Ards and Down Area Plan 2015
Policy Framework: Minerals
Mineral resources within Ards Borough Council and Down District Council areas comprise sandstone/gritstones which are quarried at a number of locations between Newtownards and Ballynahinch, granite which is extracted from one small quarry in the Mournes, and clay, used in the manufacture of bricks, which has been extracted over the past ten years outside Killough and Ballygowan.
The minerals produced from the hard rock quarries are primarily used in the production of building and road stone aggregates for the construction industry. As well as producing primary crushed rock for use as hardcore, many quarries further crush the material to produce finer aggregate which can be used in a range of secondary processes. Such processes include ready-use concrete, tarmacadam production and the manufacture of concrete blocks. These processes increase the value of the aggregates and enable the quarries to compete over greater distances.
Smaller amounts of the minerals extracted in the area are used in the agricultural industry. The one remaining granite quarry is the only survivor of hundreds of small mountain quarries which once produced granite for construction work. Today’s output of granite is small scale and worked into high quality polished products primarily used in monumental and restorative building work throughout Northern Ireland.
From 2002 – 2007 the output from the five sandstone/gritstone quarries operating in the area has averaged some 1.56 million tonnes per annum, with the highest output of 1.68 million tonnes being extracted in the year 2005. Output from three sand and gravel quarries operating within the area averaged 0.3 million tonnes per annum. Output from these quarries since 1990 suggests a consistent demand for these minerals in the Ards Borough and Down District. This demand seems likely to continue but future productivity in the area could be affected by the lifespan of the larger quarries. Alternative supplies of a similar mineral may then have to be sourced outside the Plan area.
Small scale sand removal from beaches in Northern Ireland is a persistent environmental problem. Sand deposits on these beaches are generally finite in quantity and a nonrenewable resource. The removal of sand from beaches impacts on the coastal ecology and may also affect the stability of coastal infrastructure. When the level of a beach is lowered by the removal of beach material, larger waves form, leading to an increase in coastal erosion. Indirect impacts can include loss of aesthetic quality, habitat destruction, damage to access provision and impairment of the ability of the shoreline to regenerate.
In some instances, private estates have granted individuals rights to take sand/gravel from the shore. Such rights were frequently established before planning control was enacted in Northern Ireland. However this does not remove the requirement to obtain planning permission for the extraction of sand/gravel from the coastal zone under current planning legislation.
Over the past number of years intermittent extraction of sand/gravel has been taking place at different locations on Cloughey beach. Tyrella beach has also been the subject of sand extraction. There is a need to control the extraction of sand/gravel from within the coastal zone in order to ensure no irreparable damage to ecology, shoreline stability and the environmental amenity of such areas.
Regional Policy Context
The Regional Development Strategy, (RDS), includes the following guidelines:
- to maintain a working countryside with a strong mixed use rural economy; and
- use of minerals for economic development in a sustainable manner and in a way which assesses the need to exploit the mineral resource against the need to protect and conserve environmental resources.
The Department’s regional planning policies for mineral development are currently set out in “A Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland.” This contains a range of policies for the control of mineral development including peat extraction, 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 development and restoration of mineral workings. Areas of Mineral Constraint on Mineral Developments are designated as identified in the Countryside Section of Volume 1 of the Plan.
The policies contained in Planning Policy Statement 2, (PPS 2),Planning and Nature Conservation provide protection for the full range of sites of nature conservation importance, including peatlands.
Planning Policy Statement 6, (PPS 6): Planning, Archaeology and the Built Heritage sets out the policies for the protection and conservation of archaeological remains and features of the built heritage and embodies the Government’s commitment to sustainable development and environmental stewardship.
While no hydrocarbon exploration is currently taking place within Ards and Down Districts, 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 Plan area, including Areas of Constraint on Mineral Developments. Rather, applications will be treated on their individual merits having regard to impact of the specific development on nearby residents, and sites or features designated for their scientific, landscape or heritage interests.