Thursday, 18 May 2017

Devon sand and gravel sales down 14% in 2016

Whilst sand and gravel sales across the UK were up 2% in 2016 (see below), in Devon they were down 14% - from 542,000 tonnes in 2015 to 467,000 tonnes in 2016.

According to DCC, Devon's sand and gravel reserves (material already with permission to be extracted) stood at 7.04 million tonnes at the end of 2016. This provides a landbank of 13.4 years, using the 10 year average sales figure of 527,000 tonnes. The newly adopted Devon Minerals Plan runs a further 17 years until 2033. There is now therefore a potential shortfall of only (17 x 0.527) - 7.04 = 1.9 million tonnes.

Two Preferred Areas for sand and gravel are allocated in the Minerals Plan. Straitgate is identified as having up to 1.2 million tonnes - if no unquarried buffer is maintained above the maximum water table to protect water supplies; Penslade is identified as having up to 8 million tonnes. Both sites are owned by Aggregate Industries. The Regulation 22 Request for Straitgate Farm asks:
Can the applicant inform the MPA regarding the likely timescale for developing the Penslade resource? 8.3

Sand and gravel sales across the UK continue to flatline

According to the Mineral Products Association, sales of sand and gravel continue to be at levels little higher than during the recession.

Whilst there may be no shortage of sand in Devon...

... elsewhere in the world it’s a different story, reports The Economist:
A “sand mafia” in India intimidates locals in order to extract and transport the material. In Morocco and the Caribbean, thieves are stripping beaches bare. Even though fully accounting for illegally mined sand is not possible, sand is easily the most mined material in the world. According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), sand and gravel account for up to 85% of everything mined globally each year.
But why is there a shortage, when sand seems so abundant? Desert sand is too smooth, and so cannot be used for most commercial purposes. In any case, the proximity of sand to construction sites is generally important too: because sand is relatively cheap, it tends to be uneconomical to transport across long distances… existing deposits are being mined more quickly than they can be naturally replenished, which is damaging the environment. Dredging causes pollution and harms local biodiversity. Thinning coastlines affect beaches’ capacity to absorb stormy weather.
Fortunately, there are substitutes for sand: asphalt and concrete can be recycled, houses can be built with straw and wood, and mud can be used for reclamation. In rich countries, government policy will encourage a shift towards such substitutes. According to Britain’s Mineral Products Association, for example, nearly a third of all housing material used in Britain in 2014 was recycled.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

“Reduce emissions!”

Exclaims a tweet - from the company planning a 2.5 million mile emissions belching HGV haulage scheme across Devon.

Besides wondering how a passenger train can transport aggregates or ready mix concrete - and help Aggregate Industries “Reduce emissions!” - you have to question the environmental merits of any transport plan coming from a company that thinks it’s a good idea to use mobile sand and gravel processing plant 23 miles away from a quarry face for 10-12 years; a scheme that could cause the same road damage as 17 billion car movements.


To “Reduce emissions!”, processing plants should be as close to the quarry face as possible - using internal haul roads, not public roads. If AI’s forgotten, this is what a haul road looks like.

“Funding a terrorist organization can never be treated as a cost of doing business”

LafargeHolcim, the parent company of Aggregate Industries, continues to be the subject of the world's press following the resignation of its CEO and the funding of terrorists in Syria:

LafargeHolcim’s troubles do not end there. The company has also attracted criticism from Emmanuel Macron, one of the two candidates in the second round of the election, and from other French politicians for saying it was ready to supply cement for Donald Trump’s planned wall along America’s border with Mexico. The giant firm’s market value is stuck at 15% below its level in July 2015, when it began trading, as it struggles to cut costs and generate earnings. The company doubtless hopes that Mr Olsen’s resignation will help to put at least one of its headaches behind it.
Meanwhile, The New York Times warned that:
President Trump or anyone else considering doing business with the company should bear in mind the words of Jeffrey Taylor, a United States attorney in 2007 when Chiquita Brands International pleaded guilty to making payments to a terrorist organization in Colombia. “Funding a terrorist organization,” he said, “can never be treated as a cost of doing business.”

