Harden Quarry owners seek extension to dig at site until 2029

Lafarge Tarmac, who own Harden Quarry, are now seeking to dig a further 1.1m tonnes of Harden red and to continue working the site until 2029

picture by Terry Walsh Harden Quarry in Northumberland
Harden Quarry in Northumberland

Owners of a Northumberland quarry which supplied stone fit for Royalty are seeking an extension to dig on into the future.

Lafarge Tarmac owns Harden Quarry at Biddlestone, near Rothbury, producers of “unique” red stone which was used on the grounds of Buckingham Palace and The Mall to its front.

The company is now seeking to dig a further 1.1m tonnes of Harden red and to continue working the site until 2029.

A local councillor last night voiced support for the bid, welcoming the prospect of continued employment, but called on bosses to invest more in the area’s road network.

The company has submitted a scoping report to Northumberland County Council.

It tells how the presence of Harden red “has been proved below the base of the existing quarry excavations.”

It adds: “Further workings would be subject to a new permission for a vertical extension (downwards) if granted...

“This would allow extraction of approximately a further 1.1m tonnes of rock over 15 years, at a maximum production rate of 150,000 tonnes per year.”

Last night, county councillor for Rothbury Steven Bridgett said: “I will be supporting it.

“I want to see a bigger contribution towards the roads particularly the C172 between Netherton and Whittingham which is the road that is used for taking the gravel out of Coquetdale.

“I think it is a good thing, the quarry employs a lot of local people, not just people directly but also employs a lot of people and local businesses within the local supply chain.

“I have got a few quarries that operate in my area and this is one of the better operated quarries.

“I am in full support. They are not a bad company to have operating in our area.”

He cited the quarry operator giving money towards the extension of nearby Netherton First School as well as other community projects.

The company’s scoping report adds: “The Harden redstone produced from this quarry is a unique product, with respect to the combination of its colour and physical characteristics.

“These unique characteristics have resulted in quarry products being exported over a wide area in the UK, Europe and certain markets throughout the world. “Harden redstone is also an important feature of the local built environment of surrounding towns, villages, farms and stately homes, such as at Cragside.”

It continues: “The stone quarried at Harden was formed approximately 390 million years ago, when magma from deep underground was forced up into the surrounding andesitic rocks, forming a thick blister-like intrusion of mica-porphyrite, which is now commonly called Harden red.

“There are no other deposits of a similar geology within the locality, therefore, the outcrop represents a finite resource...

“The extraction of the Harden redstone is in the public interest, as it is a unique material, providing an important contribution to the built environment of the locality, and has many specialist uses, which also serves a wider export market.”

In a statement Nick Beale, Senior Estates Manager for Lafarge Tarmac said: "We submitted a scoping report for a 15 year periodic review of the existing planning conditions at Harden quarry, alongside a proposal for a 1.1mt deepening of the quarry, which would extend its life by around six years to 2030. The volumes extracted each year would be no more than currently permitted levels, but would protect existing jobs and enable us to continue operating this unique quarry with minimal impact, and to supply materials to projects across the UK.

"Both submissions are subject to planning permission and an environmental statement to assess potential impacts, including lorry movements. Clearly, we want to make sure local communities understand our plans and have opportunity to ask questions. As such, we discussed our proposals at the recent quarry liaison meeting at Netherton, and our plans were part of a public exhibition that we ran last year in Whittingham. In addition to this, we are working closely with the local highway authority to assess what road improvements can be made on the road between Netherton and Whittingham."

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