York Potash/Sirius Minerals Polyhalite Mine
Following on from the company’s announcement of securing Stage 1 funding of the project in late November 2016, the first meeting of the s106 initiated Liaison Group Forum met at Sneaton castle, Whitby, see the minutes of the meeting here.
Since October 2015, the Authority has met with Representatives of York Potash, almost on a monthly basis, in part to receive updates on the company’s progress towards submission of detailed documentation required by the planning conditions and S106 Agreement needed to commence the development. As of mid-July the company has submitted three applications to ‘clear’ parts of the conditions relating to; Traffic Regulation Orders, protection of important roadside verges and phasing arrangements for preparatory highways works ( details are available via the Authority’s Planning Explorer ref NYM2106/0305/CVC & MYM2016/0452/CVC & NYM2016/0460/CVC respectively). The Authority has tendered for and appointed Planning Consultants ‘Savills’ to advise it in respect of the various outstanding detailed submissions required by planning conditions and S106 Agreement. The bulk of the detailed condition/s106 submissions are yet to come although arrangements are ongoing in relation to the recruitment and appointment of a dedicated post in the Planning Team to deal with the community liaison aspects and bulk of the associated applications for the project if/when funding is secured for construction.
York Potash planning application NYM/2014/0676/MEIA was approved by Members of the North York Moors National Park Authority at the Special Planning Committee on 30 June 2015.
Andy Wilson, Chief Executive of the NYMNPA said;
"Today's decision is the culmination of hard work, of thorough examination and in-depth discussions of the largest planning application this National Park, and indeed any English National Park, has had to consider.
"I appreciate that there will be many disappointed by today's decision but Members felt that the long term benefits for the local, regional and national economy were transformational. This truly exceptional nature plus the measures proposed by the company to mitigate harm and deliver widespread environmental benefits to the Park over a long period of time tipped the balance in favour of approval."
The Director of Planning's report together with the Members Update Sheet and a record of the Verbal Update provided at the meeting can be viewed on the links below. A copy of the draft resolution which was approved by 8 votes to 7 is available. This was formally approved by Members at the Planning Committee meeting held on 20 August 2015 as part of the approval of the Minutes of the Special Planning Committee Meeting of 30 June,
- Special Planning Committee Report
- Appendices to Special Planning Committee Report.
- Members Update Sheet
- Late Verbal Update
- Approved Resolution
A webcast of the Special Planning Committee meeting is available to view on the following link:
In January 2011 York Potash contacted the North York Moors National Park Authority to express an interest in developing a new potash mine within the National Park. The York Potash Project was set up to extract mineral from two deep polyhalite seams which lie beneath the National Park and extend eastward underneath the North Sea.
Since 2011 the Authority has given planning permissions for a number of temporary exploratory drill sites in the east of the Park between Whitby and Scarborough. The company submitted a planning application for the development of a new deep mine at Dove's Nest Farm/Haxby Plantation, Sneaton to the south west of Whitby in February 2013. The proposal was for the mineral to be taken from the mine head site in suspension for processing on Teesside via an underground pipeline. The 2013 planning application was withdrawn by the company in January 2014. New proposals were submitted in October 2014 which comprised.
- Mine head at Dove’s Nest Farm and extraction of polyhalite from a large area beneath the east of the National Park;
- Mineral transport system comprising a series of linked conveyors within a 37 kilometre tunnel at an average depth of 250 metres, moving the extracted mineral from the mine to Teesside;
- Materials Handling Facility at Wilton, Teesside
- Harbour facility at Bran Sands, Teesside.
- The Marine Management Organisation has already granted the company a licence for the extraction of evaporate minerals including polyhalite and potash from beneath the sea bed.
The second application proposed that the mineral would be transported in a dry form and there would be no twin ‘slurry’ pipeline running between the mine and Teesside. The large mineral processing buildings at Dove’s Nest Farm that had been part of the 2013 planning application would no longer be needed but there would be additional surface structures for a tunnel access shaft at the minehead site and re-configured earth mounds to accommodate spoil from the tunnel construction.
