Monday, 19 December 2016

Merry Christmas



After those terrible HGV scenes in Ottery's fictional matters, another shocking revelation: this time on groundwater and the plan to quarry right down to the water table.

It has been brought to our attention that so-called seasonal working - the sort of scheme Aggregate Industries intends at Straitgate Farm, where giant excavators tear right down to the water table - has been tried before... with devastating results:


Apparently, the winter water table rebound caught this digger driver completely by surprise:
I was lucky to get out alive! Long-winded reports had been written - but no-one warned about this; the water came up so fast, all I could rescue was my lunch box.
Consultants had talked about 'ephemeral ponds of water', but they obviously didn't have a bloody clue. They didn't even know where the maximum water table was. How could they? They'd only recently put piezometers in the centre of the site!
If you ask me, it was amazing this place was in the Minerals Plan at all. People had been warning about the water for years, but no-one took any notice - not the council, not the company, not even the local airport. And look what we've got now - a f***ing lake. The birds will love it, but it was meant to go back to farmland. 
It's tragic; that was my best loader, I loved that machine.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all readers!



Friday, 16 December 2016

LafargeHolcim CEO to chair Cement Sustainability Initiative in 2017

'As one of the largest global sustainability programmes ever undertaken by a single industry sector, we have a real opportunity to drive change. Our plans are ambitious and we are conscious that we will only achieve them by working together.'
In 2017, the members of the CSI agreed to concentrate their efforts on the most material topics, among others: ... actions to further reduce CO2 emissions...


And Eric Olsen may have a real opportunity to drive change, but many will see this as no more than rearranging the deckchairs, a public relations façade, greenwash - because only last month there were reports of the Cement sector obstructing climate policy for windfall profits and of being second only to the oil and gas sector in lobbying against EU climate change policy. More specifically, that LafargeHolcim has "consistently sought to undermine the ETS and other EU climate policy".

But hey, who knows, maybe as chair of a sustainability initiative he now wants to make a difference. So perhaps people should write to eric.olsen@lafargeholcim.com and tell him just how unsustainable his company is planning to be in Devon. Copy his respective heads of sustainability in for good measure: bernard.mathieu@lafargeholcim.com and donna.hunt@aggregate.com, and any of the UK executive committee.

After all, and as UK construction industry leaders discussed last month regarding the benefits of reducing carbon emissions issues at the 'Climate Change Challenge seminar':
And that's language that even business people can understand.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

‘Environmental sustainability is a requirement, not an option’

That's what 13 of the world's leading economists concluded in the Stockholm Statement last month.
...climate change is a long-term threat to the viability of the planet and, equally, a short to medium term threat to livelihoods, agriculture and habitat in many countries.
But try telling that to the company that's about to launch an application for a wholly unsustainable 2.5 million CO2-polluting HGV miles in Devon - despite the evermore dramatic evidence:


AI's planning application delayed

At the recent Public Exhibition, Aggregate Industries was confident that it would be submitting a planning application for Straitgate Farm 'around the middle of December'. 

Today, however, AI confirmed that no application would be ready for submission before the New Year.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Hillhead truck numbers ‘don’t stack up’

There’s more trouble for Aggregate Industries' Hillhead ROMP application. After the Environment Agency objected last month, this week DCC Highways said that the truck numbers don’t stack up.

It’s all a bit embarrassing for AI really. Truck movements are a major part of any quarry operation. AI tasked a consultant to produce a Transport Statement for the ROMP application. This is the level of detail on truck movements from future quarrying:



What’s more, it looks as though the numbers were plucked out of thin air.

Remember, this report is to back an application which, although in September 2014 was looking for an extension to 2033, is now looking for an extension to 2042; some 25 years.

