Potash firm due to submit major planning application for Whitby mine

The Dove's Nest site near Sneaton
The Dove's Nest site near Sneaton

The North York Moors National Park Authority is expecting to receive a planning application from York Potash Ltd today for the development of a new potash mine to the south of Whitby, the underground extraction of polyhalite from beneath the National Park and the construction of a tunnel through the National Park to transport the extracted mineral to Teesside.

This is a major development proposal – believed to be the largest ever submitted to a National Park Authority in England.

If operating today at full capacity of 13 million tonnes of polyhalite ore per year, it is understood that the mine would be the world’s largest potash mine in terms of the amount of potash extracted.

It is anticipated that the application will be considered by the National Park Authority’s members at a special planning committee meeting which would be held in 2015. This meeting would be in the Whitby area to make it easier for local residents to attend.

Since the tunnel would run through the National Park and beyond its boundary to Teesside, the planning application is a so-called ‘straddling application’ with identical documents submitted to the National Park Authority and Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council. The two authorities consider the proposals in the context of national government advice and the policies for both their areas but each authority’s decision relates only to their respective part of the development.

The application will be available to view on the authority’s website as soon as possible at www.northyorkmoors.org.uk. It will also be available at the authority’s offices in Helmsley, Whitby Town Council offices at Pannett Park and at Scarborough Borough Council’s offices in St Nicholas Street, Scarborough. Notices will be placed in local newspapers and on the authority’s website with details of the consultation and the timescale for the public to comment. The authority is planning to hold a public meeting as part of the consultation process.

The authority will need to hear people’s views before making a decision and encourages residents, visitors, town and parish councils, businesses and all those who might be affected by the proposals to take the opportunity to engage in the planning process and comment on the application.

Chris France, Director of Planning at the North York Moors National Park Authority, said: “The authority understands the significance of the proposals and will carefully assess the planning considerations of the development which will include the environmental impacts and economic benefits. We will approach the new application with an open mind and the proposed development will be determined in the context of our local plan policies and government policy which is that major development should not take place in National Parks unless there are exceptional circumstances of public interest. I want to assure people that we will take all relevant considerations into account before reaching any decision.”

The proposal involves the construction of two 1,500 metre deep mine shafts with associated development on land at Dove’s Nest Farm/Haxby Plantation, near Sneaton, the extraction of polyhalite from beneath a large area in the east of the National Park and the construction of a 250 metre deep tunnel running 37 kilometres from the mine site to Wilton on Teesside where the extracted mineral would be granulated for export. The tunnel would have an access shaft at Dove’s Nest Farm and three intermediate access points on the route to Wilton, one within the National Park at Lady Cross Plantation near Egton, the second just outside the National Park near Lockwood Beck Reservoir and the third at Tocketts Lythe near Guisborough.

The authority was first approached by York Potash about a new potash mine in the National Park in 2011 and its first planning application was submitted in 2013. Discussions with the company have continued following its withdrawal of the 2013 application and the change from a slurry pipeline to an underground conveyor system as the proposed method for transporting the mineral to Teesside. The authority, supported by its advisers AMEC Environment & Infrastructure UK, have provided detailed advice on the information required for a proper assessment of the proposals and officers will now look to see whether this advice has been followed. This is a very complex development proposal and there will be many issues to be considered and potentially clarified in order to properly assess the public benefits of the scheme and the harm it could do to the National Park.

Chris Fraser, managing director and CEO of Sirius, said: “We believe we have a compelling planning case that clearly demonstrates that the York Potash

project can deliver exceptional economic benefits, not only locally here in North Yorkshire and in Teesside but also for the wider UK economy.

“We have planned the project with a very high regard for the environment and where possible minimising associated impacts. However, it is now for each authority to determine the applications according to the relevant policies and we keenly await their decisions.”