Stop Westdown Quarry campaign gears up for new critical phase

Fearing significance disturbance residence link up to block a third mega quarry in the area

Asham Wood just outside of Frome and Nunney

Local people last week heard about the latest plans for a campaign to stop the reopening and expansion of a mega quarry near Nunney, Somerset. A new survey, campaign website; and updated petition were also unveiled at the meeting that was attended by over 50 people.

The meeting coincided with the publication of the list of candidates for the Somerset County Council elections on 5 May.

Westdown Quarry has been disused for nearly 40 years and is right next door to the ancient Asham Wood in the Mendips – a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation.

In May 2021, Hanson submitted planning applications to Somerset County Council to ‘re-open’’ the quarry and significantly expand it onto over 100 acres of farmland. The plans also include dumping oolite waste from this land into the old Asham quarry, the 79-acre Asham Void, burying nearly 40 years of natural regeneration. There are already four quarries nearby including Whatley and Torr super quarries

But Hanson’s applications have yet to go to Somerset County Council’s Regulation Committee for determination and campaign supporters believe there’s still time to stop the plans.

The meeting at Rook Lane Chapel in Frome

Local resident Richard Mawer said: “The campaign against plans for this mega quarry has been very successful so far, with over 500 people objecting to the planning applications and nearly 2000 people signing the petition. But there’s so much more to do. Our new website has plenty of ideas for how people can get involved including writing to councillors and election candidates, objecting to the planning application, and volunteering.”

Objectors so far have included Somerset Ecology Services (Somerset County Council’s own ecology team); the Somerset Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency.

The audience heard from local residents about the impacts of the plans which are likely to include:

  • Probable 33% increase in quarry HGV traffic
  • Dust, noise and likely damage from vibrations to homes from quarrying and traffic
  • Material impact on habitat of Asham Wood, home to protected animals such as bats, otters, dormice and protected birds
  • Potential risks to the water table posed by the pumping out of water from the quarry
  • Light pollution.

One of the speakers, local resident Chris Potter, said: “The impact on local water supply to the local population, farms and wildlife is particularly worrying and The Environment Agency, Somerset Ecology Services and an independent hydrogeologist have expressed concern about Hanson’s ground water modelling.”

Another speaker, local resident Indra Donfrancesco, added: “The quarries and the adjacent farmland support at least 13 species of bat, 21 species of bird, dormice, great crested newts, otters, badgers and other protected species. Nobody can predict the devastating effects of this new quarry. In addition, the extraction of an estimated 160 million tonnes of carbon-rich rock would be contrary to the Environment Act and Somerset County Council’s own Climate Emergency Plan.”

Asham Void regeneration. The plans are to ‘re-open’, but in reality significantly expand, the quarry onto over 100 acres of farmland. The total application area for extraction is 168 acres. The plans also include dumping oolite waste from this land into the old Asham quarry, the 79-acre Asham Void, burying 33 years of natural regeneration.