noise and traffic complaints have been an issue for many years,
ever since output increased as demand for road materials grew in
the 1900s. Many early complaints and court cases were about dust
and solid tyred steam lorries and trailers ripping up road surfaces,
until they were outlawed in the 1930s. Lime burning caused smoky
fumes and dust particularly in villages such as Gurney Slade. Dust
whipped up from the quarries themselves and by lorries carrying
stone as well as traffic on narrow roads again became key issues
in the 1970s with the motorway boom.
A combination of planning conditions (often now running into 60–80
per consent), national and European legislation and official, company
or trade federation guidelines have resulted in considerable positive
changes in standards in the last 30 years.
For example, all lorries carrying granular materials (powders
or aggregates) have to be sheeted; and wheel washers are installed
at quarry exits and both local and quarry roads are sprayed with
water. Indeed in eastern Mendip, the companies have come together
as the Mendip Quarry Producers and one of the outcomes has been
to ensure that this is carried out systematically.
There have been major
changes in the way stone is transported over the last 30 years.
Foster Yeoman (Aggregate Industries) and Hanson now move stone by rail, via their devolved
company, Mendip Rail. Up to 75% of Torr Works annual output of
6 million tonnes is now sent this way. However, this is only really
viable for longer or mass movement journeys. There has also been
a switch from company vehicles to owner or contract vehicles although
often still in company livery. Apart from Highway Authority powers,
companies usually operate guidelines on routes and speeds to be
used, for example setting maximum speed limits through villages,
and making compliance a condition of sale or contract.
A further change has been that of contracting out most quarry
activities such as stripping overburden, blasting, internal transport,
accounts and the like to specialists. However, the same rules apply.
Companies have also developed a contract with the Health and Safety
Executive aiming to secure a zero tolerance in respect of accidents.
All quarry faces have to be profiled and recorded for blasting
and vibration/air pressures monitored and recorded each time. All
potentially toxic hazardous or injurious substances have to be
carefully stored and used. Activities falling outside certain limits
have to be reported.
Drilling rigs (previously a major source of dust) are fitted with
filter bags and the dust collected is often passed on to specialist
companies for processing to asphalt filler. Roads in quarries are
often sprayed with water, especially in summer to reduce dust and
internal route-ways are maintained and often surfaced to minimise
expensive tyre wear and again, to reduce dust. Rubber and plastics
are increasingly used to reduce wear on metal parts and lessen
noise in vehicles and plant. Mechanical plant is normally enclosed
to lower dust emissions, noise, visual intrusion and for safety
reasons. The colour of buildings and their location is often specified
in planning conditions.