Friday, 7 July 2017


Groundwater: Aggregate Industries' Supporting Statement claimed that its seasonal working scheme "will always have at least 1.0m of unsaturated gravels beneath" when working down to a level "that coincides with, and never drops below the Maximum Winter Water Table".

However, this is impossible for large parts of the site since groundwater levels don't fall by 1m during the summer at three of the piezometers. This was pointed out to AI, who has responded by saying:
Although the unsaturated zone during the summer as measured directly at [PZ01] is approx 0.3m, at the nearest point of the proposed quarry (some 35m further down-slope in the modelled water table) the AMEC FW models demonstrate the difference increases to 1.002m. Heading south and north from this point the difference increases up to 4-5m.
But if that's the case, then Amec’s model is obviously flawed. The real data at PZ05 and PZ2016/001, towards the middle of the site, shows seasonal groundwater levels falling by no more than 42cm. And these are the maximum drops. Typically, groundwater levels at these locations fall by even less.

Mobile processing: On the issue of processing Straitgate Farm material with mobile plant, AI’s application had said:
New mobile processing plant is to be installed in [Hillhead Quarry] and it is this plant which would be used to process the Straitgate minerals. 
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?
AI appears to have changed its tune, and now says that it's planning to put fixed plant at Hillhead, moving it from the site at Blackhill on Woodbury Common - shown below; or at least:
That is the plan and we are progressing capital approval to do so, after which we will seek the necessary planning permission.
Of course, whether funding or permission is forthcoming is another matter. DCC will have to determine the Straitgate application as presented to them, not on what may or may not happen in the future.

Section 106: On the question of the missing Section 106 agreement to replace private water supplies affected by any future mineral working, AI appears to have changed its tune on that too, and says:
... we will be making a commitment to replace any loss of water supply that reasonably can be associated with our activities with every expectation that DCC in consultation with the EA will wish to enshrine this in a Section 106.
Of course, the devil will be in the detail, regarding the mechanism and timeliness for determining whether failing drinking water supplies could reasonably be associated with AI’s activities.

Local water users will be mindful not only of the years it has taken to uncover the true picture of how deep AI actually intends to dig, but also of the funds and lawyers the world’s biggest cement conglomerate could deploy in the event of any dispute.