THE operators of a quarry that is an important source of high quality Forest sandstone are looking to extend its working life.
A planning application has been submitted to Gloucestershire County Council to increase the area of excavation at Barnhill Quarry, five miles from Monmouth.
Operators Forest of Dean Stone Firms say the proposal would protect 30 jobs at the Broadwell site near Coleford, which remarkably played host to an open air concert by Lydbrook Band in 2019.
The high-quality pennant sandstone from Barnhill is processed on site and at the nearby Bixslade Stone Works, and used for a variety of purposes including paving, walling stone, building cladding and masonry works.
Under the current planning permission, it is estimated to be some 18 years’ worth of stone.
According to a planning assessment submitted on behalf of the applicants, extraction has “strayed” to the east of the site beyond the limit imposed by the current permission.
The new proposal seeks to “regularise” the situation by giving permission for an extension of the site, as well as a small increase in the area to the north.
If agreed, it is estimated the working life of the quarry would be extended by five years, meaning it woud be operational until 2045.
The stone quarried in the extension would be extracted to the full extent of the current working which is approximately 32 metres (about 105ft).
It is estimated there are 106,000 tons of saleable stone in the current workings, and the extension would add around another 28,000 tons of stone.
The planning assessment says: “The pennant sandstone extracted at Barnhill Quarry is a highly sought stone with versatility in building and widely used as block for carving and masonry work as well as for flag and flooring stones, cobbles, facades and walling both locally and across the country.
“The stone, which complements both rustic and modern architecture, is also needed to repair local heritage and historic buildings in their vernacular materials and for new building and extensions of buildings to maintain the distinctive local character,”
The application also seeks to allow small scale blasting to break through the “overburden” – the material which lies on top of the valuable stone and has to be removed.
The assessment says: “At present much of the overburden that requires removal, which can exceed 10m in depth, is very hard and difficult to remove using traditional techniques such as pecking or ripping with an excavator.
“Due to this difficulty, removal of overburden is a highly time-consuming process which, in turn, burns significant quantities of diesel (through increased plant running time).
“It is therefore proposed that some occasional small-scale blasting is permitted to aid in the fracturing of this overburden. This will ease its subsequent removal making operations much more efficient and save significant quantities of fuel, reducing the operation’s environmental footprint and making the operation more sustainable.”
The proposed hours of operation as the same as the current ones: 7am-6pm Monday to Friday, 8am-1pm Saturday with no working on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
The assessment concludes: “A small extension, to include the regularisation of a previous area of extraction and erection of a saw shed, is proposed.
“This will enable a continued supply of highly sought after building stone products and the prolonged retention of local jobs including skilled masons.
“It is also proposed that some occasional small-scale blasting is permitted to fracture top-rock and overburdern, easing its removal and saving large quantities of fuel, reducing the operation’s carbon footprint.
“The proposals can be undertaken without any significant negative impacts. Planning policy supports the proposal.
Comments can be made on the proposal until Wednesday, October 18.
The application reference is 22/0058/FDMAJM and the full documentation is available on Gloucestershire County Council’s website, www.gloucestershire.gov.uk