Conflict of interest claim over potash man appointment

A CONSULTANT working for York Potash is a former member of the North York Moors National Park Authority’s planning committee- the body which would give the go-ahead for any potash mining developments.

Peter Woods, is also a non executive director of Sirius Minerals – the global company which acquired control of York Potash in January.

He spent 13 years as the chief geologist at Boulby Mine and has worked on potash projects in Saudi Arabia and Thailand, Spain and Russia.

When questioned by the Gazette, Mr Woods – who served on the planning committee from 1996 to 1999 as one of the Secretary of State’s appointees – insisted his connections with the authority didn’t pose a conflict of interest.

He said: “I don’t think there is a conflict of interest. One of the reasons I was appointed to the National Park Authority was I had these environmental qualifications.

“It has made me extremely concerned ever since of the importance of protecting everything the National Park Authority stands for.

“In a sense Sirius have employed me to advise on that aspect.

“Having served on the authority I am at great pains to talk to them almost on a daily basis.”

However, some people campaigning for the protection of the National Park are concerned about the connection and the long lasting visual impact the development of a potash mine could have on the area.

A local resident who did not want to be named said: “Rather frightening that he sits on the board of this global company, which has suddenly such a vested interest in the minerals under the ground of our beautiful national park and that Mr Woods has such a relevant background to this area – especially his affiliations with York Potash and the North York Moors National park planning committee.

“I see that Mr Woods doesn’t sit on the planning committee today but I think we could assume he will have maintained some interests there.”

The woman also expressed concern that natural beauty of the National Park would be affected by mine workings and it is the natural environment away from industry and urban landscapes which attracts people to the area.

She added: “The access alone would be intrusive and one can only contemplate at this point how many more heavy lorries, goods vehicles and works traffic would be driving along our roads.

“And all this in a National Park with a planning committee which will refuse an application to change the colour of your windows, deeming it to be unsuitable for the National Park landscape.”