The future of hermitage quarry

Kent County Council’s emerging Minerals and Waste Local Plan is seeking additional hard rock sites, in order to ensure adequate mineral provision for the county. A Call for Sites was undertaken in 2022, to which Gallagher responded, since the extension of Hermitage Quarry represents the most viable, realistic, and sustainable solution to Kent’s mineral needs.

An extension to Hermitage Quarry will bring with it a number of significant benefits, including the following:

Meeting regional demand

It will allow for the extraction of 20m tonnes of hard rock during the plan period, equivalent to 900,000 tonnes per year. This will ensure a continued supply of hard rock for the region’s construction and infrastructure needs, including the unique Kentish Ragstone, which plays a major role in design guidelines for planning applications.

Local employment

Extending the site will secure the future of

190 jobs

Environmental impact

By minimising the need to source construction materials overseas – which brings with it a significant environmental impact, or from equally damaging sand dredging, the use of Kentish Ragstone can help to reduce the carbon footprint of the construction industry.

We also operate a modern, on-site recycling facility and by extending the life of Hermitage Quarry, we will continue to recycle all of Kent’s spent aggregates for years to come. Gallagher also has a proven track record of restoring land to an enriched biodiversity standard and our commitment to championing carbon reduction will ensure that any potential impact on ecological value is minimised. The site will be restored to original levels and we are exploring options for the ongoing preservation of the ancient woodland soils, to ensure a Biodiversity Net Gain which preserves the soil quality and local biodiversity for future generations.

Social value

Gallagher delivers approx £14 million of social value impact locally, through employment opportunities, skills development, and community engagement, there is a desire to continue to deliver long-term local value. Find out more about the value we add to the community here.

Gallagher Group deliver:

£14 million

of social value impact locally

Heritage Preservation

Kentish Ragstone has been part of the fabric of England’s buildings for centuries, with Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London built out of the material, as well as Kent’s historic gems such as Leeds Castle and Rochester Cathedral. This extension would ensure that this unique stone remains available for use in restoration and new construction projects.

What happens next?

Hermitage Quarry has been shortlisted by Kent County Council as the most suitable option for a hard rock quarry. As part of the next phase of the Local Plan’s progression, a public consultation was held between 13 June and 25 July 2023. Local stakeholders, residents, and businesses were encouraged to share their views. The consultation has now concluded, further more detailed technical assessments are currently taking place and it is intended that a draft updated Minerals Sites Plan will then be published for representations on soundness towards the end of 2023, before being examined by an Independent Inspector in 2024.

For more information, please email

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the answers to some frequently asked questions about the future of Hermitage Quarry.

You can click the links below, to jump to topic you are interested in:
THE PROPOSALS 
TRAFFIC, NOISE AND OPERATIONS
ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABILITY
LOCAL HERITAGE
CONSULTATION

The Proposals

Who is Gallagher Aggregates?

Gallagher Aggregates is a leading supplier of construction materials. Part of the Gallagher Group, we supply up to 2 million tonnes of aggregates product per year and meet 15% of South East England’s hard rock requirements with a product line of over 100 items. We are the only remaining company actively quarrying Kentish Ragstone, which has been part of England’s built environment for over a thousand years.

We operate two quarries in Kent – Hermitage Quarry and Blaise Farm Quarry – and supply customers throughout the South East. Sustainability is at the heart of our business and we are well on track to reach NetZero by 2050, through land remediation, emission reduction, and carbon reduction.

What is Hermitage Quarry?

Hermitage Quarry, near to Junction 5 of the M20 in Maidstone, is one of the last two remaining Kentish Ragstone quarries. It produces  c. 1 million tonnes of primary aggregates per annum, which are processed into more than 100 different construction materials. It also has a recycling facility which processes waste arisings for re-use.

Where is Hermitage Quarry?

Hermitage Quarry can be found at Hermitage Lane, Aylesford, Kent, ME16 9NT. The nominated site covers an area of 96 hectares, although not all of it will be used for quarrying. Out of the total site area, At this stage only 64 hectares have been identified as a potential extraction area, this is currently in a period of technical review and likely to change once this work is complete.