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Just in case the next Prime Minister doesn’t know what to do…

... the Mineral Products Association has highlighted its priorities for the next government.

What a relief to know that in these difficult times - with Brexit, Trump, North Korea, and the need for strong and stable leadership, etc, etc - "the MPA has outlined 6 main priorities, which it believes will help Government deliver continuing prosperity for the UK". Because, yes, deep down, we all know that what the country really needs - to be able to move forward in times such as these - is:
reforming ‘Red Tape’ by improving the operation of the mineral planning system and environmental permitting.
Yes, if only people didn’t scrutinise mineral planning applications so keenly - see post below - the world would be so much better; not for the environment of course, but for the profits of the international conglomerates the MPA represents.

The chief executive of the MPA promises that:
The industry is ready to play its part and has also set out priorities for the sector to ensure future demand is met more sustainably.
Of course, when he says "more sustainably", he's ignoring one MPA member’s cunning plan to haul sand and gravel 2.5 million miles back and forth between Ottery and Uffculme.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

AI’s planning application is in a mess

That much is clear from DCC’s Regulation 22 Request, issued today.

Aggregate Industries' Environmental Statement had crowed:
Save for the access point, the scheme now applied for is very similar to the 2015 scheme and having been through detailed consultation with the first application, the Applicant is extremely confident that it understands and has adequately covered all the likely significant effects of the proposed development. ES Ch1 6.13
But AI's confidence was misplaced. Its application to quarry Straitgate Farm is in a mess. The company has clearly not understood or adequately covered all the likely significant effects.

Following on from the EA’s objection and the LLFA’s objection, DCC has now served the company with a Regulation 22 request for further information on 61 substantive points - ranging from bovine movements to "novel" working techniques. The number of points is quite remarkable when you consider that this is AI’s second attempt at the site, and when you consider just how many years the company has been running around trying to make this work.

Readers may remember that back in July 2015, at the same stage of the last application, a similarly long list of requests was issued. Several months later, the company was forced to pull the application.

As far as DCC is concerned, this request now 'stops the clock' on the current application until such time as the relevant information is supplied. Here are just a couple of the things that DCC wants to know:

On Transportation of material:
8.1 It is noted that current ES does not provide the information on comparative transportation distances and CO2 emissions, and the applicant is requested to explain why the previous view on the unsustainability of Hillhead Quarry as a location for processing materials from Straitgate Farm appears to have changed. Reason: Policy M12 establishes the principle of extraction at Straitgate Farm, but one of the key requirements of supporting Appendix C is that “transportation of extracted materials for processing elsewhere should meet the requirements of Objective 1 and Policy M22 for minimal transportation by road” [Objective 1 also seeks to minimise generation of greenhouse gases].
On Alternatives:
8.4 It is understood that the mobile processing plant installed at Hillhead Quarry is incapable of maintaining the product range offered by the Blackhill Plant. If the resource at Straitgate and its potential product range is economically important then can the applicant explain why this proposal is not premature until such time as there is sufficient processing capacity to deliver the most efficient use of this diminishing resource?



DCC - in its role as Lead Local Flood Authority - also objects

At this stage, we object to this planning application because we do not believe that it satisfactorily conforms to Policy MP24 (Flooding) of Devon County Council's Minerals Plan (2011-2031) which states that proposals for mineral development must not lead to an increased risk of fluvial, surface water or groundwater flooding. The applicant will therefore be required to submit additional information in order to demonstrate that all aspects of the proposed surface water drainage management system have been considered.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

EA objects

The Environment Agency have objected to Aggregate Industries' application to quarry Straitgate Farm:
We object to the planning application, as submitted, because the applicant has not supplied adequate information to demonstrate that the risks posed to groundwater can be satisfactorily managed. We advise that this further information should be requested under Regulation 22 of the Environmental Impact Assessment regulations. Without this information we would recommend that planning permission should be refused on this basis in line with paragraph 109 of the National Planning Policy Framework.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Bovine movements

Aggregate Industries’ application to quarry Straitgate Farm may contain liberal amounts of bulls**t, but it says nothing about bovine movements.

