Taxpayers foot the £1.4 planning bill

A view close to the proposed site for the York Potash Mine near Whitby in the North York Moors National Park, as councillors are discussing whether to allow what is potentially the world's biggest potash mine to be constructed in one of England's national parks. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 30, 2015. The proposal by Sirius Minerals to build the mine near Whitby, in the North York Moors National Park, came after around 1.3 billion tonnes of polyhalite was discovered below the protected Yorkshire coastline - believed to be the world's biggest and best quality supply of the valuable mineral. See PA story ENVIRONMENT Potash. Photo credit should read: John Giles/PA Wire

A view close to the proposed site for the York Potash Mine near Whitby in the North York Moors National Park, as councillors are discussing whether to allow what is potentially the world's biggest potash mine to be constructed in one of England's national parks. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 30, 2015. The proposal by Sirius Minerals to build the mine near Whitby, in the North York Moors National Park, came after around 1.3 billion tonnes of polyhalite was discovered below the protected Yorkshire coastline - believed to be the world's biggest and best quality supply of the valuable mineral. See PA story ENVIRONMENT Potash. Photo credit should read: John Giles/PA Wire

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Considering the planning application to build a potash mine near Whitby has cost the taxpayer in excess of £1.4 million.

A Freedom of Information request put to the North York Moors National Park Authority reveals the levels of staffing and resources which were dedicated to the York Potash application which was first submitted in 2012 and eventually given the go-ahead a month ago.

A sum of £711,000 has so far been paid to specialist consultants AMEC Foster Wheeler Environment and Infrastructure UK Ltd.

They were appointed by the Authority to provide specialist minerals planning and environmental advice on both the original York Potash application which was submitted and later withdrawn and also the second one whereby additional information was still being requested by the Authority as recently as February, prior to the landmark meeting in June.

It is estimated that there are a further £25,000 worth of invoices yet to be submitted.

The amount of North York Moors National Park resources in terms of staffing has been equated to £725,000.

Costs are further expected to escalate as pending the planning approval there is still work to be done before construction starts.

The Authority said: “There is still considerable work to be undertaken in sorting out the planning conditions under which York Potash can proceed with the development and the terms of the Section 106 agreement need to be formally developed and agreed.

“There will also be on-going costs associated with monitoring planning conditions during the construction phase and beyond.”

Former borough and county councillor Jane Kenyon said the figures brought the role of the North York Moors National Park Authority into question and that it should concentrate on looking after “flora and fauna”.

She said: “The Authority should be responsible for the flora and fauna and protecting the beauty of the moors. Major decisions on economy and planning issues should be returned to unitary authorities.”

However, the North York Moors National Park Authority has re-couped £440,000 from York Potash “to partially offset” the costs of dealing with the application and chief executive Andy Wilson revealed to the Gazette that it is in discussions with York Potash about further payments it wants the company to make after admitting the whole process “has been a problem for us” and had impacted upon other roles and functions of the authority.

He said: “There is no getting away from the fact we have had to take money out of reserves and have been kept away from doing other things and there is the staff time.”

Mr Wilson added that the money spent so far was to deal with both applications and had York Potash submitted a better first application some of these costs could have been avoided.

He said: “We spent a huge amount of time and money on the application that the company then withdrew. It cost the public money. If we had had a better application and a more thought through scheme the first time we would not have had to spend that.”