Isn’t this site part of the Green Belt?

No, the site is not part of the Green Belt, nor does it sit within the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or include any Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Why are you proposing to continue quarrying at Hermitage Quarry?

There is a shortage of rock in South East England. If the domestic supply is not maintained, Kent will be forced to import rock from elsewhere, which will have significant environmental repercussions.

To ensure adequate mineral provision for the country, therefore, Kent County Council’s emerging Minerals and Waste Local Plan has identified the need for the allocation of a site for the extraction of hard rock.

A Call for Sites was undertaken in 2022 to which Gallagher Aggregates Ltd responded, confident that an continuation of Hermitage Quarry represents the most feasible, practical, and environmentally friendly solution to meet Kent’s mineral requirements.

 Hermitage Quarry is the ideal location to meet the long-term rock needs of the South East of England. Gallagher can provide the necessary reinvestment and delaying the continuation will only compound the identified need. The quarry also provides valuable local employment opportunities

Does this have to happen at Hermitage Quarry?

Kent County Council has an obligation to plan for the county’s minerals and waste needs. In the hierarchy of allocations, they are required to review materials indigenous to Kent first. The emerging Minerals and Waste Local Plan has identified the need for the allocation of a site for the extraction of hard rock.

A Call for Sites was undertaken in 2022 to which Gallagher Aggregates Ltd responded. Hermitage Quarry was the only site put forward for consideration by KCC, and therefore the only site nominated for further consultation.

Other areas where there is thought to be hard stone including Kentish Ragstone are either further protected or have other Constraints which are insurmountable.

When will quarrying begin, if planning permission is granted?

Quarrying of this continuation at Hermitage Quarry will likely commence within the next eight years. At the current rate of exhaustion, the existing Hermitage Quarry site is due to be fully quarried and out within the next decade.

Traffic, Noise, and Operations

Will an extension of Hermitage Quarry result in increased traffic and HGVs?

No. Traffic movements will not increase, because the amount of rock produced at Hermitage Quarry will not increase in volume. The planned continuation will succeed the existing quarry and not run in parallel.

HGVs will continue to use the quarry’s purpose-built access onto Hermitage Lane (B2246), which leads north to the A20 and provides access to M20 Junction 5 via the Coldharbour Roundabout which is in line with current practices and permissions.

When will quarrying take place?

No operation other than essential maintenance will take place on-site except between 7am and 6pm Mondays to Fridays and 7am and 1pm on Saturdays.

Will an continuation of Hermitage Quarry result in increased blasting?

No. Blasting will not increase, because the amount of rock produced at Hermitage Quarry will not increase in volume. The planned continuation will succeed the existing quarry and not run in parallel.

Blasting will not take place other than between the hours of 10am and 12pm, and 1pm and 3pm on Mondays to Fridays. No blasting will take place on weekends or Bank Holidays. No more than one blast will take place in any one day. Blasting impacts will be reduced further as the planned continuation moves away from major conurbations.

Environment and Sustainability

I have heard that the site contains Ancient Woodland. Is this true?

A portion of the site contains Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS). While the land is classified as having ancient woodland soils, however, the trees themselves are not ancient, and are of a non-native species.

We understand there are sensitivities around the soils and have a proven biodiversity mitigation scheme, which will ensure that the site will be replanted with native species which we hope will mature into ancient and veteran specimens in the fullness of time.

What will happen to the site after quarrying is complete?

The land will be restored to original height levels and planted with a mix of native woodland and meadow with habitat net gain. The ancient woodland soils will be transplanted and the new trees planted will be native species.

Will we lose any footpaths and Public Rights of Way?

No. A Public Right Bridleway (MR108) crosses the site and there are several tracks through Oaken Wood which can be used for recreation by walkers and riders. These will be subject to diversions which, in accordance with Kent County Council’s policy, must preserve the connectivity of routes and made safe for all users.

 In addition, and in line with our current best practice, we will provide additional safe, well maintained permissive routes which work in harmony with the quarrying activity.