The tunnel would have a drift access entrance at Teesside and four access, maintenance and ventilation shafts with associated surface infrastructure. One would be at Dove’s Nest Farm and there would be three intermediate access points, one in the National Park at Lady Cross Plantation near Egton, the second just outside the National Park boundary at Lockwood Beck and the third at Tockett’s Lythe near Guisborough.
Subsidiary developments include the extension of the Whitby Park and Ride facility at Cross Butts, which the Authority resolved to approve at its July Planning Committee meeting and the development of a construction period Park and Ride facility (together with an option for a 300 space temporary construction workers village) on land opposite Whitby Business Park.
Consenting Authorities for the York Potash Project
Development consents for the main elements of the York Potash project involve four separate bodies. Since the tunnel will run through the National Park and beyond its boundary to Teesside, the planning application for the mine and MTS is a County Matters ‘straddling application’ and was submitted to the National Park Authority and Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council as the relevant minerals planning authorities. The two authorities considered the proposals in the context of national government advice and the policies for both their areas but each authority’s decision relates only to their respective part of the development. Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council approved the mine and MTS proposals subject to various matters at a meeting on 23 April 2015.
The planning application for the MHF was also submitted to Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council and was approved under delegated powers. The proposed harbour development is still being considered by the Planning Inspectorate as a ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project’ but a recommendation is expected before 21 April 2016 and a decision from the Secretary of State is due within 3 months of the recommendation, eg before 21 July 2016. The Marine Management Organisation granted a licence for the extraction of polyhalite and potash from beneath the sea bed in January 2013.
Requests for the mine and MTS application to be ‘called in’ to be determined by the Secretary of State following a public inquiry were made by the Campaign for National Parks, National Trust, North Yorkshire Moors Association and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. These requests were considered prior to decision notices being issued for the mine, MTS, MHF and construction Park and Ride/construction workers village with the Secretary of State agreeing not to call in the application.
Mine and MTS Planning Application
The planning application for the mine and MTS was submitted to the Authority on 30 September 2014. The proposals were classed as ‘major development’ under the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure( (England) Order 2010 and as ‘Schedule 2 development’ under the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations 2011. An Environmental Statement was therefore submitted as part of the planning application. A series of amendments to the application together with Supplementary Environmental Information (SEI) were submitted on 17 February 2015.
All of the planning application documents can be viewed on the following link with the supplementary information appearing with a prefix am to ar and consultation responses towards the end of the list with a prefix ‘c’. The Planning application reference number is NYM/2014/0676/MEIA.
Processing the mine/MTS application
The York Potash mine and MTS application is the largest planning application ever dealt with by the National Park Authority and involved the assessment of a great number of plans, documents and reports on many separate topics. Dealing with the application has involved staff from across the organisation and has put a considerable strain on the Authority’s time and resources. Officers have worked closely with key stakeholders including the Environment Agency, Highway Authority and Natural England in its consideration of the proposals and the Special Planning Committee at which Members reached a decision on the application took place 19 weeks after the submission by the applicant of amendments to the proposals and revised environmental information. The ongoing cost of monitoring planning conditions and Section 106 obligations will be met by a contribution from the applicant negotiated as part of the Section 106 agreement.
The National Park is afforded the highest level of landscape protection and central government policy as set out in Paragraph 116 of the National Planning Policy Framework 2012 (the ‘Major Development Test’) applies to proposals for large developments such as the York Potash mine and mineral transport system.
The Major Development Test states that planning permission for such developments should be refused except in exceptional circumstances where it can be demonstrated that they are in the public interest. Consideration of such applications should include an assessment of the need for the development and the cost of and scope for developing elsewhere. There should also be an assessment of any detrimental effects on the environment and the extent to which they could be mitigated.
Core Policy E, Minerals of the Authority's Core Strategy and Development Policies DPD (November 2008) confirms that proposals for minerals developments (apart from stone quarrying for local building needs) will be considered against the Major Development Test.
Consideration of the application involved an objective and rigorous assessment of the proposals in the context of local plan policies and government policy set out in the National Planning Policy Framework. The conclusions of the assessment were set out in paragraph 19.45 of the Director of Planning’s report to Committee (see link in Update section above). Members considered the report and, in reaching a decision, took account of the environmental impacts of the development as well as the large scale potential economic benefits at national, regional and local level. The Members’ Resolution concluded that the circumstances were exceptional and that it was in the public interest for the proposals to be approved.
