Why do we need a quarry at Craig-yr-Hesg?

Quarries produce aggregate that is used to build and maintain homes, schools, hospitals and roads. We all rely on this material and every one of us uses the equivalent of four tonnes of aggregate each year.

Our quarry at Craig-yr-Hesg has been operating since 1885 and produces aggregate from a deposit of blue pennant sandstone, which is an important source of material for use in road building and maintenance across south Wales and beyond. 

The sandstone has high skid-resistance and abrasion properties, known as polished stone values (PSV). These properties are required for high-quality road surfacing material where the surface needs to minimise the risk of skidding, including on motorways and airport runways.

In Wales, every Mineral Planning Authority, which is usually a county borough council, is required to have identified any mineral reserves as part of its Local Development Plan (LDP). 

In 2015 we submitted a planning application for a 10 million tonne extension to Craig-yr-Hesg quarry, located within ‘a preferred area of known mineral resources’ as identified by Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council in its LDP. 

The application took over five years to get to planning committee but, despite policy support and a firm recommendation for approval from planning officers, the planning committee refused the application in July 2020. 

An appeal was lodged against this refusal, and, in October 2022, we received permission from the Minister for Climate Change to extend the quarry. This followed a public inquiry in June 2022 at which all aspects of the quarry’s extension, including any health impacts, were assessed in detail by an independent inspector. 

Modern quarrying is a safe and highly regulated sector. Going forward our operations at Craig-yr-Hesg are governed by extensive planning and permitting conditions, which apply both to the drystone plant as well as the onsite asphalt facility. These permitting controls have been developed to minimise impact on the landscape, the environment and the community and we are subject to regular compliance reviews by the regulators.   

Is blasting from Craig-yr-Hesg damaging nearby properties?

The UK has stringent regulatory controls in place, with modern blasting and drilling techniques designed to minimise vibration and air over pressure. Craig-yr-Hesg quarry complies with these strict blasting protocols and this means that there is no risk of structural damage to nearby homes or buildings.

The permitted levels, as set out in our permissions with Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council, allow vibration from blasts of up to 6mm/s peak particle velocity (PPV). We monitor each blast at the closest property and have recorded no blast above this level with the average recorded over the last five and a half years being 2.03mm/s PPV on this logarithmic scale.

British Standard 7382: part 2 1993 underpins the stringent blasting regulations that we, like all operators work to. This standard is informed by research that blast vibration values in excess of 50mm/s PPV would be necessary to cause structural damage to homes.  

We are also happy to set up further monitoring through independent specialists EPC at other locations if there are any particular concerns about the effects of blasting.

What are you doing to mitigate the impact of blasting?

The way in which a quarry blast is experienced can be shaped by a number of factors including geology, vibration, air pressure, frequency and even the weather. As set out above, the UK has stringent regulatory controls in place and all blasts at Craig-yr-Hesg quarry are fully in line with these regulations and well within the parameters stipulated in our planning and permitting consents.

These permissions state that we can blast at Craig-yr-Hesg between 10:00 and 16:00 Monday to Friday. We plan our operations so that, where feasible, blasting takes place between 12:00 and 16:00 and, as stated above, all of our blasts are within our permitted limits and/or agreed with RCT. All blasts at Craig-yr-Hesg are significantly below the level which could cause damage to properties, structures or people.

Residents can request to be added to our WhatsApp group to be kept informed about blasting times by sending a WhatsApp message to 07875 139481.

We would also welcome the opportunity to accompany interested groups, including school children, to watch a blast from the viewing platform and talk to them about our operations.

Is dust from the quarry harmful?

The potential air quality and dust effects from quarries are well understood and are already highly regulated and tightly managed. 

Extensive ongoing air quality monitoring around the quarry borders in Glyncoch is carried out by Rhonna Cynon Taf County Borough Council (but to which we make a financial contribution) and shows full compliance with the regulations. Importantly, this data highlights that the air quality around the quarry is classed as good, with low levels of airborne inhalable particulate matter, known as PM10s and PM2.5s. Go to www.airquality.gov.wales/air-pollution/site/RHD7#siteinformation to view this publicly available information. 

As part of our commitment to continual improvement, we have also invested in a number of dust suppression activities within the quarry, including cladding, foam systems and water sprays. In addition, approval for the quarry’s extension was granted by the Minister for Climate Change after all aspects, including any health impacts, were assessed in detail by an independent inspector.

What steps are you taking to protect wildlife and habitat?

The planning conditions at the site require both a Species Protection and Habitat Management Plan and a Tree and Woodland Management Plan, approved by the local authority.

Such schemes have been submitted and many new trees will be planted on the main screen bund, with the eventual restoration of the site resulting in an increase of woodland and improved habitat connectivity within the landscape. We have also put up 20 bat boxes and 20 bird boxes.

Additionally, we have committed to allocating 15 per cent of all active quarry sites for space for nature by 2030. Our plans at Craig-yr-Hesg are guided by this and aim to enhance fauna and flora, including protecting and enhancing wildlife corridors, promoting natural woodland regeneration and natural regeneration of grassland. 

