The Warwick and Leamington MP has puts forward a bill in a bid to outlaw ‘harmful’ dust and gas-emitting quarries within one kilometre of homes.
MP Matt Western says he hopes the proposed change to planning legislation will protect communities across the UK from toxic silica emissions produced by mineral mining.
He initiated the law change because of residents’ opposition to a planned quarry near Barford, which is in his constituency.
The bill went before Parliament last Wednesday (December 1) ahead of a second reading on January 28.
Mr Western’s Quarries (Planning) 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 will also protect people from noxious gases produced by any subsequent landfill operations.
Warwickshire County Council (WCC) plans to construct a quarry at the 85-hectare site in Wasperton - 350 metres from Barford - and it is intended to contribute sand and gravel for construction across the region.
But residents say the site – just hundreds of metres from a primary school – will emit 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 arable farmland.
Mr Western’s bill is being supported by Conservative MP for Wyre Forest Mark Garner and by other members from all parties.
But bills of this sort are unlikely to pass into law without government support.
“I am hopeful more colleagues will support the bill and send a strong message to the government,” Mr Western 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.
“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.
More than 1,000 people have lodged official objections to Barford quarry plans.
The site – which campaigners say is composed of high-quality agricultural land and irreplaceable ancient hedgerows – is owned by the University of Oxford’s wealthiest college, St John’s.
The college has sanctioned Warwickshire County Council’s request for the land to be used in its minerals allocation plan – which designates areas for natural resource extraction.
After the quarry plans were submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for a review, a government inspector at a public meeting last October told the county council to make various amendments.
Now Warwickshire County Council have launched a new consultation on their Minerals Plan and given a deadline of January 7 for people to submit comments.
Residents who have been campaigning against the plans have also set up a fundraising page to raise £10,000 to pay for professional consultants to go through the plan in the hope of getting it withdrawn.