Policy MIN1 Mineral Development – Extraction & Processing of Hard Rock and Aggregates
Outside of Special Countryside Areas and Areas of Constraint on Mineral Development, planning permission can be granted for the extraction and/or processing of hard rock and aggregates, when Council is satisfied that the proposal will not have an unacceptable adverse impact upon any of the following interests:
The natural environment, including the conservation of flora and fauna, natural habitats, biodiversity and earth science features.
The water environment, including water quality and natural flow regimes.
Landscape quality and visual amenity.
The historic environment.
Traffic movement and road safety.
The safety, amenity and wellbeing of people living in proximity to operational sites.
There will be a presumption against this form of minerals development in Special Countryside Areas and Areas of Constraint on Mineral Development, unless the proposal constitutes an ‘exception’ as specified in the policy for the particular designation.
All proposals must include details relating to the restoration and management of the quarry site in accordance with Policy MIN8.
All proposals must meet the General Policy and accord with other provisions of the LDP.
Justification and Amplification
The four main stages in quarrying are preparation by removal of overburden, extraction, processing and finally restoration or reuse. The methods and equipment used depend primarily on the type of deposit and the source rock being worked. The key factor is whether the material requires crushing before further processing or just washing and separation. Following removal of overburden by dragline or hydraulic excavator, the extraction of hard rock aggregates often requires careful blasting to break the rock into smaller fragments. Processing includes the conveyance of the extracted material to crushing machinery, followed by the washing and sorting of the materials.
Given the importance of hard rock and aggregate extraction and processing to the local economy and in providing materials for construction regionally, Council will support those proposals that comply with all aspects of the policy. The onus will rest with the developer in demonstrating that the proposal will not have unacceptable adverse impact on the interests listed in the policy.
The integrity and conservation features of a site of International, national or local nature conservation importance, including SACs, SPAs, Ramsar sites, ASSIs and national nature reserves, or other natural heritage assets must not be degraded through mineral development. This also includes loss to protected species or harm to biodiversity or the natural processes underpinning ecosystem services. It is acknowledged that in the longer term, sensitively restored quarry sites can enhance nature conservation and biodiversity, hence the requirement in the policy for such measures.
The water environment is made up of the sea, lakes, rivers, ground water, surface water and watercourses. The quality of the water environment is important for human health and wellbeing. It also is an integral part of natural ecosystems and its capacity to support wildlife and biodiversity depends much on safeguarding water quality. It is therefore important that minerals development avoids sensitive water environments wherever possible, as mineral residues, chemicals and waste deposits can lead to water pollution and silting up of watercourses. Where necessary, conditions will be attached to planning permission to ensure adequate mitigation measures, but this will only apply where the fundamental policy test has been met.
Any minerals development that could impact hydrologically on a European Designated Site requires an assessment under the requirements of Regulation 43 (1) of the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended), commonly referred to as HRA. Further, mineral developments that may be within or impact hydrologically on National Designated Sites such as ASSI’s will require consultation with NIEA, Natural Environment Division. This may require the applicant to also apply directly to NIEA for consent under the Environment Order 2002.
Whilst potentially difficult to reconcile with this form of development, the protection of landscape quality and visual amenity will be afforded due weight in decision making. Particular regard will be paid to the preservation of skylines and to the proposed location of plant, stockpiles and overburden/waste within a development. Landform and natural landscape features should be utilised, wherever possible, to aid integration. The Council will use the Landscape Character Assessment (within Technical Supplement 10 Countryside Assessment) to assess the impact of a proposal on local landscape character.
Whilst there is not a general presumption against mineral development in areas designated for their landscape quality, notably the AONB, Council will exercise a cautious approach within this area. All proposals will therefore be carefully examined and the LDP Landscape Character Assessment will be used to inform decisions. The historic landscape and associated features will also be given due consideration in assessing proposals.
The policy seeks to ensure that there are no unacceptable adverse impacts on the safety, wellbeing and amenity of local communities. The main potential impacts are related to actual operations and to the transportation of materials on the local road network. In either case this may be manifested by excessive levels of noise, dust or vibration. Road safety may also be an issue where the local road network is insufficient to deal with the volume of heavy traffic that may be generated. Where such impacts are considered unacceptable, planning permission will be refused, unless the developer can demonstrate adequate means of mitigation.