Magazine article The Spectator

Blot on the Landscape

Magazine article The Spectator

Blot on the Landscape

Article excerpt

The village lives in fear of what can best be described as quarry creep. For years our neighbours at Calver fought an heroic battle against what amounts to the demolition and removal of a whole hillside -- extending a gash in the landscape which is already so gross that the scar on the horizon can be seen from miles away. We supported them in what now seems to have been a victorious campaign. But, although we rarely quote Mexican proverbs, there is a feeling that for every good deed a price must be paid. The quarry company is moving our way.

The saga of Backdale quarry has gone on for years. Working on 'permissions' granted more than 50 years ago, the mining company exercised its right to excavate fluorspar. The fluorspar which it found is rarely of high enough quality for commercial use. Great heaps of the stuff lie, unused and unusable, on the quarry floor.

However, there was a by-product of the pointless excavation. Thousands of tons of limestone -- a product not specified in the 'permission' -- trundled out of Derbyshire each day to be sold as motorway maintenance aggregate.

The Peak District National Park Authority was sympathetic but havered for years about how to deal with what the local residents had no doubt was unlawful limestone-quarrying in disguise. A public inquiry -- which ended in fiasco -- was seen as confirmation that the men and women who should guard our heritage were infirm of purpose. Then, to general astonishment, the government agreed to underwrite the legal costs of a 'stop order'.

The quarry fell silent to general, but respectably subdued, rejoicing. Lawyers celebrated, equally discreetly, the long court procedures which would follow.

The quarry company huffed and puffed.

There was even talk of taking its case to Strasbourg with the claim that man has an inalienable human right to dig holes in the ground. Then it was rumoured that a more practical alternative was being considered.

There were other ancient, but as yet unused, 'permissions' which could be exploited. The 'stop order' applies to only one location. The excavations could move west and the Peak District planning board would have to decide if it dared (and could afford) to initiate a whole new series of legal actions. …

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