ISLANDERS are gearing up for a fight against moves to quarry part of the Jurassic Coast on Portland.
They are angered by plans to open up access in Southwell to an unexploited area of stone at the southern tip of the island known as the Coastal Strip, paving the way for intense quarrying for the next 40 years.
As well as noise and disruption from lorry movements and quarry operations, there is concern about the effect works will have on the environmentally sensitive and wildlife-rich heritage coast.
There is concern that Dorset County Council, which is pursuing access to the site, is not consulting the community about developments.
Permission was granted in 1951 to quarry island sites and Stone Firms Ltd say 50 per cent of its future reserves are in the Coastal Strip – 140,000 m3 of stone.
Parts of the strip have Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) designations and there is also a Mesolithic settlement and remains of an ancient strip field system.
Growing recognition of the land’s environmental status led in 2009 to DCC modifying the permission to prevent quarrying in sensitive areas of the strip, effectively blocking Stone Firms from accessing the land near Cheyne House.
This triggered a compensation claim from Stone Firms Ltd, which argues it can no longer access the strip at a suitable site. The matter will be decided at a land tribunal.
To defend the compensation claim and back up its argument that the land can still be accessed for quarrying, DCC has applied with a Certificate of Proposed Lawful Development to create a new vehicle access to the Coastal Strip off Southwell Road opposite homes in Southwell village.
Stone Firms’ estates manager Tim Clotworthy said the company would commence operations if it was allowed to access the site there. But he described the new access as ‘ridiculous’ which will have a big effect on Southwell, possibly leading to double yellow lines in the village.
Farmer Su Illsley who started a Facebook protest page against the plans, claimed DCC was ‘riding roughshod’ over locals as it was not informing the community of the plans.
She said: “We thought this was all done and dusted in 2009. Now we hear there is a plan for new access.
“If permission goes through then Stone Firms will start quarrying and that will destroy habitats on the Jurassic Coast and have a massive impact on life on the island for the next 40 years.”
Town and borough councillor Ray Nowak said he would be ‘prepared to strap himself to a boulder’ to prevent quarrying there.
He said: “People are distraught at the thought of this land being quarried, and with a new access point which will blight the lives of Southwell residents.
“It is time to repeal the permissions from 1951.”
DCC said the community had not been informed as the certificate had not been validated or registered.
Huw Williams, acting development management team leader, said: “The county council is not seeking to promote quarrying in the Coastal Strip.
“The certificate application will not lead to a grant of planning permission, rather planning permission already exists for quarrying in the coastal strip.”
Stone Firms: 'Quarrying is big business on isle'
STONE Firms' estates manager Tim Clotworthy said: “The council believes there are alternative accesses to the Coastal Strip and the one they are focussing on is an eight foot wide field gate inside the village which is ridiculous.
“The council has failed to tell anyone about this and people should know.”
He added: “If we get access we will work the Coastal Strip. We will do this sensibly and in a phased way with sensitive restoration behind us.
“We don't want to go in upsetting people. We're a local company employing 70 people full-time and many more indirectly. In the last two years we've invested £2 million on new plant and equipment. It's a huge business on Portland.
“We quarry responsibility and sensibly and there are very few complaints about what we do.”