But at least someone at DCC has picked up on this.
I have looked through the Transport statement, previous application and would confirm that a breakdown of the 82 arrivals and departures is required to identify how they got to that figure with the amount of material available over the time frame
Because there are some 4.23 million tonnes at Houndaller. Twenty five years' worth of truck movements at 82 loads a day would equate to some 14.6 million tonnes, so plainly something’s not right.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

‘We all need to talk about climate change’

Not everyone has the luxury of ignoring climate change. People are already feeling it as droughts, wildfires and floods become more common. As temperatures creep ever higher, it’ll hit more and more of us, more and more obviously. Knock-on effects mean that, along with battling fire, water and mud, food will become more scarce. If you don’t spot climate change in the rising tides, you may well feel it in your stomach. This is already happening. Arguably, the way climate change affected crops was a contributing factor in the Arab spring.
We can choose to see climate change, and we can choose to do this before it’s too late. So how can we escape the quagmire of denial? As it turns out, the first step isn’t that hard: just talk about it. To your friends, family, colleagues – even to yourself. By talking about climate change, you’ll make it feel less scary. By talking about it, we’ll unlock solutions. And, crucially, it’s by talking about climate change that we’ll break the silence that allows it to go unnoticed and ignored.
So let's talk about it, Aggregate Industries. Let's talk about how your 2.5 million mile haulage plan for Devon is going to help fight climate change. Let's talk about why your CO2 emissions are not coming down. Because not everyone has the luxury of ignoring climate change. 

AI's haulage plans for Straitgate would generate around 4,000 tonnes of CO2 alone; before extraction, before processing, before the additional mileage incurred to transport materials to their end market - as its previous application stated:


Let's see what one tonne of CO2 looks like:


It has about the same volume as five double decker buses. So if 4,000 tonnes of CO2 doesn't sound that much, think of it as about 20,000 double decker buses; about 140 miles lined up bumper-to-bumper.

Could AI make its haulage plans CO2 neutral? It could if it had the land to plant 103,665 trees.

But what about all AI's sustainability claims:


Claims such as this for 2015:


As with many of AI's claims, this can't be taken at face value either. Because the majority of those 400,000 lorry movements are accounted for by Glensanda - one of Europe's largest quarries.


And the thing with this quarry is that "There is no land access to Glensanda. Workforce, equipment and stores come and go by sea".

So don't think that AI has suddenly gone all green and removed 400,000 trucks from our roads. It hasn't. It had no choice.

AI's haulage plan for Straitgate, on the other hand, equates to 52,632 loads or 105,264 truck movements. To put that into context again, CEMEX recently announced that it had hit the 2 millionth tonne of material transported by rail, "equivalent to 65,000 truck movements taken off our congested road network".

‘Cement sector obstructing climate policy for windfall profits’

That's the conclusion of European Cement and Climate, a new report by InfluenceMap an "independent UK-based non-profit whose remit is to map, analyse and score the extent to which corporations are influencing climate change policy".


One of those giants is LafargeHolcim, owner of Aggregate Industries, owner of Straitgate Farm, owner of the plan to put 2.5 million HGV miles on Devon roads, owner of limitless greenwash:


InfluenceMap's report says:
Market leader LafargeHolcim, a signatory of a commitment to a UN guide on responsible climate policy engagement, has made public statements supporting carbon pricing but has opposed ambitious EU ETS reform. It also holds many key positions in trade associations that have consistently sought to undermine the ETS and other EU climate policy.
InfluenceMap’s executive director Dylan Tanner said:
It is not surprising the cement sector is choosing to weaken the climate policies that pose an existential threat to its existence. However, they end up undermining the ambition of the whole regulatory process and we think investors should be concerned about the correlation between negative lobbying and companies’ unwillingness to transition.
Cement production accounts for about 5-10% of human CO2 emissions.
...evidence suggests that even with a low price on carbon effectively implemented the profits of the sector would collapse. The sector appears to have responded to this threat by shaping the EU ETS to suit its existing GHG intensive industrial practices through intense policy lobbying in Brussels.
And whilst there's intense policy lobbying in Brussels, this is what LafargeHolcim tells the wider world:


The reality in the UK, as we have posted before, is somewhat different. And whilst AI continues to think that it's acceptable to haul sand and gravel over 23 miles away for processing, nothing will change.