In AI’s rush to get its hands on the sand and gravel, it has forgotten about the cows - the 180 dairy cows that would need to cross the B3174 Exeter Road four times each day to access replacement pasture if the company's plans went ahead. It’s something that should have been addressed in AI’s Transport Assessment; it’s no surprise - after this, this and this - that this document has been found inadequate again. As we said in our submission:
24. The applicant makes no allowance for continuation of farming at Straitgate, specifically how the dairy herd will continue to access pasture from fields either unworked, not in the applicant’s ownership, or south of the B3174. [211]
211. The applicant proposes restoration to BMV farmland.
212. In order that a viable and working farm at Straitgate is maintained to resume farming in a timely manner post extraction, and that valuable agricultural land is not lost from production, a number of issues need addressing:
213. How would the dairy herd continue to access pasture in fields either unworked or not in the applicant’s ownership on the north and east of the site? What new gateways and breaks in hedgerows would be needed?
214. With less pasture, the dairy herd would need access to more fields, available on the south side of the B3174. What safe provision would be provided for the dairy herd to cross this road four times a day?

AI has already had experience of cattle movements across this road. Here’s a scene from a few years ago when drilling equipment was moved off site. Obviously, 180 cows crossing four times a day and up to 200 HGVs extra a day would seriously impact the functioning of the main road into and out of Ottery.

The issue was raised with the company at the Public Exhibition in November. AI chose to ignore it. The matter has now been referred to DCC Highways.

EDDC’s landscape response recommends refusal

...the site helps to shape the setting of the East Devon AONB... the development would permanently alter the landform of a locally distinctive ridge... the proposals for how the site will be worked offer little mitigation for impacts on the long distance views from East Hill.
EDDC also points out that "topsoil should not be stored in mounds greater than 2m otherwise the chemical composition of the soil will alter". AI wants to store top soil in mounds 3m high; although, even at this height, the company has not allowed enough land to do this, as back-of-the-envelope calculations for our submission show.

EDDC concludes:
Currently the submitted LVIA as part of the Environmental Statement does not sufficiently address... How the site helps to create the setting of the East Devon AONB [etc]... it is recommended that planning permission is refused.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

“LafargeHolcim CEO set to step down over Syria controversy”

LafargeHolcim’s chief executive is set to step down on Monday following an internal investigation into a plant the Swiss-French cement company operated in Syria until September 2014.
His expected exit, which was first reported by France’s Le Figaro, would be another blow for the cement company. Last year its chairman stepped down and the group is under pressure to deliver an ambitious integration programme in weak global markets following the 2015 merger.
Human rights groups in France have filed a lawsuit and have alleged that the company had “business relations” with militant group Isis and may have taken part in financing the group.
LafargeHolcim is the parent company of Aggregate Industries; its dealings in Syria have already been covered on this blog: Welcome to LafargeHolcim, This is the company that is looking to profit from Straitgate Farm and LafargeHolcim ‘in the cross-hairs of French presidential candidates’.

Friday, 21 April 2017

AI has decided to do another dormouse survey

Any hopes Aggregate Industries may have had to start ripping out the 2km of hedgerows at Straitgate Farm this year appear to have been dashed. Next week, some 200 dormouse nest tubes will go up around the site. The tubes will be checked for dormice at various points up until October or November.

All of AI’s wildlife surveys are now out of date - but, for now, the dormouse survey is the only one the company has plans to redo. Why would AI want to check for this European Protected Species again, when apparently it hasn’t yet been asked to by DCC or Natural England? It could be that AI knows it won’t secure a licence from Natural England with an out of date survey. Or it could be for another reason.

AI hasn’t done anywhere near enough timely tree planting for the displaced dormice to have anything worthwhile to move into; trees and hedges have been planted in the wrong place, and Exeter Airport also wants large chunks removed. How can AI get around this? It could simply do more planting, and wait for it to grow. Or it could try something else.

