A 15-year plan to fill in and make safe a flooded and disused Markethill quarry could soon be kicking into action.
It will, that is, if Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council gives the nod.
It will be no easy or fast task in getting the job done, the ultimate aim of which will be to create land fit for future development.
Building industry supplier F McCone and Sons Ltd has submitted a planning application for the work in relation to Coolmillish Quarry.
The Markethill-based applicant is seeking approval for “quarry restoration by way of inert material infilling and associated ancillary infrastructure/site works”.
The quarry in question – on lands at Coolmillish Road – has not been used for extraction since the 1990s.
The huge water-filled chasm is 25 metres deep at its centre.
And it will take over 60,000 tonnes of ‘inert materials’ to fill it in.
To transport that, the operation would require 20 lorry loads of material being brought to the site each day, five days a week for the next 15 years!
That represents, in terms of volume, over 700,000 cubic metres of materials.
This would be ferried to the site in skips and tally about 200 cubic metres a day.
According to a transport assessment, the current access to the site from the Coolmillish Road is positioned in such a way that “visibility splays are limited”, by vegetation to the left and a dip to the right.
With 40 lorry movements a day expected – both in and out of the site – the proposal therefore includes a new access too.
A pre-application consultation event for this major undertaking was held in the Old Courthouse in Markethill last November, with the applicant, members of the professional team – including architect and agent – there to answer questions from members of the public.
And those members of the public who did attend were supportive of the application to restore the land and fill in the now flooded quarry – around 25 metres down at its deepest point – as they felt it was “unsafe”.
It was explained that clay, bricks and concrete were among the materials which would be used to fill the quarry and the site – after planning approval would be given – would be regulated by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
The work will also require a site office and weighbridge and ‘quarantine’ area, dictated by NIEA.
Papers submitted to council explain the process: “Incoming material will firstly pass through the weighbridge/wheel-wash and will proceed for visual inspection and verification by the site operator before being directed to the respective fill area.
“In the unlikely event incoming loads contain any unauthorised waste material, it will be removed at this stage and placed in the quarantine area for collection and disposal off-site.
“Additional mobile plant will be used on site to move and grade the fill material.
“Once infilling is completed the site will be topsoiled and sown in grass.”
A nearby watercourse has historically received groundwater discharge from the quarry site and it has been proposed that this will be used during the ‘dewatering’, at a rate to be agreed NI Rivers Agency and NI Environment Agency.
The plan is to return the site to a “safe and alternative use”.
Hedgerows, which would have been there prior to the land being used to quarry, will be reinstated.
An access and design statement highlights the final goal, as it concludes: “The proposal will take a former hard rock quarry and restore it to developable land with associated economic and employment benefits.”
The full planning application is now with ABC Coucil and is publicly advertised this week.
A decision will be expected in due course.