Michelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)
Kilwaughter Quarry extension approved by planners
An extension to a quarry outside Larne which supports 200 jobs was approved at a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Planning Committee on Thursday morning.
The application was made by Kilwaughter Minerals Ltd based at Starbog Road.
Speaking at the meeting, chief executive Gary Wilmot said the project has been “ten years in the making”. He described the company as a “fourth generation family business” which has a turnover of £50m and pays salaries of £10m annually.
Principal planning officer Gary McGuinness told the committee the quarry at Kilwaughter has been mined since the 1930s. Mr McGuinness indicated “substantial screening” is planned to reduce the impact of the proposal when viewed from Kilwaughter Castle.
There were 45 objections to the proposal and nine letters of support.
Mr McGuinness said that the Historic Environment Division (HED) has indicated an additional condition is required with regard to blasting and its impact on the ice house and gate lodge at the castle.
However, he stated as these buildings are “some distance” from the proposed quarry site and because blasting has taken place “within the vicinity for decades”, the planning authority “deems this unnecessary”.
“Due to the close proximity of Kilwaughter Castle, a grade one listed building, which is in need of extensive restoration, stabilisation works have been agreed between the applicant and the castle owner.”
Nicola Golden, Historic Environment Division (Buildings), Department for Communities, told the meeting one condition requested by HED is with respect to monitoring of vibrations during blasting due to the “precarious position of existing structures”.
She noted the castle and walled garden are on the Heritage at Risk Register.
Larne Lough DUP Alderman Paul Reid said: “It is this committee and this committee alone that will make that decision.”
Brian McKervey, Historic Environment Division (Buildings), DfC, stated: “The council must consult us.”
Ald Reid reiterated: “It is the committee that will make the final decision.”
Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Robert Logan asked if there is any evidence the existing quarry has “damaged the castle in any way”. He was told that HED is “not aware of any evidence”.
Larne Lough Ulster Unionist Councillor Keith Turner asked if dust would have an impact on a listed building.
He was advised HED’s issue is about the “structural integrity of the protected assets” and although there is no evidence of damage which may have occurred in the past, it is about what might happen in the future.
“We have considered that this is necessary to protect the asset with monitoring of each phase.”
Mr McGuinness commented: “There is no evidence of damage being done to the listed building during their operations.”
He pointed out if no damage has been caused by blasting previously, blasting at the new site will be further away and “the probability of any damage taking place is even less”.
He was advised the walled garden is “significantly closer”.
Advisor Jon Avent noted: “The proposed monitoring standard has been discussed at length. There has been no objection to using the standard. It is a standard used across the province and across the UK. It has been acknowledged by the applicant that it is an approved standard.”
Mr Wilmot stressed the project has considered the heritage and surrounding area and the application was accompanied by an environmental assessment.
He added the company is “aware of its surroundings” and is “committed to the stabilisation of Kilwaughter Castle”.
Knockagh Alliance Alderman Noel Williams, Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, proposed the committee accepts the officer’s recommendation to approve the application. His proposal was seconded by Cllr Turner.