not about the wider acceptability of mineral extraction in general.”
With this in mind, only Cllrs Matthew Balfour (Con) and Barry Lewis (Lab) voted against after a two-hour debate on the matter.
Committee chairman Cllr Alan Marsh (Con) said he hoped residents and Tarmac will work together to make the arrangement work for both parties, with annual meetings now planned.