Somerset County Council

Regulation Committee – 2 December 2003

A

 

 

Type of Application:

FULL APPLICATION

Application Number:

03/02608/CPO

Date Registered:

10.9.2003

Parish:

Stoke-sub-Hamdon

District:

South Somerset

Division:

Martock/Ilchester

Local Member:

Douglas Campbell/Sam Crabb

Case Officer:

Paul Thompson

Contact Details:

pthompson@somerset.gov.uk  (01823)  356024

 

Description of Application:

PROPOSED QUARRYING OF HAMSTONE AND PROVISION OF NEW ALL-ABILITY PATHWAY AT HAM HILL, STOKE-SUB-HAMDON, SOMERSET (as clarified by letter dated 30 September 2003)

Grid Reference:

347920  116840

Applicant:

Mr R England

Location:

The application site is near the northern end of Ham Hill, approximately 2.5 km south east of Martock and ½ km south east of the centre of Stoke-sub-Hamdon

 

 

 

Application Summary

 

·         Proposal to quarry Hamstone and provide a new all-ability pathway.

·         Site is within a Scheduled Ancient Monument and the Ham Hill Country Park.

·         Objections received from local residents.

·         Main issues relate to the visual impact and need.

·         Recommend that permission be conditionally granted.

 

1.

Background and the Application

1.1

The quarrying of Hamstone at the northern section of Ham Hill has taken place under a series of temporary planning permissions since the 1950s. The most recent permission, granted in 1998, requires the cessation of extraction by 12

 

 

August 2004 and a five-year period of aftercare. Quarrying has however ceased  with the exception of a small stockpile area. This application proposes to extract Hamstone on land to the west of the existing quarry on land previously quarried in the 1950s and 1960s (under permission No 14522 dated 3/12/1951). Reserves of Hamstone however remain due in part to the lower demand for Hamstone in the 1960s and 1970s and also the availability of more accessible deposits to the east in the vicinity of the existing quarry. This application relates to a long thin strip of land (0.65 hectares) and is a resubmission of an earlier application, No 02/02636/CPO, by the applicant, withdrawn in August 2002 due to inaccuracies in the application details.

1.2

The application site and the surrounding land forms part of the Ham Hill Country Park, characterised by rocky outcrops and uneven calcareous grassland. Immediately to the west of the application site a steep slope 3-4 metres in height rises to form the western ridge of the Ham Hill headland. The base of the western ridge slope forms the western boundary of the application site and similar breaks of slope, albeit less distinct, define the southern, northern and eastern site boundaries. A rock island known as the lion/dragon rock (due to its silhouette) is situated in the centre of the application site adjacent to the route of an all-ability pathway. The pathway, introduced by the Country Park Wardens, provides permissive access to the northern extent of the Country Park including the war memorial.

1.3

The applicant estimates 8 000 tonnes of reserves of Hamstone remain within the application site at varying depth of 1- 2 metres. Extraction would take place in four phases in a north - south direction with exception of the lion/dragon rock outcrop that would be retained. The applicant suggests that each phase would be worked over a relatively short number of weeks and stone would be stored at the southern section of the site to enable immediate backfilling and reclamation of the disturbed areas.

1.4

To demarcate the extent of the quarry each phase would be enclosed by an earthbank (of approximately 1 metre in height) against the site boundaries other than the western boundary which is defined by the western ridge. Boulders and vandal proof painted stone blocks would be spaced along the outer perimeter to inform members of the public of the presence of a working quarry. On completion of each phase the earthbank would be removed for use in reinstating the disturbed land and the boulders stockpiled until such time as the next phase is activated. Reclamation would take place through natural regeneration of the calcareous grassland to return the land for recreational use as part of the Country Park.

1.5

The roadway that serves the existing quarry would continue to be used for vehicular access requiring only minor alterations. Quarrying operations would be similar to those of the existing quarry involving the use of a mechanical digger to lift and move stone for off-site processing. No blasting would take place. The applicant estimates that stone would be extracted over a four-year period, with

 

 

 

 

the depletion of stockpiles requiring a further 6 months and the reclamation of the final phases an additional 6 months. In total the proposed timescale would be 5 years (excluding aftercare provision).

