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Gallagher’s ragstone quarry extension being considered by Kent County Council

An existing ragstone quarry could be extended over the next 16 years.

The Hermitage Quarry, off Hermitage Lane, at Aylesford, could be expanded by a further 96 hectares, to allow its operators, Gallagher Aggregates Ltd, to extract a further 20 million tonnes of ragstone.

The KCC environment committee meeting at County Hall
The KCC environment committee meeting at County Hall

The suggestion will have to first go out to public consultation and then be subjected to a technical examination to determine whether various constraints on the site could be overcome. The plan would also ultimately have to be signed off by a government inspector.

KCC’s environment and transport committee have taken the first step by recommending Cllr Susan Carey, the cabinet member with responsibility for the environment, launches a public consultation on a new version of the authority’s Kent Mineral and Waste Local Plan, in which KCC makes provision for the extraction of minerals such as hard rock, sand and gravel across the county.

Officers said the existing plan needed review because there would be a shortfall of 17.4m tonnes in the provision of hard rock extraction over the plan period up to 2039.

KCC has already carried out a “call for sites” inviting landowners to put forward suitable plots for ragstone extraction, but only one was forthcoming, and that was an extension to the south and west of Gallagher’s existing quarry.

Following a six-week public consultation in June and July, a techincal assessment will be undertaken as the site includes a public right of way, has areas of Grade 2 (high value) agricultural land, plantations on ancient woodland sites and a national grid powerline running overhead.

A map showing the extent of the proposed quarry extension
A map showing the extent of the proposed quarry extension

It is thought the new site would meet all of the established shortfall in provision, supplying ragstone at the rate of around 900,000 tonnes per annum.

At the end of its life, the quarry would be restored to its original levels with inert materials and be returned to mixed native woodland and meadow.

Gallagher said the new site could be accessed from the existing access road off Hermitage Lane.

The site is within the parishes of East Malling and Larkfield, Ditton, and Barming, and straddles the boroughs of Tonbridge and Malling, and Maidstone.

The Kent Minerals and Waste Local Plan was last reviewed in September 2020.

Cllr Ian Chittenden: Gallagher's do a good job
Cllr Ian Chittenden: Gallagher's do a good job

The working of hard rock involves blasting, which results in noise and dust.

Speaking at the meeting, Cty Cllr Ian Chittenden (Lib Dem) said: “When provision for the existing quarry was first put forward there was an absolute furore of protest.

“Whether the same would happen this time, I don’t ’know.”

However Cllr Chittenden said he had recently visited the existing site and had been impressed with the way completed areas had been restored. He said: “They (Gallaghers) operate it very well.”

Lance Taylor, CEO at Gallagher Group said: “We believe the continuation of Hermitage Quarry is crucial for supporting Kent's Mineral Plan and safeguarding vital industries, regionally and nationally, as well as securing the future jobs of the Hermitage Quarry almost 200-strong workforce. We are dedicated to delivering outstanding, locally sourced, sustainable aggregates while fulfilling our commitments to our local communities and restoring quarried land to a richer quality.”

A scene from the existing quarry
A scene from the existing quarry

“In line with KCC's program of consultation, we are committed to providing our neighbours and wider communities with opportunities to understand more about the proposed extension, more information can be found here. https://g

On a note that is likely to be more acceptable to the public, the revised Kent Minerals and Waste Local Plan also allows for the removal of an existing allocation for a landfill site for hazardous waste and incinerator ash.

Officers said that because of the council’s altered waste policy away from landfill, the site at Norwood Quarry on the Isle of Sheppey would no longer be necessary.

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