Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Hugo Swire MP writes to Cllr John Hart

DCC, who put a line through the 1m buffer stipulated by the Environment Agency to protect private drinking water supplies for more than 100 people around Straitgate, now has the gall to say it "remains committed to protecting the water environment in the vicinity of the proposed sand and gravel quarry".

Following that modification to the Minerals Plan, a concerned resident wrote to Hugo Swire MP, who in turn wrote to Cllr John Hart; this is John Hart's reply. He reminds us that:
Following extensive dialogue with the mineral operator and the Environment Agency concerning the potential impact of mineral extraction on the water environment at and surrounding Straitgate farm, the pre-submission Minerals Plan of August 2015 included a requirement that “an unsaturated zone of at least 1m [be] maintained across the site”.

If 1m were to be left unquarried above the maximum water table as specified by the EA there would NOT be "Up to 1.2 million tonnes" as DCC maintains, but no more than 900,000 tonnes; AI say so themselves:
...excavating to a level 1m above the highest winter water table level would reduce the saleable tonnage by approximately 300,000 tonnes 8.77
DCC’s Minerals Officer no doubt had a large hand in John Hart's reply, but saying that " iteration of the Plan has used a figure of 900,000 tonnes" is disingenuous because this modification had been intended, as correspondence less than four weeks before the Examination Hearings records:
Given that Aggregate Industries has stated the quantity by which their original resource figure would be reduced by compliance with the requirements of Table C.4 of the Plan, I consider that it would improve clarity of the Plan if the currently-modified reference to “Up to 1.2 million tonnes” be replaced by “Approximately 0.9 million tonnes”. Paragraph 5.4.9 will also require similar amendment. The Council is not intending to circulate further modifications in advance of the hearings, but will table modifications to this effect at the hearing session that includes Straitgate Farm.
Of course, DCC then spinelessly back-tracked on that commitment after AI rushed out another Resource Statement, made public on 12 May 2016, with its untested unorthodox unapproved summer working scheme; the same unapproved scheme and resource statement that prompted the EA to say:
We are... still waiting for a robust assessment of the risks that would result from this modification to the operation.
It is also notable that the applicant appears to be basing the present resource assessments on the basis of a hydrogeological model (highest water level) that has not been formally agreed.
Which means that after years of faffing about, years of consultations and expense, years of waiting for groundwater measurements and reports, DCC’s Minerals Plan - the Preferred Area designation at Straitgate and the amount of resource available - is based on a hydrogeological model that has not been formally agreed; again, this for a site supplying 100 people and 3 livestock farms with spring water. What a pig’s ear.

Those who participated at the Examination Hearings will also remember:
In order for all parties to be able to prepare for the hearings, any additional statements should be with the Programme Officer by 5.00pm on Friday 22 April 2016… Late submissions and material tabled at the hearings are unlikely to be accepted since this can cause disruption and result in unfairness and the adjournment of the hearing."
One rule for some, another rule for aggregate companies.

For what it’s worth, the consultation on this and the other modifications is open until 23 September.