Would it not be better for the environment to leave the site alone?

Arguably this is about balance. There will be movement of ancient woodland soils, however, if Kent is forced to import its hard rock there will be significant carbon impacts.

 Furthermore, it is widely recognised that the carbon sequestration of a mature native species, which would be planted as part of the restoration operations, far outweighs that of a sweet chestnut plantation.

This is before considering further impacts such as the loss of recycling operations and the displacement of the 190-strong local workforce.

How will you protect the local environment?

Gallagher Aggregates operate a modern, on-site recycling facility and by extending the life of Hermitage Quarry, we will continue to recycle  much of Kent’s spent aggregates for years to come.

 Gallagher also has a proven track record of restoring land to an enriched biodiversity standard and our commitment to championing carbon reduction will ensure that any potential impact on ecological value is minimised.

In line with our current strategy, we propose to identify compensation areas which currently have low biodiversity value which can be planted and managed to enrich its value in advance of quarrying operations to provide habitat compensation.

As with current operations, an expert independent ecologist will support Gallagher with the transplantation and preservation of the ancient woodland soils, to protect the soil quality and local habitat biodiversity for future generations. 

I have noticed people with clipboards working in Oaken Woods and leaving scientific equipment behind them. Why is this taking place?
Over the autumn and winter of 2023, technical assessments will be taking place in Oaken Wood. These assessments will help to identify existing habitats, wildlife, and to build a detailed picture on the biodiversity of the area. This is an important part of the technical work that needs to be delivered as a part of the Local Plan process. We kindly ask that you treat our colleagues with respect and do not disturb any fieldwork equipment that you find.
What technical assessments is Gallagher currently carrying out?
A number of technical assessments are being undertaken to accurately determine the baseline environmental value of the Nominated Site. These assessments will inform the proposed mitigation strategy which shall follow DEFRA standing advice where loss of PAWS is being considered.

Local Heritage

Why is Kentish Ragstone important?

Hermitage Quarry one of the last two remaining Kentish Ragstone quarries in operation. If it is not extended, then Kent will lose access to a material which has been part of England’s built environment for over a thousand years, from Roman walls to Kent’s parish churches, Westminster Abbey to the Tower of London, and Leeds Castle to Rochester Cathedral There are over 1,000 listed Heritage Assets, which have Kentish Ragstone as part of their construction.

 To preserve these historic buildings and maintain the unique character of Kent’s new buildings, we need a ready and future supply of Kentish Ragstone.

Can neighbouring counties provide Kentish Ragstone?

No, this material is unique to Kent.

Why extend Hermitage Quarry? What about Blaise Quarry further down the road?

Blaise Quarry has no opportunity to extend and therefore cannot meet the identified need. In addition Blaise Quarry cannot provide the same high-quality Kentish Ragstone which can be found at Hermitage Quarry.

What would happen if Gallagher was not granted permission to continue to quarry at Hermitage Quarry?

If Hermitage Quarry is not continued, operations will cease when the quarry runs out of material in the next decade. This will lead to a loss of jobs for local people and further the demise of Kent’s manufacturing industry.

The importation of hard rock from elsewhere is also likely to have adverse environmental impacts with increased carbon footprints and significant economic implications, due to increased transport costs. This will lead to a ripple effect on local businesses and could further job losses.

Finally, if Hermitage Quarry is not continued, then the last remaining supply of Kentish Ragstone will be lost. This unique material is an important part of the county’s cultural heritage and losing the ability to produce it locally will put the future of England’s historic buildings at risk. New buildings will likewise lose access to this material, further diluting the county’s unique built environment.

Why should I support the continuation of Hermitage Quarry?

