Despite the Isle of Portland’s status as a Unesco World Heritage Site and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, site owners Stone Firms Ltd intend to go ahead with new excavations.
The company, which aims to extract 140,000m³ of stone from a site roughly three metres away from the cliff face, will bypass Unesco and SSI conservation rules by using a planning permission granted in 1951 which is valid until 2042.
Consent to excavate a huge new quarry was granted in response to the damage done to many Portland-based buildings during the Second World War. Until now it has never been used, but Stone Firms Ltd says it has just six months’ supply at its other sites.
The famous white-grey limestone has been quarried at Portland since Roman times and has been used everywhere from St Paul’s Cathedral (pictured) to the UN building in New York.
Environmental and safety concerns have been expressed over a new quarry so near to the coastline. Stone Firms Ltd insist it is safe to quarry near the cliff and there will be little impact on its stability.
Estates manager, Tim Clotworthy, said: 'We have commissioned a geological assessment, which looked at the stability of the cliffs, and it was felt there would be minimum impact.'