1.6

The all-ability pathway that runs through the application site would be temporarily removed during quarrying operations and reinstated on reclamation. To enable uninterrupted access to the war memorial during quarrying operations the applicant proposes to provide a new and permanent pathway. This would be routed through the existing quarry site.

 

2.

Comments Received

2.1

South Somerset District Council – No objection subject to the identification of a clear need for the stone and that:

 

  • The restoration of the site takes place in a progressive manner in accordance with a detailed restoration scheme.
  • Any important wildlife habitats or physical geological features are safeguarded.
  • The schedule ancient monument or any other important archaeological remains are safeguarded.

 

It is also recommended that consideration be given to the imposition of conditions to ensure:-

 

  • The provision of the new all-ability track prior to the commencement of development in order to retain public access to the northern part of Ham Hill.
  • The restoration of the existing adjacent quarry site prior to the required date of 12 August 2009 in order to retain the character and amenities of the area.

 

2.2

Stoke-sub-Hamdon Parish Council -  No objection.

2.3

Environment Agency - No mention has been made in the application of rainfall run-off, either to ground or surface water from the site. It is therefore requested that if planning permission is granted conditions be imposed requiring water to be discharged into approved settlement ponds and for the prevention of pollution of the water environment.

2.4

South Somerset Disability Forum – With some careful consideration the proposed pathway would make an acceptable alternative and useful addition once the quarry areas open up again. In terms of amenity and natural look of the application area, the reclamation of the site should reflect that the current surface is not flat and has quite substantial undulations. The use of spoil and unused large rocks must be landscaped with care to achieve a natural appearance and should not become boringly flat and uninteresting.

 

2.5

Somerset Geology Group – Ham Hill is a very important location for geological studies and is frequently visited. The recent quarrying at the northern part of the Hill has removed some valuable features and so it is important that there is conservation of outcrops. It is therefore requested that a small exposure of the bottom beds resting on the underlying Yeovil Sands is retained.

2.6

English Nature and Wessex Water have raised no objections.

2.7

Other representations:

 

Duchy of Cornwall – Supports the application which will provide a valuable source of Hamstone for local building projects important in perpetuating vernacular architecture. The proposal also provides local employment and sustains competition in the market place for Hamstone.

 

4 letters of objection have been received on behalf of 12 local residents. The letters raise the following issues:-

 

  • Loss of landscape value and pathway interest.
  • Loss of habitats for wildlife.
  • Health and Safety. 
  • Drainage.

 

In addition the following issues were raised in connection with application No 02/02636/CPO discussed in paragraph 1.1:-

 

  • Quarrying is in conflict with the use of the land as a Country Park.
  • Visitors to the Park will be deprived of natural enjoyment for many years.
  • The outstanding natural beauty of Ham Hill Country Park.
  • Impact on tourism.
  • Proximity of the proposal to the west ridge of the hill, impact on access along the ridge, the possibility of causing a break through the ridge which may lead to landslip.
  • Surface run-off in relation to Lockes Lane footpath.
  • Impact on the north western spur of an ancient British Hill fort.
  • Need for continued quarrying.

 

 

 

3.

Comments of the Head of Regulation Services

3.1

The Development Plan for the area comprises the Somerset and Exmoor National Park Joint Structure Plan Review and the Yeovil Area Local Plan. Policy 32 of the Structure Plan is relevant to this application and suggests that provisions for mineral extraction should be made where they are sustainable; provide an acceptable balance between the environment and the economy; take account of planning controls and are adequately related to the highway network.

 

 

3.2

The emerging South Somerset District Local Plan comprising the Proposed Changes to the Deposit draft (SSDLP) should also be given strong weighting in view of its advanced status towards adoption. Relevant policies within the SSDLP suggest that protection should be afforded to local wildlife/geological interests (Policy EC5) and archaeological sites of national importance (Policy EH14).

3.3

The Revised Deposit Version of the Minerals Local Plan (MLP) comprising the Post Inquiry Modifications is also relevant. The plan contains three policies specific to building stone quarries and these are summarised below:-

 

·         Policy M49 requires that there be no harmful effects on the environment or local communities, that the MPA is satisfied that the stone is required, and that the nature, scale and duration of operations are appropriate.

  • Policy M50 suggests acceptable afteruse proposals should be a pre-requisite.

  • Policy M51 suggests production limits should be provided.