The last time AI was backed into a corner and performed an unscripted wildlife survey, it came up with a population of EPS - in that case GCNs - to prove why it couldn’t process material at Rockbeare. This time it will be hoping for the reverse. It will be hoping that the population of dormice has gone, or is certainly less than was discovered before. It will be hoping that the meagre planting that has already been done will be enough to support any population found.

The last population of dormice was found by consultants SLR in 2013. AI has asked a different contractor to do the job this time.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

AI’s traffic consultant “cannot” give a reason why...

... his traffic count for the B3174 Exeter Road - to support Aggregate Industries' application to quarry Straitgate Farm - bore no relation to reality.

Apparently in January 2016, Aggregate Industries' consultants performed a one week Automatic Traffic Count on the B3174 outside Little Straitgate. No one locally noticed it, which is surprising given the interest in the matter, given that many of us use that road every day, given that just two months previously various members of the public alerted us to an ATC just a short way further down the road.
So, are AI’s B3174 traffic count figures fictitious? We ask the question because we have the results of the ATC commissioned by Highways England, performed 13-26 November 2015. Their results bear NO relation to AI's numbers.
Readers may remember that AI’s DM Mason had previously tried to tell us:
The B3174 Exeter Road carries 4,272 vehicles per day [5-Day Av 24 hour flow] 9.11
But it was nonsense. In reality, Highways England had commissioned an ATC for this road a couple of months earlier that had counted 6,634 in week 1 and 6,936 in week 2.

AI’s consultant was subsequently asked by DCC to comment on this and a number of other issues. His response is here. On the subject of the count, he writes:
It is clear that the traffic count undertaken on my company’s behalf on the B3174 Exeter Road during January, 2016 may be considered somewhat anomalous. I cannot give a reason for this anomalous count. However, I am content to use the data from the two counts undertaken in November, 2016 [sic] for Highways England as the basis for calculating the impacts of the proposed development at Straitgate Farm.
So that’s ok then? Mr Mason is content to now use the real information provided by objectors, to replace his count, provided from where? Thin air? How many times in this debacle over Straitgate Farm has this now happened, that the correct information has had to come from objectors? 

It means that, for a planning application involving over 107,000 HGV movements, AI won't have even supplied their own accurate traffic count for the road that would be most affected.

Of course, almost 18 months on from Highways England's counts, the traffic on the B3174 may now be even higher. Who knows? Certainly not AI or DM Mason.

And then local people are meant to trust the conclusions from AI’s traffic consultant, when he says - for a development putting up to 200 HGV movements per day on Ottery’s busiest road:
This Transport Assessment concludes that the proposed development is acceptable in highway terms. 10.21
If it wasn't so serious, it would be laughable.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

What sort of company is Aggregate Industries…

... to plan to put mobile processing plant 23 miles away from the quarry face?
... to plan to do this for 10-12 years, for 1.5 million tonnes of material - 300,000 of which would be waste?
... to plan to have this plant further away from its target market - entailing another 1 million miles?
... to be planning what it's planning for Straitgate Farm, when there are headlines like this?


Employers have been told they are legally obliged to protect their staff from diesel fumes — and could be sued if workers develop cancer later in life. The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have issued the warnings because diesel fumes have been reclassified as a “grade 1 carcinogen”, meaning they are a “definite cause of cancer”. As many as 500,000 UK jobs are affected.

The cracks took a long time to appear, but when they did they splintered rapidly. In 2012 came the first major evidence of some truly dreadful health impacts. Nitrogen oxides and dioxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) pumped out by diesel exhausts were fingered as silent killers. The studies multiplied. The European Environment Agency found that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from diesel fumes had caused around 71,000 premature deaths across the continent in a single year. It said the UK experienced 11,940 annual premature deaths from NO2, the second highest in Europe behind Italy. The World Health Organisation declared diesel exhaust a carcinogenic, a cause of lung cancer in the same category as asbestos and mustard gas.

A diesel scrappage scheme would be part of a new strategy to improve air quality after Europe said UK proposals did not go far enough.

The effect on wellbeing of exposure to nitrogen dioxide, a gas mostly produced in diesel fumes, is comparable to the toll from losing a job, ending a relationship or the death of a partner, research suggests.

