PLANS have been lodged to expand Hurn Quarry by more than FOUR times its current size.

The operators of the current site, opposite Bournemouth Airport, want to extend westwards to enable the extraction of 700,000 tonnes of sand and gravel over a phased ten-year period.

While the quarry is in green belt land, National Planning Policy Framework guidelines do allow for mineral extraction within the belt - provided the area is returned back to nature afterwards.

If the plans get the green light from Dorset County Council (DCC), the current 3.6ha quarry - which is nearing the end of its operational life - will be expanded into a new 15.7ha site.

Christchurch Borough Council member for the St Catherine's & Hurn ward, Margaret Phipps, who is also portfolio holder for managing the environment, said: "All I can say is there were a lot of concerns about the current quarry initially, but it has been operated well and hasn't caused any problems."

Under the proposals, likely to be determined by DCC later this year or in early 2017, sand and gravel will continue to be processed using equipment at the existing 3.6ha site at Parley Lane, Hurn.

The applicant Viscount Fitzharris and HH & Drew Ltd, which trades as New Milton Sand & Ballast, wants to apply for a 12-year extension for the expanded quarry.

If agreed, extraction is expected to start in 2019 and completed within ten years. On average 70,000 tonnes of sand and gravel will be taken out of the ground, processed and shipped out every year.

A document prepared by Wardell Armstrong LLP, on behalf of the applicant, states: "Reserves within the permitted extraction area of Hurn Quarry are declining in line with the existing planning permission which expires in 2019.

"Therefore, in order to ensure the long-term operation of the site and to satisfy the demonstrable need for sand and gravel, it is necessary to secure additional reserves."

The immediate area is sparsely populated, but does border the Adventure Wonderland amusement park.

The report also states that additional HGV traffic will vary from 109 to 163 loads per day, based on an extraction rate of 70,000-140,000 tonnes per annum.

Maximum theoretical movements, according to the planning support statement, will be 398 a day - an increase of 0.3 per cent of the two-way traffic flow on the B3073.

Representations on the application can be made online, or by post to Dorset County Council, by October 6.