Residents of a South Downs village are fearing the worst as the future of a former quarry is back on the agenda.
Landowners Wiston Estate hosted an open meeting last month regarding the possible infilling of Rock Common Quarry in Washington.
They and local quarrier, the Dudman Group, said the area was now unsafe and something needed to be done to make it more sustainable.
They told the County Times they are looking at options for other uses, ranging from building an outdoor adventure park to returning it to pasture. All would involve bringing varying amounts of soil and other inert material to the site. They say it could mean around 400 lorry movements there a day - around 100 more than there are currently.
Residents fear it would lead to traffic chaos and pollution on rural roads for years to come.
The debate has brought back memories of a fiercely fought bid in 2009 by Veolia ES Landfill Ltd for an inert landfill site there.
Washington resident Russ Fowler said: “(Wiston and Dudman) don’t need to bring in soil to make it safe. What they need to do is batten down the edges. A lot of the area is being recovered by the flora and fauna itself. It stabilises the bank in itself.
“There’s a certain beauty of a quarry when you look down from Chanctonbury Ring. It’s also a Regionally Important Geological Site (RIGS).
“We would like to see some sort of water feature, nature reserve or Eden Project type place. Something more in keeping with the area.”
Wiston Estate owners, the Goring family, organised the meeting in Washington Village Memorial Hall. With 28 attendees, concern has been voiced by some residents that it was not well publicised.
Richard Goring said: “We are keen to engage with the Washington community about Rock Common, which is why we gave an open invitation in the local newsletter before Christmas to be part of a short presentation to start the engagement process.
“In addition to this, we also directly contacted surrounding parish councils and local community groups to enquire if any residents were interested in participating.
“It was a helpful meeting to understand people’s views and we are taking these into consideration as we think through what we believe is the best future for Rock Common.
“There are a number of different possibilities, but we do not think it is sustainable in its current form and the restoration plan agreed back in 1968 needs to be adapted to deal with current needs and requirements.
“I can absolutely confirm that we are not going to be filling it with rubbish or putrescible waste. This is inert infill to enable restoration.”
He said they hoped to bring ideas to residents soon with a view to finalising plans in the Autumn.
Residents are also concerned about a planning application by the waste management company Biffa to leave the neighbouring Windmill Landfill Site now it has been restored back to grazing land. They fear it could lead to the reopening of an old tunnel between the two sites - a remnant of when it was used for landfill.
Mr Goring said the Biffa application was a separate scheme, but the tunnel could be used to ‘get trucks off the road’ in order to work on the quarry.