 

In addition the MLP advises there should be no harmful effect on the character and features of the Somerset countryside (Policy M4); on the quality or quantity of water (Policy M15) and satisfactory reclamation and afteruse proposals should be provided (Policy M19).

3.4

The application site lies within Ham Hill Country Park and the Ham Hill Country Park Management Plan is a material consideration. The application site also lies within Ham Hill Scheduled Ancient Monument. Therefore Scheduled Monument Consent would be required from English Heritage in the event that planning permission is granted.

3.5

The consultation process has raised a number of issues in connection with the development proposal. These issues along with the above-mentioned policy considerations are discussed below.

3.6

Visual Impact and Reclamation

 

The application site is located within the northern section of the Ham Hill Country Park occupying a headland of land, roughly horseshoe in shape, overlooking the village of Stoke-sub-Hamdon. The application site sits below the level of the perimeter ridges of the headland and is not visible from outside the Country Park. The proposed development does however occupy a prominent position within the Country Park and would be visible to users of the Park.

3.7

The existing quarry site is located a short distance to the east and its visual impact has been partially mitigated by the construction of a large earthbank against its western boundary.  An earthbank of a similar scale to the proposed development is however unlikely to be feasible or desirable due to the position, limited scale and the proposed duration of quarrying. Smaller perimeter earthbanks are proposed, one phase at a time, however these would serve as a means of informing members of the public of the extent of the operations rather

 

 

than as a visual screen. The scheme of earthbanks and the use of perimeter boulders to warn members of the public has been prepared by the applicant in consultation with South Somerset District Council’s Country Park Wardens who have responsibility for public safety within the Country Park.

3.8

The applicant has pointed out that the legacy of quarrying at Ham Hill has played an important part in shaping the landscape enjoyed by users of the Country Park. Rather than screening the proposed operations, some members of the public are also interested in observing quarrying activities. Whilst I accept that some users of the Country Park may share this view, it is also likely that others would view the proposed development as having a detrimental impact on the landscape. However, in view of the proximity of the existing and larger quarry site, I do not consider that the proposal would discourage members of the public from using the Country Park. Phased extraction of the application site with immediate reclamation of disturbed areas and the intention to complete each phase within a short number of weeks will reduce the visual impact of quarrying, although the much smaller and less prominent stockpile area would continue to have some visual impacts of its own. Whilst these measures would reduce the visual impact, the application site nevertheless occupies a prominent position in the Country Park and some loss of visual amenity would take place for the duration of the proposed development.

3.9

In the medium to longer term the Council’s Landscape advisor considers that the applicant has demonstrated that reclamation would not be bland and that some, but not all, of the features that comprise the character of the surrounding area, such as rock outcrops and an undulating surface would be reinstated. Significant features in the local area, such as the Lion/Dragon rock as well as the perimeter ridgeline would remain unaffected by the proposal. The headland is also designated as a County Geological Site for its rare fossil content and sedimentology. At the request of the Somerset Geological Society the applicant is agreeable to ensuring that areas of geological interest are retained as part of site reclamation. As such, in the medium to longer term it is considered the proposal would not adversely affect the distinctive character of the surrounding area. The proposal is therefore considered to be in accordance with Policy 5 of the Structure Plan, Policy EC2 of the emerging SSDLP and Policy M4 of the emerging MLP that seeks to safeguard distinctive features in the countryside.

3.10

Wildlife

 

The Ham Hill headland is designated as a County Wildlife Site and environmental records indicate that important lichen, bird and invertebrate populations have been identified in the surrounding locality. The presence of lichens in the surrounding area was identified in 1994 during consideration of an application for the existing quarry area. It is recommended that a condition be imposed requiring that a survey be undertaken to establish the presence of lichens and wildlife habitats and for any mitigating measures to be undertaken prior to the commencement of extraction.

