Reopening of the quarry
Now that market conditions have improved and demand has returned, Tarmac plan to reopen Stonecastle quarry in September 2021. Initially extraction will take place from mineral reserves that have already been uncovered, close to the lake which was created when the quarry was last operational.
The sand and gravel extraction in 2021 will be limited and is expected to take around three weeks to complete. The sand and gravel will be removed using a hydraulic excavator and then loaded on to a dumper truck. It will then be taken to the processing plant to be stockpiled before being transported from the site.
Phase 1 of the ‘Stonecastle Working Area 2021 Plan’ shows the area that we propose to start working on in 2021.
In 2022, we plan to start extracting the remaining uncovered sand and gravel reserves from around the lake. We also intend to start removing the soils from Phase 2A, when weather conditions allow, so that we can then start working in that area.
We plan to extract the mineral in three distinct phases over the year, with gaps in between where no extraction will take place. We estimate that it will take around ten years to complete the remaining extraction of sand and gravel from the current permitted extraction area at the site.
Planning permission for mineral extraction at Stonecastle was granted in 2002, under consent ref: TM/00/1599. Additional planning conditions were added in 2018.
As part of that planning permission there were several conditions put it place in order to minimise the impact of the operation.
Removal of topsoil and subsoil
The sand and gravel reserves at the quarry currently sit under a layer of topsoil, subsoil and overburden. In order to get to the sand and gravel underneath we will need to remove these top layers and use them to create the wetland that is part of the approved restoration.
This can only be done when the topsoil and subsoil is dry, which is normally between May and September.
We will not be importing any other materials as part of the restoration which is a condition of the planning consent.
Protecting the watercourse
In order to ensure the current watercourses are protected, the planning consent states that:
- No trees or shrubs can be planted within 3 metres of any watercourse
- No materials can be stockpiled on site within 3 metres of any watercourse
- No excavations can take place within 15 metres of any watercourse
Perimeter slopes must not be excavated to a gradient in excess of 1 in 2 without the prior approval of the Mineral Planning Authority.
Health and safety is very important to us at Tarmac, and we do the upmost to make our operations as safe as possible.
As with other industries, there can be a need to store hazardous chemicals on site. Where this is required, all above ground oil/chemical storage tank/container and associated pipework must be sited and bunded to protect from spillages and leaks.
Our operations use water to carry out various tasks on site. Water that becomes foul or contaminated cannot be discharged into either groundwater or any surface waters whether direct or via soakaways.
Buffer zones of 15 metres have to be maintained from woodland and hedges, which are required to be demarcated by fencing. In 2021 we will not be working close to woodland or hedges but as we move further forward with our extraction plans we are required to provide ecological surveys and mitigation strategies to ensure we do not harm protected species.
We understand that traffic can be a concern to residents. In order to reduce these concerns several conditions have been put in place as part of the planning consent that outline how vehicles visiting the site must operate.
Vehicles entering the site must turn right into the existing entrance. When leaving the site, vehicles must exit by turning left out of the site access, then left again onto Whetsted Road (A228).
Measures will be put in place to ensure that the access road to the site is well maintained, kept in a good state of repair and is always clear of mud or other debris. Measures will also be taken to ensure that vehicles visiting the site do not deposit mud or other debris on the public highway, with wheel and chassis cleaning equipment being used as appropriate.
In addition, all loaded lorries entering and leaving the site must be sheeted to prevent spillages.
At each site, we strive to ensure that rights of way are protected where possible. Under the 2002 planning consent we are required to keep Public Footpath MT158 and MT159 accessible and free from any obstructions.
Under the 2002 planning consent we are permitted to open between 7am – 6pm, Monday to Friday.
The Working Plan covering the phases of extraction under the 2002 permission is included below.
Replacing the old process plant
In 2019 planning consent was granted by Kent County Council for a replacement processing plant as the old plant had reached the end of its economic life (TW/19/1343). This planning permission updated the earlier permission that was in place and included the following new conditions:
- Stockpiles of processed Sand and Gravel can be no more than 6 metres in height
- External lighting can only be used when necessary and shall be used to minimise light spill
- A new landscape restoration and aftercare scheme is to be submitted and implemented covering the plant site, stockpiling areas, access road and lagoons. This has been submitted and is awaiting approval.
- With the exception of temporary operations, the noise level from the operation of the plant site cannot exceed 52dBLaeq
- The processing plant shall not operate on Saturdays unless agreed beforehand with the mineral planning authority
- No tonal reversing alarms can be used
- An agreed dust reduction scheme, incorporating dust suppression measures, must be implemented.
Work on introducing the new processing plant has not yet begun and updates will be provided as dates for this become clear.
The composite plan of Stonecastle (download plan here) shows the current planning permission for the site. The area for the recent planning permission for replacing the processing plant (refTW/19/1343) is outlined in black.