A brick quarry on the green belt is to grow in size - ahead of being returned to nature in a quarter of a century.
The 25 hectare Red Barnes site, between Whitemare Pool and Hebburn, is to be extended – and deepened – so more raw material can be extracted.
In all, landowner Ibstock Brick Limited will remove 210,000 tonnes of brick shale a year, a process that involves 50 lorry loads a day, under plans approved by South Tyneside Council.
Ibstock says shale being extracted has colour variations and must be mixed with materials from other parts of the quarry to maintain the correct quality.
The Leicestershire-based firm has now won permission to open a new working face to the full width of the quarry to access shale from the north and southern areas.
Under the revised scheme, the extraction area will be extended to about 17.7 hectares, mainly farmland within a current permitted quarry area.
The company did not wish to comment on its application, but a report it commissioned reveals its ambitions.
The development will be carried out in four phases, with landscaping following after each section of quarrying is completed.
Ibstock plans to have fully wound down operations in around 2044, when all evidence of its work will have vanished.
In the short-term, the scheme will result in the removal or loss of 2.7 hectares of arable and hedgerow habitats.
In addition, 2.1 hectares of relatively recently restored grassland and woodland on part of the site would be lost for the duration of the site operating.
The firm insists these habitats are locally and nationally common, and are not critical to the maintenance of populations of locally occurring protected species.
Quarrying has taken place at the site, which is to the north of the A194 Leam Lane and the west of Mill Lane, Hebburn, since 1994.
The current operational area supplies brick shale for Ibstock’s Throckley Brickworks in Newcastle.
South Tyneside Council has applied 29 conditions to Ibstock’s quarrying extension, including all operations ceasing within 26 years.