Monday, 30 June 2014

Why are people so cynical about restoration plans advanced by mineral companies?

Stories like this don’t help: Anger at woodland housing plan
A cement company that won an award for restoring an old quarry into woodland has been criticised over a plan to build houses at the site just two years later.
Cemex UK Properties admitted some of the plantation would be affected at the site that also skirts the location of the historic 1526 Battle of Linlithgow Bridge.
The Woodland Trust Scotland charity said it is angry that Cemex, whose UK HQ is in Surrey, is planning to build houses at the award-winning new woodland on the edge of the West Lothian town. The charity said six hectares of woodland dominated by birch, oak and ash were planted in 2012 close to the historic battle site as part of the restoration of a Cemex's former aggregates quarry at Kettlestoun Mains.
The restoration site was commended in the New Native Woodland category of Scotland's Finest Woods Awards in 2013, sponsored by the woodland charity.
Carol Evans, director of the Woodland Trust Scotland, said: "Ripping out these saplings after just two years would be disgraceful. The planting was commended in Scotland's Finest Woods Awards because the new woodland has been well planned and planted to a high standard, within an area that has been opened up for people to explore and enjoy.
"Less than a fifth of West Lothian's woodland is native, which makes creating new woods in the area really important.
"We're asking Cemex to reconsider their plans and stick to the original proposal to plant a woodland that benefits people and wildlife, and that creates an attractive green gateway to Linlithgow."
Mineral companies are in the business of making money - there’s nothing wrong with that. What really irks people is when the planning permission ‘goal-posts’ are moved - when mineral companies win planning permission by promising one thing, boating lakes or whatever, but then later apply for permission to do something different - landfill, housing or otherwise.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014


Aggregate Industries has requested a meeting with DCC to discuss the future of Straitgate Farm. Four members of the Council’s planning team will meet with three representatives from AI, including its South West Area Director, next week. No consultants, geologists or hydrogeologists will be involved.

AI is likely to outline a proposal to quarry an even further reduced area of Straitgate. Consultants have so far been unable to produce a workable and robust scheme for the current proposed boundary with working below the water table, that would not negatively impact groundwater. They will, however, continue to collect groundwater data in and around the site - a process that started some 18 months ago - in the hope of devising a scheme where more of the deposit could be recovered.

With less material immediately available, AI will no doubt push yet again for an extension at Blackhill Quarry more than 7 miles away to process the as-dug material - beyond the time when permission expires at the end of 2016. No quarrying is undertaken at Blackhill any more; since 2009 it has functioned as a sand and gravel processing works - blighting Woodbury Common, AONB, SAC, SPA.

In the meantime, the results of the Straitgate archaeological geophysical survey have been assessed. It has been recommended that a number of trenches are dug across the site. The exact number will be dependent on the area AI proposes to quarry.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Another government response on secondary aggregates and the Aggregates Levy

Another local resident has shared the response they received from the Treasury following our call to lobby the Government on the issue of secondary aggregates and the Aggregates Levy.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

RAF Fairford... revisited

Aggregate Industries has assured us in the past that it's quite used to running quarry operations where there are airport safeguarding and birdstrike considerations. "Just look at RAF Fairford" we were told, where AI has nearby sand and gravel operations, as an example of how the company manages quarrying, water, aircraft and birds.
due to the proximity of Fairford Airfield, water based restoration/after-use is not appropriate,
contrary to its plans for Straitgate Farm under Exeter Airport's flightpath, where it thinks water-based restoration would be appropriate.

Events at RAF Fairford this week, when a B2 Stealth Bomber hit a buzzard during its landing approach, underline just what's at stake and why the CAA and the MOD take the issue of birdstrike so seriously. The plane survived; the buzzard didn't. Cost of a B2? US$737 million - at 1997 prices.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Government response on secondary aggregates and Aggregates Levy

Following the Now it's our turn to lobby Government post, calling for more to be done to promote the use of secondary rather than primary aggregates, here's a response from Hugo Swire MP and the Financial Secretary Nicky Morgan MP, in answer to a local resident's letter on the issue:

Sunday, 8 June 2014

In the papers

Birmingham Airport bosses are worried that large ponds built close to a proposed new station serving the airport would attract an influx of geese and other birds.
Bird strike, when birds get into the engines of aircraft, is a serious, if not fundamental, issue for safe and efficient operation of the airport,” the petition states.
“Hundreds of thousands of pounds are spent annually on ensuring that bird strike does not happen. If bird strike does happen, the results can be catastrophic, leading to, at worst, aircraft crashes and loss of life."
Ponding directly under Exeter Airport's flightpath is of course what Aggregate Industries hope to get away with here.

A former quarry could be converted into a solar farm capable of powering 2,800 homes.
The latest solar proposal would see nearly 43,000 panels installed at Bluegates Farm, between Alresford and Elmstead Market.
Nick Leaney, director of the applicant, Aardvark EM, said the land had once been a quarry, which had been converted into poor-quality agricultural fields.
Which backs up what farmers will tell you - that you can't just dump some top soil once the land has been quarried and hope to farm in the same way again. At Straitgate, AI talk about the long-term after-use being "light agricultural grazing", good enough for a few sheep in other words, if - of course - it's not allocated for something more profitable in the meantime.

Friday, 6 June 2014

What is it like living next to one of AI’s quarries?

What could people in Ottery St Mary look forward to if Aggregate Industries came to Straitgate Farm? A news report on AI’s expansion plans for Newbold Quarry near Uttoxeter might give some idea:
Homeowners living nearby have consistently complained about noise and heavy goods traffic emanating from the quarry.
They and Uttoxeter MP Andrew Griffiths have expressed their anger about the planned expansion, which would add eight years to Newbold’s life.
Mr Griffiths said his constituents were also still unhappy Aggregate had appealed against a wind turbine proposal rejected by borough planners.
He said: “On the one hand, Aggregate Industries want the local community to accept an extension to the quarry, with further impact on the landscape and countryside and the disruption that goes with that.
“On the other, they want to put a huge wind turbine which will further that impact.
“They have no right to expect the community to accept their plans if they’re not going to accept the wishes of the community on the wind turbine.
“It’s a bit rich of Aggregate Industries to just expect people to accept years of additional disruption, noise and damage to the countryside while expanding their quarry.
“They have no consideration for the wishes of the local community opposing the dirty great wind turbine which will blight the landscape.
“The community has already spoken out against the turbine but Aggregate persists.
“It’s perfectly understandable if residents want to protest against the extension if that’s the attitude Aggregate takes.
“The reality is that Aggregate is sticking up two fingers to the wishes of the people of Uttoxeter.”
Gill Conroy, who lives at Leasowes Farm, in Bypass Road, has had to live neighbouring the quarry for years.
She said: “They should complete and landscape the mess they’ve already made before they start digging again.
“Sand dust is always a major issue and our view is restricted due to the bunds they built around us at the beginning.
“They should have been taken down by now but, because they have not landscaped on schedule, they have had to stay to keep the dust down.
“I’m sure the site will be picturesque when completed but when will that be?”
When all the minerals have been extracted from the quarry, it will be transformed into an outdoor activity area with a sailing lake and other leisure and sports facilities.
The site’s life was due to end in 2013 but Aggregates got planning approval to extend it until 2016.
And, if the new proposed expansion is ratified by Staffordshire County Council, excavation will continue up to 2024.
An AI spokesman said:
“We do our very best to mitigate the negative effects a quarry can have on local neighbours but hope residents can see the important economic benefit this quarry delivers to the local area.”