Monday, 24 July 2017

A catalogue of fiction

As DCC and the rest of us continue to wait for Aggregate Industries to respond to the Council’s Regulation 22 request for information on 61 substantive points, let’s remind ourselves of just some of the falsity that’s been uncovered so far, and ask ourselves:

If this is all such a good idea, why can’t AI tell it straight?

For example, on groundwater and resource: Back in 2015, AI confirmed: "a 1metre depth of unsaturated zone will be retained above the winter water table as per AMEC's technical note… the calculation of the 1.2Mt reserve was modelled to a surface 1metre above the highest winter water table". AI’s consultants AMEC also confirmed "The proposed quarry at Straitgate Farm would work the mineral dry and to a proposed limit of 1m above the highest predicted water table". In reality, AI intended to leave nothing above the maximum water table, and was eventually forced to say:
The resource declared assumes a working base that coincides with, and never drops below the Maximum Winter Water Table (MWWT)... the working method ensures that the floor of the excavation will always have at least 1.0m of unsaturated gravels beneath.
It’s now been shown that for large areas of the site groundwater levels do not fluctuate by 1m, so AI’s unorthodox working method could ensure no such thing.

On where to process: AI came up with a whole raft of nonsense as to why it couldn’t use nearby Rockbeare to process material from Straitgate, and on why there were 'exceptional circumstances' for using Blackhill on Woodbury Common instead - a protected area in the East Devon AONB:
It is considered that processing the Straitgate deposit at Blackhill Quarry is the only practical solution which is also the most sustainable solution.
without the Blackhill option the Phase 1 working [at Straitgate] is unlikely to be viable
Now, processing Straitgate material at Hillhead - despite being 23 miles away, despite being further from its target market - is apparently not only viable, but "logical" and "appropriate"; though obviously not logical or appropriate enough for AI to supply information on the associated CO2 and air pollution.

On using other people’s land: In its first application, AI wanted to use someone else’s land and claimed that "it has necessary rights over the surface to implement the proposals as presented." This was untrue. AI had no such rights, and the application was pulled as a result. In its second application, the company again planned to use someone else’s land, but neither informed the relevant third party, nor included details in the application; it’s the law to do both.

On whitewashed documents: Since the first application, the hydrogeology report has been whitewashed and large chunks of an ecology report have been removed.

On ecology: AI still hasn’t checked all the ponds around Straitgate for great crested newts. Consultants claimed the majority of ponds within 500m of the site boundary were not surveyed "due to lack of access permission". This was another lie; no landowner denied access. Interestingly, AI had no problem finding GCNs at Rockbeare, when it suited them to show why that site couldn’t be used for processing.

On traffic: Traffic numbers for the B3174 from AI’s consultant was another work of fiction, and bore no relation to Highways England counts two months earlier that showed almost 60% more traffic. Rather like the company’s planning application for Venn Ottery in 2010 claiming an average of 138 HGV movements a day, that bore no relation to the one random day we checked when it was 194.

On HGV accidents: AI’s consultants underplayed the number of HGV accidents on the B3180. They even covered up the fact that one of AI’s own HGVs had been involved in a collision with a coach.

It all makes this multinational and its consultants look like a bunch of cowboys, willing to say whatever it takes. It begs another question:

If AI can’t act honestly before winning any keys to dig, what hope would there be afterwards?