‘Mine benefits won’t outweigh damage to Park’

The site near Sneaton
The site near Sneaton

The head of planning from the North York Moors National Park has given the strongest indication yet that plans for the proposed potash mine should be refused.

A decision on the largest application ever to be considered by the authority is set to be made at a meeting later this month and today (Thursday) the report that will be presented to committee members was made public.

Although Chris France, director of planning, doesn’t give a recommendation on whether York Potash’s application for a potash mine at the former Dove’s Nest farm site in Sneatonthorpe should be approved or refused, he warned that the benefits do not outweigh the principles and development plans of the National Park.

The report says: “The proposal does not represent Exceptional Circumstances, which is the highest bar that planning policy requires. It is therefore considered that the economic benefits and extent of the mitigation/compensation offered through planning obligations do not outweigh the extent of the harm and clear conflict with the development plan.”

He goes on to add that the project would create “significant economic benefit” on both local and national levels in terms of exports and jobs.

Sirius Minerals claim that 1,000 direct full-time jobs would be created if the mine goes ahead.

But, Mr France says the National Park’s priority is not economic but to protect the North York Moors for the benefit of the nation.

In the report he says: “In reaching this view, officers acknowledge the unique role of the National Park Authority, which does not have a direct economic development purpose but which has at the core of its planning role, the statutory responsibility to conserve and enhance the North York Moors for the enjoyment of present and future generations.”

The 229 page document also looks other key planning, social and environmental issues connected with the minehead, underground tunnel and four construction/emergency tunnel access shafts that are being proposed.

Mr France said: “The report sets out the main points for consideration and provides a summary of other reports commissioned by the NYMNPA, the planning framework and application itself to help the Members individually apportion weight to the various competing harms and benefits in order reach a decision on the project.

“I do not feel it would be appropriate to comment further on the NYMNPA report before Members meet.”

In response, Chris Fraser managing director of Sirius Minerals the York Potash parent company said the project was “a once in a generation opportunity.”

He added: “We believe our planning case stands up to scrutiny and we remain determined to pursue the positive planning decision that will allow us to deliver this Project and all of its benefits.”

The meeting is at Sneaton Castle on Tuesday June 30 at 10am.