Soils and overburden removed in the initial phases of extraction are stored for use throughout the progressive restoration which will see quarry faces in worked out areas restored to enhance the ecological and landscape value of the site. 

How are you protecting birds’ nests in trees and on the ground during land clearance for the quarry extension?

The Species Protection and Habitat Management Plan, approved by the local authority, outlines the species surveys that we needed to carry out – agreed with the county ecologist – prior to vegetation clearance works commencing. It also covers how we are to manage habitats for the benefits of target species (birds, bats, reptiles etc) throughout the life of the quarry.

In line with best practice, all vegetation clearance work has been overseen by an Ecological Clerk of Works (ECoW); an independent, suitably qualified ecologist who advises on the appropriate approach to the project. 

To avoid harm to nesting birds, a breeding bird survey was carried out on 26 February 2024 where no constraints were found. A further breeding bird survey was carried out on 11 March 2024 after concerns were raised following sightings of sky larks. Due to the results of this survey, the fencing works were then carried out under ECoW supervision to ensure no birds were disturbed. The ECoW also checked any remaining bramble and scrub habitat and confirmed this could be cleared without an ECoW present between 13-15 March 2024, which was completed.

We are keeping the sky larks under observation and are working with our ecologist to ensure that our ongoing works have no impact on that species’ nesting activity going forward.

In addition, a potential bat roosting feature survey was carried out on the 26 February 2024 and another climbing survey on 01 March 2024 confirmed that no bats were present, and that the vegetation could be felled.

What are you doing to reduce the impact of the extension on the environment and local community?

Early measures as part of our initial works include constructing a landscaped screening form around the eastern and northern boundaries of the extension area, as well as a soil screen along the north western boundary and drystone walling. These are all designed to provide natural screening, noise attenuation, a physical barrier and a wildlife/ecological corridor. 

The first phase of these initial works got underway in spring 2024 with the creation of a palisade fence to secure the site and protect the public from the plant and machinery.

What are your operating hours?

The permitted quarry operating hours for the primary crusher are 07:00 – 19:00 Monday to Friday and 07:00 – 16:00 on Saturday. Maintenance work is permitted to take place outside of these times.

As we need to sometimes supply material for emergency road repairs, the onsite asphalt plant has permission to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Operations usually take place between 06:00 and 16:00, subject to demand.

In relation to the quarry extension, new planning conditions were introduced to cover the formation of the screen bunds and soil storage mounds and the subsequent removal of material from these mounds. This work is scheduled to take place later in the year and is permitted to take place between 08.00 and 17.00 Monday to Friday.

Are you going to replace the land that was being used by the community for recreational use that has been lost due to the expansion of the quarry?

We understand local concerns about the perceived loss of amenity space, but the extension area has been identified for potential mineral extraction in Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) County Borough Council’s Local Development Plan since 2011.

As many may be aware, the 40 acres of the Coed Craig-yr-Hesg woodland that form the Local Nature Reserve (LNR) to the south of the quarry was gifted to RCT by us in 1993, together with a sum to manage the woodlands. Subsequently, we offered to gift the adjacent 11.4 acres as part of our 2015 planning application. The gift of the land would have been for community use as part of an extension to the LNR.  Unfortunately, RCT declined our offer at that time, though we would be happy to revisit this. 

There have never been any public rights of access over the quarry extension area, but our extension plans include the creation of a permissive path over land to the north of the extension area, providing pedestrian access from Glyncoch to the Lan Woods to the west. 

How many more HGVs will be on the road as a result of the quarry extension?

We expect to see a continuation of current HGV levels, which is an average of 70 loads – or 140 HGV movements – per day Monday to Saturday. In addition, there may by HGVs carrying asphalt for emergency repair works at other times, but these are unaffected by the quarry extension.

Independent studies have reported that HGVs servicing Craig-yr-Hesg represent the equivalent to around 1.2 per cent of total traffic movements on Berw Road.

We have already improved quarry access onto the B2473, including a new two-way access road.

What are you going to do to improve engagement with the local community?

We are proud of the role we play providing vital construction materials, employing local people on site and in the supply chain, and contributing to local services via business rates and other taxes. We are committed to developing stronger dialogue with the local community, so that the more positive benefits of this development can be realised.

To achieve this, we are keen to develop a local community liaison group to help ensure that any issues can be raised and addressed in the early stages. Our aim is that membership of the group would be made up of representatives from the local community, local elected representatives and relevant council officers, as well as representation from relevant statutory and non-statutory bodies as appropriate. The group would have an agreed Terms of Reference and over the long term it would elect an independent Chair from its membership. 

Our previous attempts to form a local community liaison group were rejected by a local elected representative but we remain committed to this.

Through the liaison group we could also develop plans to host a local residents’ day at the quarry. This would allow those in the local community to see behind closed doors and learn more about quarrying and our approach to environmental protection, boosting biodiversity and developing careers. 

How can I get in touch?

If you have any queries about Craig-yr-Hesg, please email craigyrhesgquarry@uk.heidelbergmaterials.com and we will respond as quickly as we can.