New mine ‘would be threat to tourism’

The York Potash project at Dove's Nest Farm, Sneaton, Whitby''w131710b
The York Potash project at Dove's Nest Farm, Sneaton, Whitby''w131710b

Tourism would be hit by a whopping £41m loss every year as visitors avoid congested roads and a spoil heap the size of Wembley Stadium, caused by a new potash mine, it is claimed.

Following a new independent study, Chris France, the head of planning at the North York Moors National Park Authority, said: “People might say ‘there’s two big mines in that area, it’s just not a place I want to go to anymore’.”

The York Potash project at Dove's Nest Farm, Sneaton, Whitby''w131710b

The York Potash project at Dove's Nest Farm, Sneaton, Whitby''w131710b

Significant alterations and ‘miscalculations’ have put the future of the York Potash project at risk according to the planning chief.

The study commissioned by the authority states that during the four-year construction period of the mine, there would be a 15 per cent reduction in the number of visitors to the National Park, leading to a loss to the economy of £40.78 million.

And these figures only take into account losses within National Park, the impact upon Whitby itself is not included.

By contrast, the 1997 visit of the Endeavour brought £5 million into the local economy.

“It’s just a study, but it’s a detailed study and it’s statistically significant,” said Chris France, head of planning at the North York Moors. “We always thought that if you are going to do something of this size you are going to have an impact on people coming here, but we didn’t expect that much. It’s a massive sum.”

The estimated reduction stands in stark contrast to claims by York Potash, who said the mine would have a “negligible impact” upon tourism.

Even when the mine is completely up and running, a new perception of the moors as an industrial centre instead of an unspoilt landscape could lead to a permanent loss of £13 million in tourist revenue each year.

Following a request for more information from the authority, York Potash have recently adjusted their application, with some figures suggesting their initial claims were hugely optimistic.

The size of the spoil heap created at the site has been increased from 600,000 cubic metres to over 1 million cubic metres, and Mr France said: “That’s not just a miscalculation, it’s a massive error. It would fill Wembley stadium.”

The amount of indirect jobs to be created by the project has been revised down to 3,000. Mr France added: “There’s some really significant things and what this is showing is the impact on the National Park is much bigger than what we imagined. We are surprised by some of the significant changes in facts that have only come out at this incredibly late stage. If we hadn’t asked for more information we would be making a decision on things that are completely wrong now.”

Another report suggests the polyhalite that would be produced by the Doves Nest mine would not be appealing to potential customers due to its low potassium content. Mr France explained: “The report advises York Potash are not going to be able to mass market the amount they are producing. That throws into doubt the whole economic outlook of the project.”

Chris Fraser, CEO of Sirius Minerals comments: “The National Park’s Tourism Research Report shows a high level of support for the plans with the majority of those tourism businesses and visitors surveyed feeling that the project should be permitted, but only 9% of visitors questioned were aware of the York Potash project before being surveyed.

“This detailed survey does a good job of analysing the perceptions of people and businesses about the project and we are committed to working with the National Park and other tourism bodies, like Welcome to Yorkshire to assist in promoting the many positives of the Park and maximise the benefits that the project will deliver.

“People want to come to an area with greater prosperity and better facilities and that’s exactly what the project will deliver. In full production the York Potash project can add over £1billion to the economy on an annual basis, with 1,000 jobs in the local economy and an annual contribution to the local economy of £55million during the construction phase and up to £940million at full production.”

See next week’s Whitby Gazette for a statement from tourism body Welcome to Yorkshire about how they feel the mine will affect Whitby