The Final Battle
The fight to stop illegal and hugely damaging quarrying at Backdale Quarry, at the eastern end of Longstone Edge, was one of the biggest in our 90 year history. It took seven years of persistent campaigning (see below), including taking a leading role in public inquiries and seeing the case through a rollercoaster of Court cases. The campaign was won in 2010 when the Court of Appeal upheld the planning inspector’s original decision that no more than two tonne of limestone could be extracted for each tonne of fluorspar. As no realistic reserves of fluorspar (a rare mineral used in the chemical industry) were left in the quarry, this meant quarrying had to cease. The site has laid dormant since and has also changed hands.
In the intervening period, the Friends – together with CNP – have had a strong hand in creating new legislation which means that the permission was suspended pending the submission (by the operator or landowner) of the necessary paperwork. The new rules also mean that if this situation continues for more than two years, the National Park Authority could serve a ‘prohibition order’ which would tear up the planning permission, without any fear of redress or compensation.
The two years were up in January, so the NPA issued the prohibition order but the new landowner (Peter Hunt) and adjacent mineral rights owner (British Fluorspar) objected.
Now it’s all over. The Secretary of State confirmed the prohibition order published on 6 June 2016 “For the reasons set out in the Inspector’s report, The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector’s conclusions and recommendation. He therefore confirms the Order”.
According to the PDNPA website: “The long-running uncertainty over Backdale Quarry at Longstone Edge has ended in success for Peak District National Park landscape protectors. The former quarry at the eastern end of Longstone Edge, a prominent limestone ridge between Calver and Bakewell, has been permanently saved from mineral extraction.
Following a public inquiry held in January this year, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has upheld the Prohibition Order made by the Peak District National Park Authority to prevent the quarrying of minerals or depositing mineral waste over an area of 138 hectares, including Backdale Quarry and nearby Wagers Flat.
The Secretary of State upheld the restoration scheme proposed by the Authority in respect of the Backdale area and the restoration scheme agreed between the Authority and the landowner in respect of Wagers Flat, which now form part of the Order.
The landowner, Bleaklow Industries Limited, will be obliged to restore the land in line with National Park planners’ recommendations to minimise risk from landslips and rockfall, reduce its visual impact in the landscape and benefit ecology. The site contains rare fossils of shark bones so the restoration will need to be monitored by experts.”
The Secretary of State’s decision brings an end to the planning permission for all mineral working at the site.
- 1952 – Planning permission is granted for working fluorspar at Backdale.
- 1980s – Backdale is worked mainly as an opencast fluorspar operation.
- Late 1990s – UK quarrying company, RMC, takes a lease on the site and starts to extract large quantities of limestone along with fluorspar.1998 – Pressure by the National Park Authority and a strong local and national campaign embarrasses RMC into quitting the site.
- July 2003 – The landowner (Bleaklow Industries) leases the site to Merrimans. It starts quarrying – mainly for limestone. Friends of the Peak District and Save Longstone Edge Group lobby the National Park Authority to stop it.
- November 2004 – The National Park Authority serves a Planning Enforcement Notice (PEN) which Bleaklow and Merrimans appeal, allowing them to continue working until the issue is settled by a public inquiry.
- September 2005 – The public inquiry is adjourned to April 2006 on the grounds that insufficient time had been allocated to hear the complex case.
- January 2006 – The National Park Authority serves a Stop Notice to suspend all activity on site, pending a public inquiry. Illegal work at the site finally stops.
- April 2006 – Work starts again after errors are found in the Stop Notice and Planning Enforcement Notice.
- February 2007 – Public inquiry is held. Friends of the Peak District and Save Longstone Edge Group present strong cases and expert witnesses.
- April 2007 – VICTORY! The public inquiry rules that the quarrying is unlawful and that a 2:1 limestone:fluorspar radio should be observed. Merrimans had been operating at a ratio of 93:1!
- March 2008 – DISASTER! The High Court overturns the public inquiry decision and illegal quarrying continues with a vengeance.
- March 2009 – VICTORY! The Court of Appeal rules that the High Court decision should be overturned.
- March/April 2009 – Merrimans continues to remove limestone from the site. Bleaklow request permission to appeal the decision to the House of Lords.
- June 2009 – VICTORY! The House of Lords refuses to hear Bleaklow’s appeal; and the legal door is finally closed on excessive and illegal limestone quarrying.
- August 2009 – The Longstone Edge Coalition urges the Government to buy-out the land and original planning permission in order to protect to Backdale from future unscrupulous operators.
- 2010 – Bleaklow Industries submits an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against the UK government.
- November 2010 – VICTORY! The European court refuses to hear the appeal which finally brings years of legal wrangling to an end. Excessive limestone quarrying is now illegal and at an end on Longstone Edge.