 

 

 

3.11

Drainage

 

Pebble beds with a high porosity and permeability content underlie the reserves of Hamstone. The applicant suggests that precipitation draining into the quarry would percolate into the ground as experienced in the existing quarry. Concern has been raised by a local resident in connection with the previous application in relation to increased run-off, however for the above-mentioned reason and that the application site sits lower than the adjoining ground level, it is not considered that the proposal will increase runoff or create drainage problems. Whilst the Environment Agency has not objected to the proposal they have expressed the view that in the absence of drainage details, they would wish to ensure adequate controls are imposed. I therefore recommend the imposition of a condition requiring the submission of a drainage scheme before development commences and a review of the approved drainage scheme within six months of the commencement of each working phase. As well as reviewing the need for any drainage settlement facilities, the condition would also enable features of reclamation such as the suitability of a geological exposure to be reviewed resulting from any changed circumstances that may arise throughout the life of the permission. I consider the proposal would not adversely affect ground or surface waters in accordance with policy M15 of the emerging MLP.

3.12

Archaeology

 

Whilst any archaeological remains are likely to have been removed when the site was initially quarried in the 1960s, the site lies within a Scheduled Ancient Monument and the surrounding area is identified as an archaeological site of national importance. I recommend that in accordance with Policy M11 of the emerging MLP, a programme of works archaeological condition be imposed.

3.13

Highways

 

The existing quarry site has an annual output limit of 3,000 tonnes and as such the proposed annual output of 2,000 tonnes per annum (approximately 4 vehicle movements per week) would lead to a reduction in the permitted output of traffic. No objections have been received from the Highways Authority and I am not aware of any complaints having been made about current traffic activities. The proposal is therefore considered to be acceptable and in accordance with policy M40 of the emerging MLP. It is recommended that a condition be imposed restricting production limits.

3.14

Noise and Dust

 

The proposed operations and extraction of stone would take place in a similar manner to the existing quarry. The nearest residential property (approximately 90 metres) is well screened by the west ridge of the Country Park and I am not aware of any incidents giving rise to noise or dust problems. Whilst it is not anticipated that the operation will give rise to any disturbance, I consider it prudent to retain an upper noise limit consistent with the existing quarry.

 

 

 

3.15

Need

 

Hamstone has traditionally been widely used as a building material in South Somerset and the surrounding areas. Whilst the existing quarry site is an established source of Hamstone other permitted reserves of Hamstone exist at Ham Hill South quarry, located near Norton-sub-Hamdon approximately 1.5 km to the south. The Duchy of Cornwall has suggested that the development proposal would maintain local employment and sustain competition in the market place for Hamstone. Members are advised that the issue of competition in the market place is not a material consideration. Mineral Planning Guidance Note 1 advises that in determining planning applications Mineral Planning Authorities should seek to ensure there is an adequate and steady supply of minerals. Since minerals can be worked only where they occur; local, regional and national needs should reflect the nature and extent of minerals having regard to other considerations and the principles of sustainable development (MPG1: paragraphs 26 & 40). 

3.16

Although Ham Hill South quarry is relatively close, the Hamstone that is quarried is ‘yellower’ in colour and according to the applicant, less hard and less durable than the ‘greyer’ Hamstone quarried by the applicant at the northern part of the hill. The applicant has expressed the view that these qualities make stone from the northern part of Ham Hill more suitable for use in building restoration work and the stone is primarily used by local stonemasons for the repair of external features in historic buildings, such as mullion windows and ashlars stonework as well as for new developments in conservation areas. The applicant has provided a list of examples where Hamstone from the existing quarry has been used and these are attached as Appendix A. 

3.17

The distinctive qualities of the ‘greyer’ Hamstone claimed by the applicant has been investigated by South Somerset District Council’s Area Conservation Officer. In her opinion, although demand for the ‘greyer’ stone was difficult to predict, a large number of buildings have used the ‘greyer’ stone in the past and as the ‘yellower’ stone was not found to be a good colour match, the ‘greyer’ stone would be preferred for any proposal to replace decayed stone or for extensions to buildings. The ‘yellower’ stone would be considered a poor substitute but would inevitability be used if no ‘grey’ Hamstone or similar material was available. In consideration of this, I conclude that the proposal meets the criteria of need set out in Policy M49 of the emerging MLP.

3.18

All-ability pathway and the existing quarry

 

The reinstatement of the all-ability pathway along the original route can only take place on the cessation of all quarrying operations since the original route is affected by all four phases of the programme of working. The applicant has therefore proposed a new and permanent all-ability pathway through the existing quarry. This would ensure that access to the northern part of Country Park remains uninterrupted and has been broadly welcomed as a planning benefit in the medium to longer term. Whilst extraction has now ceased within the existing quarry, the proposal would also secure its early reclamation in advance of 12

 

 

 

August 2009 as currently permitted. It is recommended that conditions be imposed requiring the restoration of the existing adjacent quarry and the completion of the new pathway prior to the commencement of extraction.

