PLANS which could see thousands of tonnes of gravel and sand dug up in Worcestershire will "damage young lungs" a councillor has warned.

County councillor Martin Allen was speaking after Worcestershire County Council approved its minerals plan on July 14.

The plan sets the standard for planning decisions made by the council which involve mineral extraction.

It is hoped the plan will help the council make better decisions.

Notable plans to come before the council in recent years include digging at Ripple, near Upton.

READ MORE: Villagers oppose plans for huge new quarry near Upton

Despite the plan being voted through, Cllr Allen requested the matter be referred back to the council's cabinet due to health concerns relating to digging.

He said: "Silica dust can be produced when minerals are extracted. This can lead to an incurable lung disease.

"With the old, now defunct, plan there was a 200-metre protection zone in place, so that mineral extraction could not take place if six or more dwellings were within this zone.

"This has now gone for good.

"I had pointed out the folly and danger of removing this safety zone to officers and councillors who head the administration. Unfortunately, this fell on deaf ears.

"I understand that if we want more schools, cycleways, and pavements we need minerals, but the balance must be right and not endanger young lungs.

READ MORE: Concerns over delays on new Ripple quarry plan

"With applications coming forward for Ripple and Uckinghall, I will wait to see how the companies applying for the right to extract propose to keep residents safe.

"As I sit on the Planning Committee at County Hall, I will, of course, keep an open mind about each application and judge it on its own merit”

Cllr Allen and 11 others voted against the plan, with a spokesperson for Worcestershire County Council saying: "The updated Minerals Local Plan does not include the 200m buffer specified in the 1997 Hereford and Worcester Minerals Local Plan, as this is now inconsistent with national policy.

"The new plan does, however, contain policies to protect the health and well-being of the public, including from dust.

"Planning applications need to set out how sites will be worked and managed.

"All applications are considered on a case-by-case basis to ensure appropriate safeguards are in place before the proposal can be considered acceptable."