MP Matt Western is aiming to outlaw ‘harmful’ dust and gas-emitting quarries within a kilometre of homes.
The Warwick and Leamington MP has put forward a bill to change planning legislation to protect communities across the UK from toxic silica emissions produced by mineral mining.
The Labour MP initiated the change following the on-going fight by his constituents’ in and around Barford to prevent a quarry being opened on their doorstep.
Mr Western’s Quarries (Planning) Bill went before Parliament last Wednesday (December 1) ahead of a second reading on January 28.
If passed the bill would prevent any new mineral mines or silica-emitting sites being approved unless developers adhered to a minimum legal distance – likely to be 1km – from homes and communities.
It would also protect communities from noxious gases produced by any subsequent landfill operations.
Evidence suggests exposure to harmful particulates and silica can lead to silicosis, a chronic and life-threatening lung disease – as well as cancers.
Warwickshire County Council’s (WCC) plans to construct a quarry at the 220 acre site in Wasperton – 350 metres from Barford – are intended to contribute sand and gravel for construction across the region.
But residents fear the site – just hundreds of metres from a primary school – will emit poisonous silica dust during works and damage the health of villagers.
They are also fearful about environmental destruction and lorry traffic – as well as the loss of farmland.
Mr Western, whose bill has gained cross-party support, said: “The damage caused by silica dust is not discussed nearly enough – especially as there are communities all over the country which are blighted by it,” Mr Western said.
“Research is clear that dust and silica are harmful to human health – and particularly damaging to the elderly and the development of young children.
“There needs to be safe distance between mineral mines and communities, and it needs to be built into planning law – and Barford residents have been calling for this for some time.
“None of Warwickshire’s other three silica-emitting mineral sites are anywhere near a village – and certainly not a primary school!
“Many of the colleagues supporting my bill have constituents who are also acutely aware of the danger of silica emissions and the proximity of nearby quarries.”
Mr Western’s bill also includes a clause requiring health and environmental assessments to be part of the planning process and obligations for quarries to deal with waste sustainably.
WCC is currently revising aspects of the Wasperton quarry plans after being ordered to following scrutiny by a Government Inspector.