The continuation of Hermitage Quarry will bring with it a number of benefits, including the following:

  1. Meeting regional demand: The quarry supplies a significant amount of high-quality rock to the South East of England. Continuing operations at the quarry would allow for the extraction of rock to meet the identified demand for the full plan period. This will ensure a continued supply of hard rock for the region’s construction, infrastructure and Heritage needs.
  2. Local employment: Extending the site will secure the future of 190 jobs covering a range of roles for local people. It will also ensure the preservation of a highly technical skill of stone masonry.
  3. Environmental impact: The carbon impact of sourcing similar grade aggregate products from overseas would be considerable. There is no obvious like-for-like alternative to Kentish Ragstone.
  4. Social value: Gallagher has a track record of contributing to the local community through employment opportunities, skills development, and community engagement with over £14 million of support enjoyed by local and regional neighbours annually. Continuing the quarry would allow for continued investment in the local area and further social value creation.
  5. Heritage preservation: Kentish Ragstone is an important material for preserving the historic buildings and structures of the region. Continuation at the quarry would ensure that this heritage material remains available for use in restoration projects.

Consultation

Is there a consultation taking place?
KCC are currently in the Process of reviewing the Minerals and Waste Local Plan GAL have not submitted a planning application.

Kent County Council’s emerging Minerals and Waste Local Plan has identified the need for the allocation of sites for the extraction of hard rock, in order to ensure adequate mineral provision for the county over the 2023-2038 period.

A widespread call for sites took place in 2022. Following an initial assessment of nominated sites, Hermitage Quarry has been nominated by Kent County Council as its preferred option for a site for the extraction of hard rock. A public consultation was held on Kent County Council’s preferred Site Options between 13 June and 25 July 2023. Stakeholders, interested parties, businesses, and members of the public were able to have their say.

The consultation has now closed, but we are still keen to hear from supporters of
Hermitage Quarry wishing to stay updated on the proposals.

Why does Kent County Council produce a Minerals and Waste Local Plan? Why do we need this?

Kent County Council has a legal responsibility to plan for the county’s mineral needs. If an allocated site cannot be found, the county will have to import rock from elsewhere.

How can I find out more?

More information can be found on Kent County Council’s website.

How can I submit my feedback?

You can comment directly on to the Kent County Council’s Draft Local Plan by visiting the council’s website.

Alternatively, you can write to or to Minerals and Waste Planning Policy, 1st Floor, Invicta House, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 1XX.

In responding to the consultation, Kent County Council are particularly interested in your responses to the following questions:

Do you agree with the changes to the Vision? Are any other changes needed? If so, please explain.

Do you agree with the changes to the Strategic Objectives? Are any other changes needed? If so, please explain.

Do you agree with the changes to the Policies and supporting text? Are any other changes needed? If so, please explain.

Do you have any comments on the Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report? If so, please explain.

Do you have any comments on the approaches to the Habitat Regulations Assessment and/or Strategic Flood Risk Assessment? If so, please explain.

Are there any other comments that you wish to draw to the Council’s attention including whether other updates to the Local Plan are needed?

What are the timings for the consultation and application?

The public consultation is open from 13 June to 25 July 2023. Once the consultation on the Call for Sites has concluded, Kent County Council will consider all responses and conduct further technical assessments of the options.

A draft updated Minerals Sites Plan will then be published for representations on soundness towards the end of 2023, before being examined by an Independent Inspector in 2024.

Why is Kent County Council undertaking a second call for sites? Were Gallagher’s proposals for Hermitage Quarry rejected?
No, Gallagher’s proposal for Hermitage Quarry to provide hard rock as part of Kent County Council’s emerging Minerals and Waste Local Plan was not rejected.
A Call for Sites for the potential allocation of a site/s for the extraction of hard rock took place between October and December 2022. As Gallagher’s site (land to the South and West of Hermitage Lane, Aylesford) was the only site submitted for consideration, only this site was nominated in KCC’s initial draft following this first call.

KCC’s draft plan was subject to a public consultation from June to July 2023 and following feedback, Kent County Council chose to give Landowners/ Operators a second opportunity to propose alternative sites for the potential allocation of a hard rock quarry to meet identified need within the Kent Minerals and Waste Local Plan.

Local hard rock supply in Kent is crucial to reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment – the alternative is importing tonnes of material over large distances countries which will increase Kent’s carbon footprint and increase traffic movements on the network.

The second call for sites is due to close in October.

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