“We are force-feeding the natural world a diet of nutrient-rich junk food and it is having a devastating impact.”

An East Sussex authority has placed a moratorium on any new development within its boundaries that could generate additional traffic following concerns over the sensitivity of a special area of conservation (SAC) to nitrogen dioxide pollution from motor vehicles.

Humans must reduce net greenhouse gases emissions to zero “well before 2040” in order to ensure global warming does not go above 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, scientists have warned after carrying out a study using a sophisticated new computer model. The analysis suggests that efforts to prevent temperatures rising to potentially dangerous levels may have to rely heavily on “negative emissions” technology that is still in its infancy. Commenting on the study, Professor Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre, said the “important” research spelled out the “enormous challenge” ahead.

Greenland ice is a great analogy for the Earth’s climate. It has inertia, meaning it acts slowly but once it gets going, it’s hard to stop. When the Greenland ice sheet starts to go, it may take a while to melt but it is nearly impossible to stop. Predicting how fast this melt will take is interesting from a scientific vantage point but there are also enormous social and economic consequences. Right now, 150 million people live within a meter (3 feet) of today’s sea level.

A new study published in Nature Communications looks at changes in solar activity and carbon dioxide levels over the past 420 million years. The authors found that on our current path, by mid-century humans will be causing the fastest climate change in approximately 50 million years...

Monday, 10 April 2017

LafargeHolcim ‘in the cross-hairs of French presidential candidates’


As the owner of Aggregate Industries, LafargeHolcim - and its billionaire shareholders - would be the ultimate beneficiary of any scheme that destroys an East Devon farm for sand and gravel.

LafargeHolcim has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. So much so, the City of Paris can no longer bring itself to buy the annual 3000 tonnes of sand from the French-Swiss cement conglomerate, to convert a stretch of bank along the Seine into a makeshift beach. The decision to drop the company was in keeping with "the ethical commitments that Parisians can expect from the city":
Last week, as Bloomberg reported in "How Trump's Wall and Hitler Ended Up in French Political Debate", the company was targeted in the French Presidential Debate. The debate's "winner", according to polls, advocated that:
"Accomplices should be punished" said [Jean-Luc Melenchon]. "I find it very strange that the case of Lafarge, a global cement producer which acknowledges having paid IS to continue producing its damned cement, hasn’t been mentioned. Well, this company should be seized by the state. We need to make an example of those who plot with the enemy."
Nathalie Arthaud said 'LafargeHolcim is an example of what’s wrong with capitalism':
"It built the Atlantic wall under Petain and Hitler," she said, referring to the defenses built by Nazi Germany along the coast of continental Europe during the second world war. "Now, we’ve all learned, it’s been doing business with IS, and now, it wants to build the wall between the U.S. and Mexico. It’s clear that these large groups won’t be stopped by a change in regime or a new constitution... The only thing that counts for them is their cash..."
It's something more to bear in mind, whilst DCC decides whether to ignore Objective 1 of its shiny new Minerals Plan - the Plan that was a decade in the making, the Plan that apparently "All mineral development will need to comply with" - and embrace this company's plans to fill our local roads with trucks and 2.5 million miles of diesel pollution.


AI targeted by protesters

In a fortnight of action against the fracking supply chain, protestors have targeted Aggregate Industries' Carnforth quarry in Lancashire:


"We’re up here today because fracking isn’t a playground game. We need to give Aggregate Industries a reason to rethink its position, which is at odds with local democracy."
"Lancashire said no to fracking. We’re asking Aggregate Industries to do the decent thing. Follow the example of other companies in the area. Step away from fracking your neighbours and we’ll gladly come down."

In Colorado, AI “gave mining a bad name”

Quarrying brings concerns wherever it turns up. Promises are made. People are let down.

