A plan to build a large potash mine in a national park in North Yorkshire has been approved.
North York Moors National Park Authority has voted eight to seven in favour of the project proposed by UK firm Sirius Minerals and its subsidiary York Potash, despite opposition from a consortium of 29 campaign groups.
The scheme involves digging a mile-deep shaft under heavily protected moorland overlooking Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay and the mining firm says it will generate more than 1,000 jobs.
Geologists believe the area along Yorkshire's cost holds about 1.3bn tonnes of the world’s best quality polyhalite.
Sirius Minerals will now dig at a site some 2.5 miles south of Whitby to access what is believed to be the world’s largest supply of the material. The firm will then pump the polyhalite underground around 30 miles north to Teesside, where it would be processed.
In addition to the 1,000 direct jobs, the venture will lead to the creation of thousands of indirect jobs in the supply chain, the firm said, with a further 1,800 jobs created during construction.
The project has support of local business leaders and several local MPs, who consider it the biggest private investment project in the north of England and a ‘golden opportunity’.
However, environmental groups including the Campaign for National Parks have expressed concerns about the possible damage to local tourism, effects on transport as well as implications for other natural parks.
"We're really disappointed that National Park Authority (NPA) members have approved the construction of the world's largest potash mine in the North York Moors,” said campaigns manager Ruth Bradshaw.
"We have long maintained that this project is completely incompatible with national park purposes and that the promised economic benefits could never justify the huge damage that it would do to the area's landscape and wildlife and the local tourism economy."
Sirius Minerals' chief executive Chris Fraser said the fears of the environmentalists were not justified, adding that the project was 'a key part of the Northern Powerhouse'.
“We believe the benefits far outweigh the impact and we're doing everything we can to mitigate it," he said.
The Campaign for National Parks called again for a public inquiry and will consider a legal challenge to the decision.