3.19

Conclusion

 

Ham Stone has traditionally been used as a building material in the local area. The proposed development is likely however to have visual impacts upon the northern section of Ham Hill Country Park and this raises considerations about whether the likely impacts of the proposal are acceptable having regard to the quality and quantity of reserves that would be made available. Matters such as noise, ecology, traffic and archaeology could be adequately controlled by the introduction of planning conditions. With care, the proposed reclamation of the site would satisfactorily restore the land in the medium and longer term and could also be adequately controlled through the imposition of conditions. It is considered that distinct differences exist between ‘yellow’ and ‘grey’ Hamstone and there is evidence of a continuing need for ‘grey’ Hamstone. On balance it is considered  that the need for ‘grey’ Hamstone outweighs the negative impacts and in particular the short term loss of visual amenity to the Country Park. The proposal also provides a longer-term benefit by increasing the length of the all-ability pathway network in the Country Park as well as securing the early restoration of the existing adjacent quarry site. Subject to the conditions detailed below, I therefore recommend that permission be granted.

 

4.

Recommendation

4.1

It is recommended that planning permission be GRANTED subject to the imposition by the Head of Regulation Services of appropriate conditions relating to:-

 

1.      End dates – winning and working of minerals– 30 June 2007.

-          reclamation - 31 December 2007.

-          aftercare – 31 December 2013.

2.  Before development commences – existing quarry shall be reclaimed and afteruse commenced.

3. Before development commences -  details of new all-ability pathway to be approved and implemented.

4.  Before development commences – ecology survey shall be undertaken and approval of any mitigating measures.

5. Before development commences - implementation of a programme of archaeological work in accordance with a scheme approved in writing by the MPA.

 

 

6. Before development commences – submission of drainage scheme for written approval with programme of implementation

7. Only Hamstone suitable for building, walling, roofing, paving and ornamental stone shall be removed from the site.

8. Working, reclamation and aftercare of the site shall be carried out in accordance with the application details. No extraction shall take within the area of the Lion Rock.

9. The approved schemes shall be subject to a joint formal review commencing six months after the commencement of each working phase. Each review shall comprise the submission to the County Planning Authority of an assessment of progress on the approved schemes together with any proposed minor variations to the approved schemes. Any variations would have to be approved prior to implementation.

10. No excavation below 40 metres (datum – bottom step of monument).

11. No explosives to be used on site.

12. No waste shall be deposited on the site other than quarry waste arising within the site.

13. Environment Agency – standard condition regarding storage of potential pollutants.

14. Environment Agency – standard condition regarding disposal of pollutants.

15.  Hours of operation – 0700 hours to 1800 hours Mondays to Fridays.  No winning or working on Saturdays, Sundays or on Bank/Public Holidays.

16.  Noise levels – 55 dB LAeq (1 hour) boundary limit.

17.  Protection of the two ash trees adjacent to the southern boundary of the application site.  Any vegetation removed without consent, dying or being severely damaged shall be replaced.

18.  Use of approved vehicular access only.

19.  Removal of Permitted Development Rights.

20.  Stockpiles only stored in the locations indicated in the application.  Stockpiles shall not exceed 3 metres in height.

21.  Output shall not exceed 2000 tonnes per annum.

 

 

22.  Records of monthly output to be made available to MPA on request.

23.  Access to geologists.

 

Notes

 

Scheduled Ancient Monument Consent required

 

 

 

 

Relevant Development Plan Policies

 

Somerset and Exmoor National Park Joint Structure Plan Review (Adopted April 2000) – Policies STR1, STR6, 5, 11, 12, 13, 28, 30, 32.

 

Yeovil Area Local Plan (Adopted 1990) – Policy P3.

 

South Somerset District Proposed Changes to the Deposit Draft Local Plan (May 2001) – Policies EC2, EC5, EH14.

 

Revised Deposit Version as amended by Schedule of Post Inquiry Modifications (August 2003) Somerset Minerals Local Plan – Policies M4, M7, M10, M15, M16, M19, M20, M25, M40, M49, M50, M51.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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