JOBS will be secured by agreement to dig more than a million tons of ball clay from a site between Bere Regis and Wareham over the next 15 years.

Imerys has been granted permission to extract the clay, which is used in the ceramics industry, at a western extension to the existing Trigon Pit.

The company says the decision will secure more than 75 jobs at its combined operation in Dorset and Devon, which had a wage bill of more than £2million in 2017, and will also help the local economy by buying goods and services.

County council regulation committee members were told on Thursday (Dec 6) that the site, off the C7 Bere Regis to Wareham Road, lies about 600 metres west of the Silent Woman pub.

The application will see the extracted clay taken off site by lorry for processing, with the dug areas progressively re-instated. It will also involve the creation of three settlement lagoons, one of them to be retained after extraction has stopped.

Both Purbeck district council and Wareham St Martin parish council had not objected to the application. The county archaeologist has asked that a management plan be put in place for a barrow on Trigon Hill at the edge of the extraction area – a site which Historic England said should be better protected.

Work on the new area will be carried out in eight phases, progressing from south to north, with each section expected to produce around 150,000 tonnes - each taking between 18 months and two years to work through.

It is estimated that average lorry movements to and from the site could rise from 42 per day to a maximum of 64, although peak days are expected to be rare.

Part of the restoration work will include the removal of an old spoil mound to help level the site as work progresses, with sections returned to heath and grassland, and some to farming and forestry, by the end of the process.

Imerys minerals manager John Vine told the committee that ball clay was becoming increasingly scarce, and the Dorset operation was of international and national importance, making a steady contribution to the economy.

“Our scheme seeks to minimise and mitigate extraction and there will be early renovation of the site,” he said, promising to protect the ancient burial site thought to contain the remains of one of the area's early farmers, who cleared woodland to make way for agriculture.

County councillors approved the application without debate.