A 15-year plan to fill in and make safe a disused quarry at Markethill will require strict policing to ensure it does not become an attractive option for illegal dumpers.
Concerns had been raised over how the operation would proceed at Coolmillish Quarry.
But fears were allayed during the course of discussions as ABC Council’s planning committee gave the thumbs-up to an application to fill in the chasm and make the land suitable for future use
The committee was informed of proposals to fill the void with inert material by agent Clyde Shanks, on behalf of applicant F McCone & Sons Ltd.
The planning application also sought to install a 2.4 metre high paladin fence, office building, wheel wash, quarantine area and relocate the site access.
Members were advised that the application site is 5.01 hectares in size and the application received one objection from a resident who lives downstream and immediately down-wind of the quarry restoration.
During a presentation on the application members were told the quarry was last active in 1994.
They heard the site has not been subject to a previously approved restoration plan and the proposal as outlined would not create a noise or dust nuisance.
It is estimated there will be approximately 50,000 cubic metres of inert material per year brought to the site, with a total capacity of 702,815 cubic metres cubed. The proposal has an estimated life expectancy of 15 years.
Works will see the existing site office, weighbridge and wheel wash removed with replacements installed.
A quarantine area, as is required by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, will ensure that should incoming loads contain any unauthorised waste material, it will be removed and placed in this area.
Following the presentation, Councillor Sam Nicholson said the application was an unusual one for the committee and enquired about the vehicles entering and exiting the site.
“We are normally considering an application to extend a quarry, not fill it in,” remarked Councillor Nicholson, who asked: “The 20 HGVs that visit the site, will they be covered to ensure there is no debris escaping out the side of the lorry and will they be required to use the wheel wash?”
A council officer confirmed the expectation that most of the HGVs will be open topped.
“With regards to the wheel wash, it is detailed in the proposal and all HGVs have to go through it in order to safeguard against debris on the road,” said the officer.
Alderman Sydney Anderson asked about the policing of the site and how council and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency would stop waste being put into the site illegally.
A council officer acknowledged that “policing is of critical importance” and explained that a log has to be kept of all arrivals and the materials they are bringing to the site.
“No random person will be allowed to enter the site,” said the council officer. “The site officer is legally required to have details of all arrivals and the loads they are carrying.
“The NIEA carry out unannounced visits. It is a very stringent operation with regards to inspections.”
Councillor Nicholson said he was satisfied “assurances had been given to satisfy the concerns raised” and he was happy to propose that the plan is approved.
Alderman Gareth Wilson said he was happy to second the proposal, and the application was approved.
“It is a very useful proposal and it will be good to see this former quarry serve a useful purpose now,” said Alderman Wilson.