In Northern Colorado, a concrete company is trying to convince residents of the merits of a new sand and gravel quarry that - just as with Straitgate - is proposed to be worked over some 10-12 years.
Residents are worried about dust, increased traffic, noise and water impacts from the 123-acre site
And they’re reluctant to believe project organizer Loveland Ready-Mix’s promises to mitigate those impacts because they say gravel operations have burned their community before.
“These plans will say, ‘We’re going to use berms and plant vegetation and do all these things,’” said Terry Waters, a Laporte resident who was involved with previous gravel pit opposition efforts. “And they don’t do it.”
At a public meeting, the company representative faced an uphill battle:
“All we can do is try to educate people,” she said. “We don't want to come in and ruin your life and your business. That's not what we're about.”
Residents were "unswayed":
They say they’ve heard those mitigation strategies before -- from Aggregate Industries, a company that mined gravel at the Stegner property just west of North Taft Hill Road about a half-mile south of US 287. Despite complaints from neighbors, the operator performed noisy work on weekends, flooded basements and produced a lot of dust without watering...
Aggregate “gave mining a bad name”...

Monday, 3 April 2017

The decent thing...


... if you are going to include someone else's land in your planning application, is to tell them. More than decent, it's the law. Under Article 13 of The Town and Country Planning Order 2015:
an applicant for planning permission must give requisite notice of the application to any person (other than the applicant) who on the prescribed date is an owner of the land to which the application relates...
Furthermore, the planning application itself must include a certificate showing "owners of any part of the land to which the application relates". Again, it’s the law:


Aggregate Industries has not complied with this. The land to the right of Birdcage Lane, "corner tree to be removed to enable widening" in the photograph above, is owned by a third party. This was confirmed to AI last year. Despite that, the third party was not named on the ownership certificate, and received no notice of the company's planning application for Straitgate Farm.


The land AI requires was purchased over 20 years ago by the current owners; the sales particulars read:


As we posted in You really couldn't make this up, this land is critical for AI's plans:
The widening of Birdcage Lane at Straitgate will provide a safe means of accessing the B3174 Exeter Road... 5.4.10
Birdcage Lane will be widened adjacent to the site access to accommodate turning and travelling vehicles. Birdcage Lane will be widened to 6.5 metres to allow a vehicle to enter the lane from Exeter Road whilst a vehicle is waiting to leave to Exeter Road and to allow vehicles to pass. 7.8
AI is telling DCC that it owns the tree and hedge. The claim is of course utterly absurd, but it shows how desperate the company has become. It wasn't much over a year ago that AI was claiming something similar for another piece of land:
The applicant contends that it has necessary rights over the surface to implement the proposals as presented 8.78
But it didn't, and look how that turned out.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Responses to AI’s planning application

Group responses, including those from Planning and Environmental Consultant Charlie Hopkins, and Hydrogeology Expert Dr Helen Rutter, can be found here.

Considerable concerns have been raised by members of the public, whose comments can be found here. Strong objections have also been lodged by Ottery Town Council, West Hill Residents' Association, Devon Wildlife Trust, PTES and CPRE Devon. Natural England's response can be found here.

The Environment Agency's response has been deferred. Unsurprisingly, the EA has been unable to rubber-stamp Aggregate Industries' unorthodox seasonal working scheme. After 4 years of groundwater monitoring and countless reports, yet more information will be requested from water consultants Amec; indication, if any more were needed, of the sensitivity of the water environment at Straitgate, and the recklessness of AI's scheme.

As Dr Rutter says, in response to AI's application:
The only way to maintain the 1m freeboard would be to have continuous monitoring where the excavation is taking place...
The steep hydraulic gradient combined with limited monitoring, in my opinion, is likely to result in errors in the actual depth to maximum groundwater across the site.
This surface is only a model of reality, and may not represent actual groundwater levels across the site (other than where they have been measured).
Variations in the shape of the water table cannot be contoured based on the number of piezometers used in the application.
... the restored soil (and possibly overburden) will not have the same structure as the original, and will have less capacity to attenuate any contaminants infiltrating from the surface. If the soil has been stored for a prolonged length of time it may also be sterile and less able to attenuate contaminants. If intensive agriculture is re-established, then I consider that nutrients and microbes would be more likely to be transported to the water table.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Is this what would happen if AI put 172 HGVs a day on Ottery’s busiest road?