* Figures taken from 2015 report, 2012 report (for 2012-2008), 2010 report (for 2007-2006), 2007 report (for earlier)


Aggregate Industries would have us believe that:


But as InfluenceMap reports - behind the scenes, behind the cement industries' flimsy green façade:

Friday, 2 December 2016

Truck numbers - Don’t believe everything you are told

As we said below, working through Aggregate Industries' forthcoming planning application will be about separating fact from fiction. However, it looks like the misinformation has already started.

AI's leaflet told us that:
It is proposed to extract around 1.5 million tonnes of ‘as-dug’ sand and gravel over a period of about 10 to 12 years...
The material would be extracted at a rate between 120,000 tonnes and 180,000 tonnes per annum on a campaign basis which means that extraction would be limited typically to 2 or 3 times per year with each campaign lasting between five and seven weeks at a time.
People came away from the exhibition having been told that AI is planning 86 HGV movements a day (43 out 43 back).



Today's Ottery Herald:


reported that the proposal would "see up to 86 lorries a day using one of Ottery’s busiest roads" or "a ‘maximum’ of 86 deliveries a day during a campaign that would take place between March and November"; 86 deliveries would be 172 movements.

So, let's look at the numbers more closely:

Each truck employed would manage no more than 6 return trips per day, if each return trip took say 1.5 hours; 42 loads a day would therefore need 7 trucks; 84 movements over a 10 hour day would be one every 7 minutes. However, to clear the 1.5 million tonnes, 42 loads a day would require the absolute maximum duration that AI has proposed, i.e.:

28.5 tonnes per load × 42 loads a day × 5 days per week × 7 weeks per campaign × 3 campaigns per year × 12 years = 1.5 million tonnes

In other words, AI's '86 movements per day' would be at the minimum rate of extraction.

Conversely, the maximum rate of extraction would be over the minimum duration AI has proposed, i.e.:

1.5 million tones ÷ (28.5 tonnes per load × 5 days per week × 5 weeks per campaign × 2 campaigns per year × 10 years) = 105 loads per day

At the maximum rate of extraction there would therefore be 210 movements a day. This would require 18 trucks; 210 movements over a 10 hour day would be one every 3 minutes.

Say we look at something in between: 150,000 tonnes per year, extracted over 16 weeks, would need:

150,000 tonnes ÷ (28.5 tonnes per load × 6 loads per day × 5 days per week × 16 weeks) = 11 trucks

11 trucks would generate 11 × 6 × 2 = 132 movements per day, or one movement every 4.5 minutes.

Obviously, AI doesn’t yet know at what rate the material would need to be extracted. What is clear is that local people at the exhibition have already been misled by only being told the lowest number of movements per day that could be expected.

If the proposal for Straitgate Farm is so brilliant, so "strategically important and sustainable", why can’t AI have the decency to be straight with people?

Let's put AI's proposal in context:
Tarmac’s Aberthaw Cement Plant has opened a rail facility that will remove some 2,500 road truck movements each year as the company delivers on its pledge to support the sustainable delivery of materials and cut transport CO2
AI's plans for Straitgate, on the other hand, would result in:

1.5 million tones ÷ 28.5 tonnes per load = 52,632 loads × 2 = 105,264 movements ÷ 10-12 years = 8,772-10,526 movements per year

AI should be ashamed.

European Protected Species - Don't believe everything you read

For anyone minded to wade through Aggregate Industries' forthcoming planning application, it will be all about separating fact from fiction. For example, remember all that hoo-ha about AI not being able to process Straitgate material at Rockbeare?
It has been demonstrated that processing at Rockbeare is not physically possible due to a lack of silt space and clean water storage, insufficient stocking and processing area and the presence of great crested newts in existing ponds. 8.37
Most of those arguments didn’t stand up to scrutiny, but what about the newts?


