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Somerset quarry off the A303 may expand despite outcry from locals Bath City News

A quarry near the A303 in Somerset may expand despite an outcry from residents.

Ham & Doulting Stone Company Ltd. applied for permission to extend the Blackford Hill Quarry, which lies south of the existing two-lane road between Sparkford and Wincanton.

The plans have been sharply criticized by neighboring residents, arguing that more than a decade of “noisy excavations” will hurt local businesses.

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But Somerset County Council has now decided the expansion can continue – although it has placed restrictions on work that can be done on weekends.

The board’s regulatory committee met in Taunton to discuss the proposals on Thursday, June 24.

According to the proposals, up to 21,000 tonnes will be mined over 14 years, transported to the company’s masonry plant at Tout Quarry in Charlton Adam to be cut, dressed and sold.

A map from the Blackford Quarry Action Group of the impacts the quarry would have on the village (Image: Blackford Quarry Action Group)

The extraction would involve two additional heavy truck trips per week, with the land returned to agricultural use after the end of the 14-year period.

Company owner Zac England told the committee: “I can say with certainty that Blackford Stone is one of the major wall stones found in historic buildings in the Wincanton, Gillingham and Sherborne areas.

“My company has been regularly contacted by builders and architects looking for this stone. So it is clear to me that there is a market for this stone which would benefit the economy of Somerset.

Members of the Blackford Quarry Action Group said the proposals were “totally inappropriate and unacceptable”, arguing that the expansion would have a negative impact on local tourism.

A spokesperson said: “You can’t sell this in the brochure: come to Somerset, listen to the noise and see the quarry. It’s not a slogan that anyone could come up with.

“These wide and heavy vehicles will completely fill this narrow lane which is used daily by walkers, local stable horses and cyclists on the Wessex cycle path – all of which would be in great danger.”

Councilor William Wallace (whose Blackmore Vale division includes the site) said he was disappointed that an official site visit had not taken place even after coronavirus restrictions began to ease.

He said: “It is imperative that we hear what the locals are saying. I visited the site and know the area very well – I have been there in wet weather and there was mud everywhere.

“The surrounding roads and lanes are very unsuitable for heavy vehicle traffic. Keep in mind that Somerset is full of quarries, including one on my own land that I don’t use – these were created when we hauled stone on horseback and cart.

“I think this is an inappropriate site for a career like this.”

However, committee members were broadly in favor of the proposals, saying they would bring more jobs to the region.

Councilor Mark Keating said, “I am a big supporter of the business in small communities. We have to find a balance here – maybe we can do something about the weekend work.

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Councilor Nigel Hewitt-Cooper added, “It’s about trying to tighten things up as best we can.

“Making a decision based on the heart above your head can get you into a lot of trouble.”

After nearly two hours of debate, the committee voted in favor of the authorization, on the condition that no on-site activity is allowed on weekends.

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This notice was published: 2021-06-29 23:00:00

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