TWO of the country’s leading building materials firms have accused local authority planners of allowing a huge mineral extraction operation to continue unregulated.

Tarmac and Cemex UK said Richmondshire District Council’s planning department had failed to properly assess what was happening at Metcalfe Farm’s Washfold Farm site at Leyburn when officers granted plans under delegated powers to build two 90m by 30m barns at the dairy farm last October.

Planning officers agreed the buildings could be dug into the land, to “minimise landscape impact to a large degree”.

However, Cemex and Tarmac, which are also objecting to a current application by Metcalfe Farms to launch a ready mix concrete batching plant at the farm, said the barn-building scheme also involved “the removal of some 200,000 tonnes of limestone from the site through the use of blasting and crushing techniques”.

Mark Kelly, planning manager of Cemex UK, said its review of the planning officer’s report and the decision notice associated with the development had demonstrated the absence of any assessment or evaluation as to the depth and volume of fill being removed, its treatment and its removal off site onto local roads.

He said: “As the development materially involves significantly more development than the simple erection of agricultural buildings we are consequently considering our options relating to a complaint of mal-administration and potential legal actions against Richmondshire council.”

Tiffany Lloyd, of Tarmac, said the firm had become “increasingly concerned with the Washfold Farm development” after schemes approved by the council had “resulted in the lowering of ground levels and subsequently the unregulated extraction and processing of limestone”.

She said: “This sizeable tonnage is comparable to the annual production rates of a small limestone quarry. It is considered that this piecemeal approach to planning is enabling mineral extraction to proceed unregulated by the appropriate legislation and environmental controls, whereas the two local quarry operations are subject to and look to work within these necessary controls.”

A Richmondshire District Council spokeswoman declined to comment on the firm’s claims that it had not considered the barns scheme thoroughly enough and said North Yorkshire County Council was the planning authority responsible for mineral extraction.

After being asked to comment, a North Yorkshire County Council spokeswoman said: “As this is a planning application which has yet to be determined by Richmondshire District Council it would be inappropriate for the county council to make any comment on the application.”