AI’s ecologist had said:
It is the opinion of JG Ecological Surveys Ltd that alternative opportunities to achieve the operational objectives for the company while avoiding disturbance to the local populations of GCN at Rockbeare Quarry should be sought.
We wrote a bit about the subject in You couldn’t make this up! Likewise, Natural England also saw through AI’s ruse:
The presence of Great Crested Newts at Rockbeare Quarry is cited as a constraint to the consideration of using Rockbeare Quarry as an alternative location for the processing of quarry materials from Straitgate Farm. Natural England advises that the potential exists for this to be addressed through European Protected Species licencing and that this avenue could be explored through consultation with our licensing team.
But if "processing at Rockbeare is not physically possible due to… the presence of great crested newts", why was Midland Quarry Products granted a licence to relocate great crested newts to allow quarry expansion? Or does AI only care about wildlife when its suits them?

Dormice are also a European Protected Species, but of course AI doesn't say quarrying at Straitgate is not physically possible due to... the presence of dormice.

So it will be interesting to learn in AI's new application how dormice in Straitgate's ancient hedgerows would be protected; interesting to learn how many kilometres of hedgerow would be destroyed; interesting to learn how much mitigation planting would still need to be done; interesting to learn how much habitat connectivity would be lost.

"At LafargeHolcim, we want to lead in sustainability and set new standards"

Once upon a time there was a Big Polluting Cement Giant.

It realised it needed to do something about the millions of people across the world who were suffering from the effects of climate change, from crop failures, from extreme weather, from rising sea levels. 

The Big Polluting Cement Giant was, after all, one of the largest CO2-emitting giants in the world.

It decided to make itself look greener. It prepared a leaflet for the Paris climate talks:
An ambitious international agreement on climate change is key to limiting global warming to below 2 degrees. We need action, now.


At another climate conference in Switzerland, its leader announced:


The Big Polluting Cement Giant even went to the Marrakech climate talks:
As a world leader and advocate of the decarbonization of the construction value chain, LafargeHolcim welcomed the COP 21 Paris Agreement. We have since elaborated a set of commitments to cut our net CO2 emissions and reduce our dependency on natural resources. 
Our presence at the COP 22 conference will be an opportunity to showcase how the Group is contributing to the global climate and circular agenda...
And it produced a Plan:
Since the Paris Agreement adopted in December 2015, LafargeHolcim has rolled out an ambitious sustainability strategy: the 2030 Plan. With this plan, we are turning our core value of sustainability into a set of actionable goals. One of its four pillars focuses on climate.
But it was obvious to the little people - the little people who can see what the Big Polluting Cement Giant wants to do in Devon - that phrases like "ambitious sustainability strategy" and "we want to lead in sustainability and set new standards" and "We need action, now" were no more than words.

And what use are words, when other, not so little, people warn that climate change is set to cause a refugee crisis of "unimaginable scale"What use are words, when the impacts of releasing CO2 into the atmosphere "will last longer than Stonehenge"?




Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Look what happens when a quarry company is accused of polluting a couple's drinking water supply

Is it any wonder that local people are concerned about Aggregate Industries' plans to dig down to the water table - without leaving the typical 1m unquarried safeguard - when stories like this keep cropping up in the papers?
A family are at war with a quarrying company after they claimed the spring that supplies their home with clean water has become contaminated...
Mr Simpson said: 'Our home is in a beautiful location and we were really taken with the idea of the private spring water supply that dates all the way back to 1860.
 'The water was incredibly clear when it came from the taps. If you held it to the light you couldn't even see there was water in your glass, you had to shake it so the surface moved before you could see it.
'But in 2012 everything changed and it was clear the spring had been contaminated because the water was coming out brown and dirty.
'That coincided with the operators of the quarry near our home being served with statutory notices for quarrying outside their permitted area for Blaxter stone, which built much of Princes Street in Edinburgh. 
'The family's water became unusable for drinking or washing, leaving the Simpsons with no option to buy in their water in bottles. 
Mr Simpson said: 'It has had an unbelievable affect on our quality of life. 
Mr Simpson tried to get a supply for Northumbria Water, but the remote location of Blaxter House would have meant laying three miles of pipework at a cost of £500,000 - which Mr and Mrs Simpson would have had to pay for. 
He did everything he could to force the quarry operators to accept responsibility and return the spring to its original purity. 
Mr Simpson has emails, obtained from a Freedom of Information request, between staff at the Environment Agency. 
In the emails they discuss a visit to the site and say 'there is evidence of the operators working below the water table... Suggesting that the quarry company are excavating below groundwater. 
'The quarry company, Northumberland Stone Ltd, deny their work has affected the water quality and insist that rainfall has in fact caused the change...
Of course Northumberland Stone deny it; no company would want to stump up half a million pounds. Let’s check AI’s proposed s106 again for Straitgate Farm:


Does that inspire any confidence that AI wouldn't do exactly the same?

What did the Environment Agency have to say about the couple’s plight, or should we say blight?
The issues relate to planning conditions for the site, which is the responsibility of the local authority. We're working closely with the council and operator.
And the council?
The operator at Blaxter Quarry has made significant improvements to the on-site surface water management and the council are in positive dialogue with the operator to ensure the further improvements are delivered within the agreed timescales.
How helpful is all that? For a couple that have been without clean water for four years.

The story above, about two people, was in two national papers; here's the other.

At Straitgate, water supplies for 100 people, 3 farms and Grade I Cadhay would be in the hands of one digger driver. What could possibly go wrong? And - with an extensive catalogue of ignored warnings from local residents going back years - how many nationals would cover the story if it did?

Monday, 28 November 2016

Because AI’s HGVs never do anything wrong, do they?

Aggregate Industries' traffic consultant at the Public Exhibition got quite worked-up with a number of local people (including a councillor), when genuine concerns were raised that the company’s HGVs could cause safety issues on the B3174 and to pedestrians on Birdcage Lane. We thought the purpose of such an event was to explain what’s planned and to listen to people's concerns, not to get shirty with them.

But hey, up to 200 HGVs a day, turning onto and off Ottery’s busiest road - perhaps people's concerns could be misplaced? After all, AI’s HGVs never do anything wrong, do they?













And, closer to home, who could forget this?

Picture: Simon Horn

Dr Dick van Steenis

Over the years we’ve had quite a few enquiries of one sort or another. Last week it was a phone call from Great Yarmouth to remind us of a successful campaign in 2010 to stop gravel extraction plans at Waveney Forest, also known as Fritton Woods.

The caller, a 'professional scientist', pointed us towards work by Dr Dick van Steenis, an 'internationally-renowned health expert' who has since passed away. You can read more about his work in Industrial Air Pollution and Asthma - A Failure of Regulation and in Poisoning the Poor by George Monbiot.

Dr van Steenis helped the Fritton campaign and warned of the dangers of air pollution, including from quarry sites:
Retired GP turned activist Dick Van Steenis outlined the shocking risks of chronic illness from proposed sand and gravel extraction at Waveney Forest during a packed public meeting and said it would affect thousands of households.
The heavyweight researcher claimed that toxic fuel and dust particles would cause diseases including heart attacks, cancer and emphysema.
Asthma rates would also soar…
"Particles from bulldozers, without filtration systems, rise 40ft in the air and cover a three mile radius," said Dr Van Steenis.
"Dirty oils produce particles that are classified by the EU as hazardous waste and should be banned. Emissions from one bulldozer is equal to 900 Volvos."
Dr van Steenis also helped a North East community in its battle to stop an opencast mining site:
Dr van Steenis claims that research shows that no opencast mining should be carried out within three miles of a population, making it almost impossible for development firms to find potential sites in England. The doctor, a former GP, said that tiny dust particles called PM1 and PM2.5 given off by opencast sites have been shown to have a detrimental effect on health.
He said: "The first problem is the bulldozers and the emissions they put out. Problem number two is the stuff that’s thrown up by the bulldozers – it is when these particles get into the breathing tubes that they start up an inflammation which causes asthma."
"It can also lead to health problems such as heart attacks, strokes and clinical depression."
"The fact is that it can only be done safely underground or three miles from a population - in Wales they now have a 500-metre barrier, which is still inappropriate but at least it is a start. In Australia and America they do it about 20 miles away from towns - it is only in England that it is such a free-for-all. The barriers need to be wider."
The caller also pointed us towards the study Living near opencast coal mining sites and children's respiratory health, which says:
There is now a substantial body of evidence linking ambient concentrations of particulate matter of 10 μm diameter (PM10) to respiratory symptoms, decreased lung function, hospital visits, school absences, and other health outcomes.
The study was designed to compare rural and semiurban populations exposed to a mixture of background and opencast mining PM10 - that is, overburden, soil, and diesel - with populations exposed to similar rural background concentrations of PM10 only.
and concludes:
Children in opencast communities were exposed to a small but significant amount of additional PM10 to which the opencast sites were a measurable contributor. Past and present respiratory health of children was similar, but GP consultations for respiratory conditions were higher in opencast communities during the core study period.
This study looked at coal mining communities, but as Dr van Steenis pointed out above, and as we have posted before, sand and gravel quarries also generate significant amounts of pollution and particulate matter - which can travel extended distances.

