Quarrying and the environment

Introduction | Landscape |  Planning controls | Water and caves | Dust, noise and traffic | Blasting | Nature conservation


Concerns about the impact of quarrying are hardly new. Complaints about quarrying activities were voiced as far back as the 1890s. The issues of concern haven't changed over time – visual intrusion, damage to landscapes, traffic, smoke, noise, dust, damage to caves, loss of land, and a deterioration in water quality.

Mining and quarrying have taken place on Mendip for well over 2000 years. Quarrying is very much part of the local heritage but most people in the area are only too well aware of the potentially negative impact of quarrying. However the industry has undergone tremendous changes especially over the last three decades and has sought to mitigate the worst impacts on the local community, but still fulfill the UK's demand for stone products.

A significant change has been the reduction in the number of operating quarries, coupled by a significant rise in the average output. In 1898 at least 54 working quarries were recorded in the area. Of these, twelve were operated by local Councils mainly for road repairs. Despite rationalisation in the 1930s, there were still 44 quarries active in 1948. By 1971 this had fallen to about 24 and had halved again by 1984 and currently (2006) only ten quarries are operational, of which three (two at Doulting) are only winning stone on an extremely limited basis. The two largest of these, Whatley and Torr Works, account for between two thirds and three quarters of the production capacity of the area and are as big as any others in Europe.

Several publications deal with the actual and potential conflicts raised by quarrying including:

  • "Quarrying in Somerset" published by Somerset County Council in 1971
  • "Mendip Limestone Quarrying – a conflict of interests" published by Somerset Books
  • Somerset County Council's Minerals Local Plan, adopted in 2004 (available on the Somerset County Council website).