“90% of material will be sold into the Exeter market travelling via the A38 and M5”

It's a small line buried in Aggregate Industries' infamous Transport Assessment. It tells us that 90% of the material that AI wants to win from Straitgate Farm, and take to Hillhead for processing, would eventually be sold into the Exeter market.

Material processed at Hillhead in Uffculme would be 9.5 miles further away from the Exeter market than it would be if it were processed locally, say at Rockbeare. At 20 tonne average loads (TA 8.10) onward distribution of 90% of the ‘1.2 million tonnes saleable’ from Straitgate would require 54,000 loads, or 108,000 HGV movements. Each movement would incur an additional 9.5 miles or 1.03 million miles in total, and an additional 183kg of PM10, 11 tonnes of NOX, 1523 of tonnes CO2, using these figures.

Add that to the 2.5 million miles and associated emissions that it would take to get the material to Hillhead in the first place, and we're now looking at about:


It's hardly surprising that NONE of this information was in AI's application, and it makes a further mockery of this statement:
The Applicant considers that the highway infrastructure improvement measures included in both planning applications [Birdcage & Clay Lane] are sufficient to outweigh the negative impact of transporting the Straitgate minerals to Hillhead Quarry for processing and, therefore, overcome the apparent conflict with Policy M22. 5.4.11 

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

An unambiguous message to AI and its plans, that rely on this 3rd party land

“One of the rarest bats in western Europe” is found at Straitgate


Aggregate Industries' consultants found "at least eleven bat species" 7.133 when they surveyed the Straitgate Farm site in 2013; "bat activity was concentrated along hedgerows and plantation edges" 7.202.


Barbastelle is listed as Near Threatened by IUCN. It is protected under Annex II of the Habitats Directive.
Barbastellus requires a complex mosaic of habitats to support foraging, roosting and commuting behaviour… It is unknown whether the amount of habitat in the UK is sufficient to support a viable population of the species.
The Bat Report accompanying AI's application to quarry Straitgate concludes:
Of the rarer species recorded… The most significant of these rarer bats is barbastelle… the east edge of the site… consistently recorded barbastelle in June, July, September and October. In addition to species-rich hedgerows a damp ditch is present near here, habitats which may support micro-moth species which barbastelle specialise on. 4.0
It is 2km of these species-rich hedgerows - that provide commuting routes for local populations of Barbastelle and other bats - that AI plans to remove.

DCC had said in its Reg22 request to the previous application that:
Before any works begin the applicant MUST evidence that bat flight lines around the site are maintained (and any important habitat for barbastelles protected or compensated for)… habitat MUST be in place before works start.
AI responded by saying:
The highest level of barbastelle activity recorded within the site was 0.12 [registrations per hour] which equates to approximately one bat every eight hours… Therefore there is no requirement to provide compensation habitat for this species... 4.19
But the raw survey data clearly shows 0.23 rph at Location 4 in July and 0.21 rph at Location 5 in September, and in any case, the Ecology Report makes clear that "...it is impossible to accurately assess the number of bats using the survey area and surrounding locale..." 7.158.

Despite this, and despite its rarity, AI’s consultants, "tempered by professional judgment" 7.158, downplayed the importance of this species, giving Barbastelle, Greater and Lesser Horseshoe bats, a "County" Level of Value. Advice from other ecologists dispute this conclusion.


The Anabat detectors used here for static monitoring have been found inadequate at detecting horseshoe bats, as this Proof of Evidence makes clear:
Horseshoe, Bechstein’s and long-eared bats all have very quiet calls which make them difficult to detect… the types of bat detectors used by the surveyors were not high quality (see Adams et al. Do you hear what I hear? Implications of detector selection for acoustic monitoring of bats) and had very directional microphones (meaning that a horseshoe bat would need to fly towards the microphone in order to be heard)…. The static detector survey using an ANABAT detector was simply inadequate to provide useful information.
AI cannot assume therefore that "Greater horseshoe was extremely rare despite suitable habitat..." 4.0. It is likely that the site’s importance for bats has been under-reported. Barbastelle, Greater Horseshoe and Lesser Horseshoe score 32 in Table 7-8 which is of "Regional" value.


