What is the planned eventual use for the site?
We don’t know. It is likely that the National Park Authority will consider planning applications for visitor accommodation and/or a use connected with renewable energy. Indeed, the National Park Authority has already given planning consent for five log cabins on an area which is still being used by CEMEX, just to the west of Catterbeck. The cabins’ approximate position is shown on the plans and is just to the south of the public footpath.
Why are you putting forward this proposal now if you do not have a plan in mind?
The restoration plan for the quarry was agreed in 2000. Five years later the law changed to allow public access over common land, although one of the exceptions was working quarries. It is only now that the restoration plan is about to be finalised that public access becomes a consideration since the site will no longer be designated a working quarry. The existing (old) common land boundaries do not accord with the topography of the site which has changed considerably due to generations of quarrying activity. It is currently difficult for walkers to know which areas they can access. By making changes to the common land boundaries such that they fit with the landscape, this will become much easier.
Why is it proposed for the access road to be taken out of common land?
Good practice and common sense suggest it is best to keep vehicles and pedestrians separate. Whatever future use the quarry site might have, there will almost certainly need to be vehicular access. Meanwhile anyone exercising their right to public access over common land will do so on foot since the right of access does not extend to using, for example, vehicles or horses. To that end there is separate pedestrian access from the A170 (near the bus stop).
What are the particular benefits to the Spaunton Estate of changing the common land boundaries?
Other than ensuring that the public has a clear understanding of where they can and cannot access, the other main benefit to the Estate would be less administration. Certain works are restricted on common land unless there is special consent (Section 38 of the Commons Act 2006) and, at the moment, the Estate has to apply before it can do anything which might be considered restricted works; this includes fencing, buildings, structures, ditches, trenches, embankments and other works which might prevent or impede access. Restricted works also includes providing any new solid surfaces, such as that needed for a new car park or access road. It is highly likely that any new use for the brownfield areas of the quarry will include the creation of new solid surfaces (for example, car parking for visitor accommodation). By taking out of common land status those areas which have the potential to be redeveloped, the Estate would have one fewer application form to complete each time it wished to build an embankment, dig a new ditch, or tarmac an area of hard-standing.
If we agree with this proposal, is it not just the “thin end of the wedge”? Will it lay the foundation for the Estate to build whatever it wants on the quarry site?
Not at all. Planning permission will still be needed in the usual way. There are particularly stringent rules for planning applications within a National Park and it will be for the North York Moors National Park Authority to determine the merits of any planning application.
Surely so long as we keep the area in common land we can actively prevent any future building/planning applications?
There is a common misconception that it is not possible to obtain planning permission on designated common land. In 2009 full planning permission was granted for five log cabins (visitor accommodation) on common land within Spaunton Quarry. However, under the proposals, it is suggested that this area comes out of common land which will make it easier to provide, for example, a solid surface car park for each cabin.
Can the site be used for fracking?
No. Not only is the Spaunton Estate opposed to fracking on or under its land, but in an email dated 21st September 2015, Mark Hill, Head of Development Management at the North York Moors National Park Authority wrote:
“It is my understanding that the Infrastructure Act 2015 included clauses to prevent fracking from surface sites within the National Park which would include those parts of Spaunton Quarry which lie within the Park and this would [be] achieved under the PEDL Licensing Regime. The Act did not prevent horizontal drilling under the Park from outside the Park. This Authority is taking the view that mining under the Park still represents development requiring planning permission and as such the major development test kicks in, part of which requires it to be proven that it cannot take place outside the Park and that exceptional circumstances and public interest must be proven before ‘under Park’ fracking could be approved.”
(NB: PEDL stands for Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence)
The fact that the fracking consultation regarding exploration licences (covering a huge area of land) is happening at the same time as the Spaunton Estate’s proposals regarding common land boundaries just within the confines of Spaunton Quarry is a particularly unfortunate coincidence: the two issues are not connected. The proposal for the quarry site has absolutely no connection to and nothing to do with fracking.
Questions in relation to the proposals for a holiday village
Would local people be able to use the facilities (eg swimming pool and gym)?
Yes – there will be a membership package and/or day passes
How much does the Spaunton Estate expect to make from such a development?
If the plans go ahead then the Spaunton Estate will be investing millions of pounds. It is a long-term investment and the Trustees of the Estate are unlikely to see a return on the investment during their lifetime. The benefits to the community begin with the start of that investment and will increase as the project progresses.