MoD objects to potash mine plans

Chris France, Director of Planning at the North York Moors National Park Authority
Chris France, Director of Planning at the North York Moors National Park Authority
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DEFENCE chiefs have lodged a formal objection against the proposed £1.bn potash mine at Sneaton saying it could interfere with the radar base at RAF Fylingdales.

Their move comes as Chris France, director of planning at the North York Moors National Park Authority, told the Whitby Gazette there remains many unanswered questions about the mine as the date nears for the application to be decided by the authority on 21 May.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has lodged a formal objection over fears the mining operation could play havoc with ultra sensitive monitoring equipment at the base - less than a mile from where the planned mining operation would take place - prompting concerns it could impact on national and international defence.

Chris France, director of planning for the authority said the MoD wants to work with Sirius Minerals, the firm behind the plans, but has expressed concern over the sinking of the shafting for the mine operation, which will require dynamite and blasting just over four miles from the base. It has also expressed fears over subsidence.

Mr France added York Potash has yet to submit enough information to allay the MoD’s concerns as well as objections from Natural England and the Environment Agency whose views he said are “very important “ to the planning process.

He said: “It’s disappointing at this stage we are still asking for information. We thought they were going to present us with a perfect application but it’s far from perfect.”

Mr France added among the concerns raised by the Environment Agency is for extra hydrology data to ensure the mine does not affect water supplies to Whitby and Scarborough.

It wants to see a risk assessment on the pipeline for the mine which will run across numerous watercourses and Mr France added the potential for pollution is immense and they do not have enough information about this.

Natural England has also asked for information about the impact the mine would have on protected moorland - the habitat for rare species.

He said the authority has also asked for more details as to why the mine and minehead cannot be situated outside the national park and believes that is another question that has not been fully addressed.

“We want detailed plans for what’s going on below ground level which we haven’t got,” Mr France added.

Around 100 people representing key consultees in the planning process attended a public meeting at Raven Hall Country House Hotel in Ravenscar on Wednesday to discuss the proposals.

Mr France said the meeting, which had been “emotive”, was a success with many valid points raised from those for and against the mine.

“Following the presentation they talked for an hour asking questions,” he said.

“What became apparent through our presentations and which was picked up by the public, was that a significant amount of information is still to be submitted by the company. “

Chris Fraser, managing director and CEO of Sirius Minerals, said: “We have submitted a thorough and detailed application to the National Park that puts forward a robust case for approval, but we understand that requests for further information are part of the planning process.

“As soon as we receive the detail of the extra information required from the National Park then we will happily provide that information to them as quickly as possible.

“We are in on-going discussions with the MoD and we are certain that the detailed information that we are providing will address the queries raised and we can guarantee that our operations will have no impact on this important facility.”