Gaining consent in the North York Moors National Park – an impossible feat?

The York Potash Project is a nationally important proposal to develop the first new potash mine in the UK for 40 years.  Royal HaskoningDHV’s Matthew Hunt describes the complexities behind gaining consent for such a large infrastructure project in the middle of a National Park.

Site of the York Potash mine

With a growing world population and pressures on agriculture, demand for food continues to grow at a rapid rate. Fertilisers are essential in helping global farmers meet this demand. Polyhalite is a unique, natural-occurring mineral, which combines four of the six essential nutrients plants need – potassium, magnesium, sulphur and calcium – and has been certified for use in organic farming by the Soil Association. This project focuses on an area containing the largest, highest grade resource of this mineral in the world – and that area is located under the North York Moors National Park.

The team at Royal HaskoningDHV was brought onto the York Potash project to provide expertise on habitat conservation, lead the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and head up the design of the port.

The EIA for York Potash was extensive, covering the mine surface development site and the shafts, the 37.5km tunnel for the mineral transport system which takes the mineral to the materials handling facility at Teesside – which crushes the material from the mine, ready to be transported – and the harbour facilities.

We were also responsible for development of the route from the material store at Wilton along a 3km conveyor, to the banks of the river Tees where a new quay will be built to allow for loading of the polyhalite onto ocean going vessels for export

Special Qualities

One of the main challenges in the York Potash Project assessments was the consideration of each ‘Special Quality’ – the attributes that make North York Moors National Park nationally significant as a tourism destination.

Some examples of special qualities identified by the North York Moors National Park Authority include:

  • special landforms from the Ice Age;
  • a strong feeling of remoteness;
  • and a place of artistic, scientific and literary inspiration.

The planning application therefore had to include a comprehensive assessment of the potential of the project to impact on these Special Qualities, and such an assessment had not been done before.

Where a potential effect was identified, we assessed these against a range of technical chapters, including noise and vibration, traffic and transport and air quality. A threshold was set for each Special Quality and the potential impact was then based on whether – and the extent to which – these thresholds would likely be exceeded.


Setting the agenda

The York Potash project has now achieved planning consent for the mine, mineral transport system and the materials handling facility. The development of the harbour facilities at Teesside requires a Development Consent Order (DCO) as it is a ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project. The Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the Secretary of State will announce its decision in June 2016.


Matthew Hunt is Director of Water Land and Industrial Development at Royal HaskoningDHV


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