Planning permission refused for Lisburn quarry after 2,700 letters of objection

The Department for Infrastructure has refused Conexpo's application for a large quarry near Lisburn

PLANNING permission has been refused for a large quarry close to Lisburn following a mass outpouring of public opposition.

The Department for Infrastructure has rejected Conexpo's application for full planning permission for a quarry on land between the Saintfield Road and the Creevy Road, ruling that there was "unacceptable uncertainty" about the impact on people's living conditions as a result of the proposed development.

The proposal from Conexpo was for the excavation of 500,000 tonnes of gritstone each year from a 9.6 hectare area through drilling and blasting. The plans further included a new access to the Saintfield Road, a compound area and proposals to flood the quarry at the end of 20 year extraction period to form a lake.

Sand and gravel supplier Conexpo, based at Belfast Harbour, first sought permission for the quarry back in 2014, but the firm faced strong opposition from the outset, with local residents raising a number of concerns. Issues raised included the potential negative impact on the landscape, possible pollution of water courses as well as concerns in relation to traffic and noise emanating from the quarry. In all the department received in excess of 2,700 letters of objection and just four letters of support in relation to the application.

The applicant previously carried out ground investigations and a feasibility study on a section of land ahead of the planned development and met with neighbouring residents to alleviate concerns. Speaking in 2014 Conexpo said if any development took place it would be carried out with "proper consideration to the local community" and it planned to "minimise any impact on the local area".

The independent report from the Planning Appeals Commission, published yesterday following a public local inquiry into the proposal last year, found that there was "unacceptable uncertainty" about the impact on people's living conditions and amenity as a result of noise from proposed operations such as rock breaking and surface drilling.

The commissioner further stated that the applicant had failed to demonstrate that the impact of noise from the development would be acceptable. In addition the economic benefits of the proposal were not considered to outweigh or override the well founded objections.

In reaching its final decision the department said it "carefully considered" and agreed with the independent report and recommendations.

"The department remains cognisant of its statutory duty to process planning applications and reach decisions on planning related matters. On that basis, the department believes that it is in the public interest to take this decision without further delay. The department will continue to apply these principles to other decisions as and when they are ready to be taken."

Established in 1991, Conexpo employs 45 people directly and supports a further 50 jobs, mainly in the haulage sector. Family owned, the company operates two quarries in Co Down and also procures 100,000's of tonnes of stone from neighbouring quarries. Conexpo sources one million tonnes of high quality gritstone annually from its Co Down quarries. The stone is then processed and exported from the firm's £5m quayside plant located on a seven-hectare site in Belfast Harbour estate.

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