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Cookstown Area Plan 2010
Policy Framework: Minerals

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Cookstown District is one of the main mineral sources of sand and gravel in Northern Ireland. In addition, building and roadstone aggregates are produced from four quarries in the District. The largest of these is the limestone quarry located southwest of Cookstown where the mineral is used in the manufacturing of cement. The other three hard rock quarries are located on the outskirts of Moneymore, at Orritor and at Corvanaghan, west of Cookstown.
Sand and gravel deposits extend over a wide area of the District from Lough Fea in the north to Pomeroy in the southwest. Significant concentrations of active mineral extraction occur in the Sperrin Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) south and east of Lough Fea, and in the vicinity of Killucan, south of the Omagh/Cookstown road. Beyond the AONB there are other concentrations of sand and gravel extraction and associated processing plants at Doons, Drumshambo, Knockaleery/Mullaghglass, Evishanoran, and Termon, west of Pomeroy.
The latest available information is contained in a survey of existing sand and gravel operations in the East Tyrone area which was carried out in 1997. Production figures for 1996 indicated that approximately two million tonnes of sand and gravel were extracted in Cookstown District.

Regional Planning Context

The Regional Development Strategy (RDS) includes the following guidance:
  • to maintain a working countryside with a strong mixed use rural economy;
  • to encourage the wise use and management of environmental resources in the interest of future generations; and
  • use of minerals for economic development in a sustainable manner and in a way which assesses the need to exploit the mineral resources against the need to protect and conserve environmental resources.
The Department's current regional planning policy for mineral development in Cookstown District is set out in A Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland. This contains a range of policies for the control of mineral development taking into account environmental protection, visual amenity, public safety and traffic considerations. It also includes policies for mineral reserves, valuable minerals, areas of constraint on mineral developments and restoration of mineral workings.
Planning Policy Statement 2: Planning and Nature Conservation contains the policies for protection of peatland sites. Government Policy on peat extraction is also expressed in Conserving Peatland in Northern Ireland - A Statement of Policy, and is supplemented by the policies contained in the Rural Strategy.
Plan Policy MN 1 Areas of Constraint on Mineral Developments
The following Areas of Constraint on Mineral Developments are designated:
Ballinderry, Camlough, Cavanacaw/Tandragee, Killucan and Sperrin
In view of their nature conservation importance Areas of Special Scientific Interest located beyond the areas listed above and with the specific exception of Ballysudden ASSI (see Plan Policy MN2) are also considered to be Areas of Constraint on Mineral Developments.
Proposals for the development of mineral resources within these areas will be restricted in accordance with the provisions of prevailing regional planning policy.
By their nature, scale, location and duration of operation, mineral developments frequently impact more severely on the environment than any other form of development. They can damage or destroy sites of nature conservation or science value and sites of historic and archaeological interest. They can also have a significant visual impact on the landscape and an adverse effect on the amenity of people living nearby.
Areas of Constraint on Mineral Developments are designated in order to safeguard the most valuable areas and features of the environment within Cookstown District from the detrimental effects of mineral extraction. Their identification has taken account of nature conservation interests, the archaeological and built heritage, landscape quality and character, visual prominence, amenity value and geological interest.
The Areas of Constraint on Mineral Developments are identified on the District and relevant settlement maps. Full details of the precise boundaries of Areas of Special Scientific Interest are identified in Appendix 3.
The Department's current planning policy for the control of mineral developments within these areas is set out in Policy MIN 3 of A Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland.
Plan Policy MN 2 Mineral Reserves
A Mineral Reserves Policy Area is designated to protect the limestone reserves at Ballyreagh.
Surface development within this area that would prejudice the future exploitation of these reserves will be restricted in accordance with the provisions of regional planning policy.
The large hard rock quarry located to the southwest of Cookstown, operated by Blue Circle, has over 50 years of approved reserves of limestone that are used locally in the manufacturing of cement. To safeguard this important reserve, which is of particular value to the Northern Ireland economy, the Department designates a Mineral Reserves Policy Area, which is indicated on the District Map No. 1. The Department's prevailing regional planning policy for this area is currently set out in Policy MIN 5 of A Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland.
It should be noted that this area corresponds with the Ballysudden Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) as indicated in Appendix 3 on Map No. 71.
Plan Policy MN 3 Hydrocarbon Exploration
In the event that hydrocarbon exploration identifies the possibility of commercially viable reserves of oil or gas, applications for planning permission to sink wells for the purpose of appraising the nature or extent of the discovery will be considered in the context of the long term suitability of the site for production purposes.
While no hydrocarbon exploration is currently taking place within Cookstown District, future exploration under licence may identify deposits of oil or gas, minerals which are particularly valuable to the Northern Ireland economy. Exploitation may create environmental effects that are particular to the methods of extraction or treatment of that mineral. The Department will not therefore operate a general presumption against their exploitation in any part of the District, including Areas of Constraint on Mineral Developments. Rather, applications will be treated on their merits having regard to the impact of the specific development on nearby residents and sites, features or areas designated for their scientific, landscape or heritage interests.
Plan Policy MN 4 Restoration of Despoiled Land
In assessing proposals for mineral development the Department will use its development control powers to encourage the restoration of lands despoiled by mineral extraction, except where such lands have established important nature conservation interests.
Some parts of Cookstown District have been despoiled by previously unregulated and unrestored mineral workings. This is particularly the case in the vicinity of Lough Fea, Killucan/Lough Doo, Knockaleery/Mullaghglass and Evishanoran. Where there are proposals to develop further mineral deposits in these areas, the Department will take into consideration opportunities to achieve the restoration and rehabilitation of such despoiled land. Where appropriate applicants may be asked to enter into an Agreement under Article 40 of the Planning (NI) Order 1991 before permission is granted for mineral operations.
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