This is obviously not something that bothers Aggregate Industries; its last planning application for Straitgate Farm put mineral extraction "approximately 70 metres" from the nearest homes.

Dr van Steenis claimed "no opencast mining should be carried out within three miles of a population"; AI claims 70 metres is safe. Who would you believe? An 'internationally-renowned health expert' or a profit-hungry mining conglomerate?

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Processing Straitgate material at Hillhead - AI says “There is no alternative”

At the Blackhill Quarry Liaison Meeting this week, Aggregate Industries claimed "There is no alternative" but to transport Straitgate Farm material to Hillhead for processing; no alternative to the almost 50 mile round trips up and down the M5 and A30; no alternative to the 2.5 million HGV miles in total; no alternative to the 4000 tonnes of CO2.

But let's remind ourselves exactly what AI said only 12 months ago to justify staying at Blackhill:



For those who couldn't make the exhibition

Aggregate Industries held a Public Exhibition in Ottery St Mary yesterday to showcase its plans for Straitgate Farm. Here are photographs of some of the exhibition boards; others are in the posts below.




A few observations:

The number of people who signed AI's register of attendance - and not everyone did - totalled around 70; many of the comments left would have been on road safety issues.

Amazingly, for a quarry that would entail extensive preliminary work, a 2.5 million mile haulage plan, and a resource of potentially less than a million tonnes, AI has not yet costed the project! A young graduate has now been given the task.

In the space of a week or so, AI's plans have changed again; see how they have grown since the glossy leaflets.

AI says it will be submitting a planning application around the middle of December. The company would be looking for determination by the summer, and to be on site at Straitgate towards the autumn. Mobile plant will be installed at Hillhead in the new year. AI want to be transporting material from Straitgate to Uffculme by the beginning of 2018, by which time permanent processing plant is expected to be installed.

And why was Blackhill on Woodbury Common dropped? As we said all along, AI could not demonstrate the exceptional circumstances needed to operate in the AONB; the planning application to transport Hillhead material to Blackhill demonstrated that nutrients would have also been an issue.



AI's junction design - a few road signs, a wing and a prayer


Did Aggregate Industries really think those junction plans displayed at the Public Exhibition yesterday would allay people's concerns about road safety? Concerns shared by AI's last set of traffic consultants:
The southern option, onto the B3174, was dismissed early in the process on highway safety grounds 5.44
Is AI's current traffic consultant living in fantasy land? He said that up to 200 HGVs a day, turning onto and off Ottery's busiest, fastest road, off and onto a quiet country lane used by pedestrians, would not be dangerous. He said that he was experienced, that he relied on some special software. But he couldn't tell you how wide the opening from Birdcage Lane would need to be. He certainly didn't know about nearby Public Rights of Ways. He maintained that HGVs would have the required visibility without any hedges or trees being removed. It was as though he had never visited the site.

He said his designs were safe, but he had made NO allowance for pedestrians, NO allowance for school buses, school buses like the one in the photo here.