‘It’s killing us’: Christchurch residents by quarry told to wear masks...

... due to health risk. 

This article from New Zealand won't bring any comfort to those living around Straitgate Farm.
Families living by an expanding Christchurch quarry have been told to wear masks on their own properties after health officials discovered the quarry's dust posed a serious long-term health risk.
After years of complaints, two recent independent tests showed the dust was not just a nuisance but a serious long-term health risk. It contains crystalline silica, which can cause lung cancer and silicosis, an irreversible disease, over a long period. It confirmed the residents' worst fears about the dust they had been breathing for years.
Dr Kelvin Duncan, an independent microbiologist and former dean of science at the University of Canterbury, said he was alarmed when he learned about the situation and now works with the residents pro-bono.
"This quarry would not exist anywhere else in New Zealand, let alone the world, that close to a major facility like a road and residences," he said.
The quarry, run by Winstone Aggregates, was given permission in 2015 to expand onto rural zoned land. It is now within 90 metres of one house and 150m from several others.
Christchurch's city plan has no requirement for setback distances from quarries, but the Ministry for the Environment's good practice guidelines recommend a setback distance of 500m from those containing crystalline silica.
Some countries, such as India and Pakistan, insist on a 1-kilometre minimum setback.
And Aggregate Industries' plans for Straitgate?
6.2 In order to minimise any potential impact from fugitive dust, the operator will ensure that there is a minimum stand-off distance of 100 metres between the boundary of mineral extraction and the nearest receptors.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

PTES “strongly objects” to Straitgate development


People’s Trust for Endangered Species has strongly objected to Aggregate Industries' application to quarry Straitgate Farm, saying:
An extensive amount of important hedgerow will be destroyed. This is completely irreversible. The hedgerows are present on maps dating from the turn of the 20th century (Appendix 1) and are likely to have existed for centuries before this. Compensation planting (for that is what replanting is – not mitigation as suggested) for losses of irreplaceable habitat should be at a ratio in the region of 30 – 1. Proposed replanting and that already done falls far short of this.

This is what’s at stake


National Library of Scotland has digitised historic maps for the UK. Here's a screen shot showing Straitgate in 1888 with all its hedgerows, most of which are still around today. 

But the history goes back much further, detailed in these reports to support Aggregate Industries' planning application to quarry Straitgate Farm: Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Report and Results of Archaeological Trench Evaluation


Here's a few more snippets from the trench evaluation:
Including the Long Range site and Areas 2 and 6 at Straitgate it is apparent that this Iron Age open settlement extends over an area of potentially c. 10 hectares... based on the geophysics and trench results, around 12-15 further roundhouses in total might be anticipated... Three pieces of Romano-British period tile from overlying deposits and two holed slates from the large ditch in Trenches 22 and 56 may indicate a ‘Romanised’ building is present in the vicinity... new evidence for Romano-British settlement was identified, dated from the artefacts recovered to the 2nd to 3rd centuries AD, including a substantial linear ditch of 30m length, c. 5m width and over 2.2m depth.
Here's a plan showing the scale of open area excavation that would need to be carried out, should AI's scheme proceed.

What’s AI got to hide?

Since Aggregate Industries' last planning application for Straitgate Farm in 2015, a number of the documents have had a hair-cut. Here are pages 13-17 of AI's Phase 1 Habitat Survey from 2015, and the equivalent accompanying the company's new application.





Why has AI taken the knife to this document? Is it trying to save on paper? Or has AI got something to hide? Is it anything to do with "4.1.4 Potential Impact on Bats" and "4.1.5 Potential Impact on Dormouse"? Anything to do with "4.2 Outline mitigation options"? Anything to do with:
Mitigation and enhancement options will be required as part of the EPS licence application. These are likely to include:
Phased clearance of habitat over a number of years;
Retention of as much species-rich hedgerow as possible, in order to maintain ecological connectivity across the site; and
Strategic (early) planting of additional species-rich hedgerows/woodland such that the habitat is suitable for dormouse when phased vegetation removal commences.
If AI thinks its proposed mitigation plans for European Protected Species are acceptable - why did it see the need to remove this?