Plans to extend quarry site near Leighton Buzzard would leave it 'within 150 metres of gardens’

Grovebury Quarry lake and island      Photo:GoogleGrovebury Quarry lake and island      Photo:Google
Grovebury Quarry lake and island Photo:Google
Andrew Selous MP has urged the company to reconsider its plans

A planned expansion to a quarry site near Leighton Buzzard could mean it’s ‘within 150 metres of gardens’.

The application means Grovebury Quarry – previously earmarked as a potential water sports centre following restoration – could remain a quarry for at least another decade.

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Aggregate Industries UK Limited wants to expand its operations to the south of the quarry lake, citing a national need for silica sand.

But Billington parish councillor, Ian Stoner-Redfern, says the site would come “within 150 metres from some people's gardens” if the expansion is approved.

Grovebury Quarry has been operational since the 1920s and is run by the company under its industrial sands business, Garside Sands.

Central Bedfordshire councillor for Leighton Linslade West, Victoria Harvey, said: “I'm absolutely opposed to it because we desperately need this [the proposed park]. We've had a lot of new developments in Leighton Buzzard. Green space is really important for the town, particularly for the crowded area of Roman Gate. There’s lots of wildlife, and sand martins along there. It should become a complete haven.”

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Resident Jason Ogelman, said: “Everyone is really upset and worried. If the company gets planning permission for its expansion it will mean the quarry is right outside our gardens – it will blight this area for a generation or more with noise, dust and have an impact on our mental health.

"Some residents work from home and the noise from the dredger will be unbearable.”

The land, owned by the Church of England, had been earmarked for restoration after quarrying finished. Cllr Harvey said: “The permission for quarrying was on condition that around 2019, it would all be restored to this beautiful waterside park.”

A spokesperson for the Church Commissioners said: “The Church Commissioners for England has owned Grovebury Quarry on the outskirts of Leighton Buzzard since the 1860s, with the site being operational for more than a century. Proposals for an extension by Aggregate Industries have been considered and challenged, resulting in a number of revisions.

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"Following two years of review and engagement with the local community, we are satisfied that plans for this quarry take into account both community and environmental concerns and the statutory planning process will provide further scrutiny before the proposed extension proceeds. As a charitable organisation, which exists to support the work and ministry of the Church of England, the Church Commissioners is required by law to achieve the best returns it prudently can from its property assets.”

Since 2019, the site has been given short-term extensions to continue quarrying, which is set to end in 2026.

Parish councillor Stoner-Redfern explained: “Not only will there be the sound of lorries and quarrying during all working hours but the land is on green belt and that will be destroyed.

“The company promised that by 2026 it would return the land to recreational use for the benefit of the wider community of Leighton Buzzard but by submitting this new application they get round that promise. Mineral extraction means they are exempt from green belt bylaws."

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An Aggregate Industries spokesperson said: “We have applied to extend our planning terms to enable an additional 3.3 million tonnes of specialist sands to be extracted from land south of Grovebury Quarry which we estimate would take between nine and 14 years, starting from July 2026 - with a further six years to complete full restoration.

"Silica sand is a highly specialised product used in sports, leisure and the filtration industry and it is only available in a small number of sites around the UK, meaning it has a scarcity of supply and is of national importance.

“Progressive restoration of the site alongside our works has been ongoing for a number of years and this latest application will see the overall restoration plans hugely enhanced with the creation of two lakes, a third conservation lake alongside woodlands, grasslands and wetland habitats. This would lead to an overall bio-diversity improvement on the site for habitats, hedgerows and water courses which are well above government targets.”

They continued: “Existing measures are already in place to monitor both noise and dust and keep to within permitted levels and traffic to site is not expected to alter. We have a long-standing positive presence and relationship with our local communities and while this would delay overall site decommissioning it would result in a greater restoration in the longer term and benefit the local and national economy.”

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Councillor Stoner-Redfern added: "It's deeply concerning. We've gone through all the hoops, we've spent so much time liaising with Aggregate Industries and the Commissioners about it, but all for nothing. When it's coming within 150 metres of the village, we're going to have amazing amounts of dust and noise. We've all moved here for the peace and solitude in the countryside.”

Andrew Selous, MP for South West Bedfordshire said: “I very much understand the concerns of Billington residents and have asked Aggregate Industries to mitigate their plans by moving the works further away from peoples homes. I am also pressing for the earliest possible restoration of the site for leisure and recreational use for Leighton Buzzard residents as well.”

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