Section 106 agreement
The planning application included proposals for various Section 106 obligations which would mitigate and compensate for the harmful residual effects of the development, particularly those experienced during the five year construction period. Section 106 negotiations have been on-going during the assessment of the application and the applicant’s final offer which was considered by Members at the Special Planning Committee meeting, includes measures to compensate for the visual impact of the construction sites, the likely negative effects on tourism and the harm to National Park special qualities. The draft S106 agreement also includes funding for a major woodland planting programme to address the Authority’s requirements for carbon offsetting and security arrangements to ensure that funds would be available to restore the development sites at any point during construction or operation. Further details are in Sections 5 and 17 of the Director of Planning’s report to Committee and the Members Update Sheet (see links in Update section above). In resolving to approve the application, Members expressed the view that there should be ten years’ worth of compensation funds secured in an Escrow account at any point in time and this is being negotiated with the company.
The final Section 106 agreements between the applicant and North Yorkshire County Council and Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council will secure off-site highway improvements, additional services on the Esk Valley rail line and measures to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths subjects in schools and opportunities for local employment.
Specialist advice and review documents
The National Park Authority had appointed AMEC Foster Wheeler Environment & Infrastructure UK Ltd (AFW) to provide specialist minerals planning and environmental advice for the York Potash application. The following reports were prepared by AFW prior to the proposals being considered by Members:
- ‘York Potash Project – Review of Environmental Statements’ June 2015
- ‘York Potash Project – Review of Alternative Sites Assessment’ May 2015
- ‘York Potash Project – Need Commentary’ May 2015
- ‘York Potash Project – Tourism Commentary’ June 2015
- ‘Report on the Economy of the North York Moors National Park (2015)’ May 2015
- ‘Report on the Economy of Whitby (2015) May 2015
The Authority also obtained further specialist advice relating to agronomy and the potential future market for polyhalite:
- 'Review of CRU Polyhalite Market Study April 2014' Fertecon, January 2015
- 'A Review of the Agronomics Related to the Use of Polyhalite' Dr K Polizotto, July 2014
- 'Use of Polyhalite as a major fertiliser product in world agriculture - Follow up report' Dr K Polizotto, July 2014
- 'Use of Polyhalite in Fertiliser' Jo Gilbertson, Agricultural Industries Confederation, September 2014
- ‘Review of an ADAS Report ‘The Agronomic Case for Polyhalite’, dated 8 April 2014’ Mr A.E. Johnston, Lawes Trust Senior Fellow, Rothamsted Research
- ADAS submitted a response to Mr Johnston’s review report
These were independent reports needed as part of the rigorous examination of the planning application that the Government required the Authority to undertake. They did not necessarily represent the Authority's views of the subjects they cover but were taken into account in officers’ assessment of the proposal against planning policy and the overall planning balance in relation to the development.
A Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) was carried out to consider the impact on areas of the North York Moors protected under international legislation through the Habitats Directive. The HRA report prepared by AFW on behalf of the National Park Authority can be viewed on the following link:
The Authority has been keen to ensure that local communities and the general public had the opportunity to engage in the planning process. A ‘pre-application presentation’ by York Potash to the Authority’s Members took place at Raven Hall Hotel, Ravenscar on 14 July 2014 and was attended by members of the public as well as key stakeholders. A public meeting attended by 95 people was also held as part of the consultation process on 10 November 2014 at Lady Lumley's School, Pickering.
The Authority encouraged residents, visitors, town and parish councils/meetings, businesses and all those who might be affected by the proposals to take the opportunity to comment on the application during the statutory consultation period. A total of 919 third party representations were received in connection with the planning application. 846 (92.1%) were in support of the proposed development, 69 (7.5%) were objecting and 4 (0.4%) were neutral.
One of the S106 requirements was for York Potash to set up a Community Liaison Forum to help deal with issues which arise during the construction phase. Details on this will follow when finalised and it will represent a way to carry on the public involvement in the project.