Last month, plans for business and office space in the Gloucestershire green belt were approved as part of the restoration of a limestone quarry to create a nature reserve, after planners concluded that 'very special circumstances' existed to justify it. Simon Ford is senior planning officer (minerals and waste) at South Gloucestershire Council.
Q. How did this one land on your desk?
A. I am responsible for minerals and waste applications and as this is in a quarry this came to me. We are a unitary so still have county planning matters responsibilities.
Q. When did you first get involved?
A. The pre application discussions began last year and involved myself and other officers with different specialisms in the council. The application came in in May this year and we took it to the site inspections sub committee in July. It went to committee with a recommendation for approval at the beginning of October.
Q. Was there much planning history on the site?
A. The quarry dates back before the 1920s and a number of permissions have been given for works there. The current operations have permission to continue until 2042 or until the minerals are exhausted.
Q. What were the main issues with the application and how did you deal with them?
A. The main issue was the green belt allocation. Some parts of the site were clearly compatible with that designation, such as the restoration to the nature reserve. Others weren’t so much, such as the starter commercial units proposed and the warden’s unit in the middle of the site. My work involved balancing the benefits of the restoration versus the built development. We felt the quality of the restoration and biodiversity introduced were benefits which outweighed any potential harm.
Q. What sort of conditions was it necessary to impose?
A. It is a hybrid application so for some of the outline bits we specified high quality design for any reserved matters coming forward. We also required the developer to phase the development so the restoration benefits come first.
We also secured some offsite highways improvements – things like safety improvements on nearby junctions to address long standing concerns with HGV movements to and from the site – the quarrying will continue for around six more years after the restoration starts.
Image of Wick Quarry by Graeme Churchard, Flickr