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Welcome for judges' decision against Backdale limestone quarrying

Updated:2009-03-19 09:39:48

A national park authority has welcomed an Appeal Court judgement in a long running quarry dispute.

Three judges ruled in favour of the Peak District National Park Authority's case against the owners of Backdale Quarry and that enforcement action to control limestone extraction was justified. The authority describes the ruling as a significant milestone in a long drawn-out legal process.

The contentious quarrying of limestone at Backdale, near Bakewell in Derbyshire, centres on a permission to extract fluorspar and barytes granted in 1952.

The national park authority contends that these minerals consist of only a tiny part of the materials taken from Backdale, on Longstone Edge, and that the amount of limestone extracted is causing serious damage to the landscape.

The authority, together with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, appealed against a High Court decision overturning an inspector's ruling that enforcement action against the owners, Bleaklow Industries, could take place.

The ping-pong legal battle reached a further stage this week with the Court of Appeal decision. The ruling means that only a very small amount of limestone can be removed and sold.

Authority chair Narendra Bajaria said: "We very much welcome this decision – for three senior judges to uphold the authority's enforcement action gives great support to our case.  We are particularly pleased that this judgment is a result of a joint appeal with the Secretary of State.

"We are extremely grateful to the public for their support and to a national coalition of environmental and community groups who are working alongside us to try to achieve a permanent solution to the problems at this site.

"We all now expect the minerals operator, MMC Midlands Limited, to work in accordance with the judges' ruling and comply with the inspector's interpretation of the planning permission."

Although the Court of Appeal rejected an application by the landowner for permission to appeal to the House of Lords, the possibility of an appeal can still not be ruled out.

A spokesman for Bleaklow Industries told grough: "The planning authority were asked in 1997 to come with us to the courts for a decision on the meaning of our permission.

"They refused. All the waste of time and money that has happened since then is a consequence of that refusal.

"Twelve years later, we have now had two completely different judicial interpretations – one that means the minerals granted can be worked and now one that means, in practice, that they can't.

"Bleaklow will consult its lawyers."

As grough reported in February, the British Mountaineering Council supported the campaign against quarrying at Backdale. Others involved in the anti-quarrying case include Campaign for National Parks, Save Longstone Edge Group, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Friends of the Peak District, the Ramblers, Friends of the Earth and Plantlife.

Ruth Chambers, acting chief executive of the Campaign for National Parks, said: "Although this is marvellous news, it isn't necessarily the end of the story. We do not think that this welcome judgment alone is sufficient for quarrying to be controlled properly in the future. We're now calling on Defra [the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] to buy out the planning permission completely. Only this will make Longstone Edge absolutely safe from future unscrupulous quarrying."

Fluorspar – calcium fluoride – is used as a flux in metal processing and in glass and ceramic production. Derbyshire Blue John, a variety of the mineral, occurs widely in Derbyshire, most notably in Blue John Cavern near Castleton.


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