Potash mine given go-ahead

The proposed site for the York Potash Mine near Whitby in the North York Moors National Park
The proposed site for the York Potash Mine near Whitby in the North York Moors National Park

Plans for a potash mine to be built on the outskirts of Whitby were given the go-ahead at a special planning meeting today.

After an eight hour long meeting members of the authority’s planning committee voted on a resolution to approve the application put forward by York Potash.

It was carried with eight votes in favour and seven votes against.

There were cheers of celebration from inside the meeting room which were echoed by screams of delight and support from members of the public who were watching the proceedings from an adjacent room via video link.

It has been four years in the making after plans for the mine were first revealed.

It is now hoped that physical works to construct the minehead and associated workings at the former Dove’s Nest Farm site in the village of Sneatonthorpe on the outskirts of the holiday destination of Whitby will commence at the end of this year or early next.

An underground pipeline to transport the mined quantities of fertiliser product polyhalite to a processing plant on Teesside will follow.

After the meeting, which ran on at Sneaton Castle until almost 7pm, Chris Fraser the managing director or Sirius Minerals (parent company to York Potash) emerged from the meeting room to cheers from his staff.

He told the Yorkshire Post: “We are obviously very happy. A lot of hard work and sleepless nights have gone into this. We got there in the end by only one vote but that is all you need and we will go and celebrate as we should.

“But as one of my directors said - this is only the end of the beginning and we get on with the real job of raising the funds and building the project.”

He paid tribute to the planning committee for their part in what he said had been tough day.

He added: “The authority did a great job of getting through it with all the support in the room for and against. The chair did a good job and members gave it a thorough debate.”

The crux of the debate had been whether the economic and public benefits could justify and outweigh the environmental and visual impact on the landscape of the North York Moors.

Members spoke at length about tourism as Whitby’s main industry not being sustainable but also how the National Park’s prime aim was to protect the landscape.

Andy Wilson, chief executive of the North York Moors National Park Authority said: “It was a close vote and we are conscious of that but members thought this was the exception because it is a once in a several generations opportunity. That is why they thought they could approve it, it is so exceptional it justifies the harm.”

However, the Campaign For National Parks organisation said it would be calling for a public inquiry and failing that will launch a legal challenge as a last ditch resort to halt the project.

Ruth Bradshaw, Policy and Campaigns Manager said: “There was clear evidence of the planning grounds for refusing this but there has also been huge pressure to approve a project widely promoted as bringing employment to the area, even though many of the jobs will not go to local people.

“We are confident any public inquiry would result in today’s decision being overturned so we can finally see an end to this threat to the North York Moors.

“As a last resort, we will also be considering a legal challenge of the decision, given that this is such an important test case of the protection for National Parks in national planning policy. We have six weeks to apply for a judicial review so we now need to decide whether there are grounds for such a challenge,” she added.