It was just a drawing. Just a wing and a prayer. It was laughable. It had not been OK'd by DCC. It made allowance for AI and nobody else.

DCC Highways had even informed AI about PROWs and making provision for pedestrians. Why did AI not think to tell its traffic consultant? Who knows? An oversight? Or perhaps making provision for people, the people who actually live here, was going to make things too difficult for the company's last ditch attempt at site access?

Water boards


A senior representative from Amec Foster Wheeler was explaining all about the water at Aggregate Industries' Public Exhibition yesterday. He was explaining how there was a chance, a small chance in his view, 1 in 20 if pushed to put a number on it, that people currently relying on springs and wells for their drinking water would suffer subsequent problems with their supply if AI's quarry plans were to go ahead. 

There were some interesting drawings. But don't believe everything you have read on those boards.

When Amec tells you that "Groundwater levels within the BSPB formations have been monitored since 2013 at 13 piezometer (borehole) locations", that's not strictly true, because two of those were only drilled this year. And look how few piezometers are actually within the site that AI wants to quarry.


Amec will now be putting together a new set of water reports to say why AI no longer needs to leave a 1 metre buffer above the maximum winter water table to protect water supplies.

It had previously based all its conclusions on the assumption that:
Conclusions such as:

Amec is now being paid to tell a different story.












AI is holding two Public Exhibitions at Uffculme today

Glossy leaflets have been put through Uffculme's doors too. Exhibitions are being held there today. Aggregate Industries says:
This brochure provides a concise overview of the reasons behind two planning applications which are inextricably linked that Aggregate Industries UK are currently finalising. The first application is for a new sand and gravel quarry at Straitgate Farm located 3km west of Ottery St Mary. The second application is to allow for the importation of as-dug sand and gravel from Straitgate Farm into Hillhead Quarry for processing. The Hillhead Quarry application will also include full engineering details for the widening of a 400 metre section of Clay Lane from its junction with the A38 to the entrance of the Hillhead Quarry/Broadpath sites...

Minerals Plan - 'approve it or start all over again'

Councillors at the DMC meeting yesterday were told by the Minerals Officer that if they didn't vote to adopt the new Minerals Plan - and with it Straitgate Farm as a 'Preferred Area' - the Council would have to start all over again. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the vote to adopt was unanimous. This statement from Cllr Claire Wright was however read out first:
There are many aspects of Straitgate’s proposed inclusion in the minerals plan that I (and many others) believe does not stand up to scrutiny, including the possibility of damaging an underground watercourse. This risks over 100 people’s water supplies, ancient woodland and flooding.
I am very disappointed that the objections of Devon County Council’s own highways department have been overruled, as well as the Environment Agency and Natural England on their concerns relating to the underground watercourse.
However, below is the most relevant consideration that I believe councillors need to address today:
Aggregate Industries have confirmed (at yesterday's Blackhill Liaison Meeting) that material from Straitgate could now only be processed over 23 miles away, at Uffculme. To include Straitgate in the Plan, therefore, would present a completely unsustainable proposition. 44-tonne HGVs hauling sand and gravel on 46 mile round trips - for 1.2 million tonnes, that would result in 2.5 million HGV miles on Devon's roads, and 4,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions!
This completely contradicts the sustainability aims of both the National Planning Policy Framework and Devon's Minerals Plan:
The minerals plan states:
"Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change is a key consideration and statutory duty for the Devon Minerals Plan, and will be a cross-cutting theme for the Strategy."
"Maintaining the production of sand and gravel from the southern and northern parts of the Pebble Beds is also important in minimising transportation distances to the main markets in Devon and adjoining areas in accordance with Objective 1 and Policy M1."
"Spatial Strategy (Policy M1) ensures that the distances that minerals are transported by road are minimised"
"This spatial pattern will also minimise the contribution of mineral development to climate change."
Chapter 4 of the National Planning Policy Framework makes it clear that transportation miles in any development must be minimised. A 46 mile round trip taken dozens of times every day is not in line with the principles and direction of the NPPF.