Monday, 17 July 2017

Highways England to revisit Straitgate application

After Has Highways 'thrown a curve ball'? back in 2015, Aggregate Industries produced some cross sections - see below - so that Highways England could "fully understand" the impact of any quarrying directly next to the A30. Highways England originally wanted to see "that the full depth of the quarry excavation would not be lower than the A30 carriageway", but settled for a series of planning conditions, which were repeated in the most recent response:
The maximum extent of quarry workings adjacent to the A30 trunk road boundary shall not exceed that shown on drawing SF HWYS/1 and at all times a minimum buffer zone of 10m shall be maintained between the application boundary and the quarry workings.... Buttressing of extraction slopes shall be undertaken in line with the submitted plans with an agreed slope profile as shown on drawing SF HWYS/1... Reason: protect the highway structural integrity and in the interest of the safe and efficient operation of the trunk road.
Last week, however, Highways England said they would revisit the application.

There have been quarry face slippages at AI's Manor Farm sand and gravel quarry in Kempsford, Gloucestershire. In an application to extend the quarry, the MOD was concerned about nearby landing lights for RAF Fairford. AI's consultants had said:
A 20m stand off to each lighting column will allow for a worst case situation where the quarry face could fail and cut back to an angle below the natural angle of repose (a gradient of approximately 1 in 3) and the face failure would not reach the base of the closest lighting pole. 1 in 3 is considered to be a stable slope in this type of material and 20m should therefore give the lights the protection required plus a safety margin beyond that. 10
Although the extraction proposals incorporate stand-off zones to protect boundaries there are concerns that in some instances that these might not be adequate. A request to review these limits to prevent site stability problems during and post extraction is strongly recommended to avoid slippage problems already experienced from the current quarrying works. 6.29
Prior to the commencement of works the applicant shall submit a plan for the approval of the Mineral Planning Authority detailing how the adjoining MOD land and the retained land on which aircraft landing lights are located will be protected from collapse or slippage whilst extraction operations are undertaken and until restoration has been completed.
And what has AI proposed next to the A30 dual carriageway? Not 20m standoffs, but 10m. Not 1 in 3 slopes, but as steep as 1 in 0.5.

Is DCC's LAA living in LAA LAA land?

It looks like someone at DCC has too much time on their hands now the Minerals Plan has been adopted.

DCC has just issued its 6th Local Aggregate Assessment, and with it some whizzy new projections and fancy new buzzwords; buzzwords such as "stress test" and "housing trajectory". The Executive Summary spells it out:
The ability of Devon to maintain land-won aggregate supply in the event of predicted increased construction levels has been tested by modelling ten year sales average and housing trajectory models. This test indicates that the crushed rock landbank will enable supply to be maintained, but that the present sand and gravel landbank would fall below the seven years minimum during the period 2020 to 2023.
This conclusion may seem odd to some people, given that at the end of 2016 Devon had sand and gravel reserves of 7.04 million tonnes, enough to last 13.4 years (based on a rolling average of 10 years sales data as advised in the NPPF).

So how has DCC arrived at this doomsday scenario "with the landbank dropping below [the required] seven years in 2020"?

DCC starts by saying that the LAA has "demonstrated that there is a correlation between land-won aggregate sales and housing completions in Devon over the past ten years" 4.2.2.

That’s hardly surprising for land-won aggregates you might think, but for sand and gravel the link appears more tenuous, given that while housing starts have bounced back from the recession, Devon’s sand and gravel sales continue to fall; given that in 2016, when housing starts hit a 9-year high, Devon's sand and gravel sales fell 14%.

But DCC has looked in its crystal ball. It has ignored headlines such as "A recession is 'almost inevitable'...", and says "the next ten years are forecast to see significantly higher levels of house building together with other infrastructure development" 4.2.2, and thinks that:
it is feasible to ‘stress test’ the capacity of Devon’s landbanks of land-won aggregates to cope with increased sales that mirror the predicted housing trajectory over the next ten years. This test has used two scenarios whereby, for the ten years to 2026, land-won aggregate sales follow either the ten year averages given in Table 9 [sic] or the forecast housing trajectory illustrated in Figure 9. 4.2.4
The bottom line of this stress test is that "the housing trajectory scenario would see the sand and gravel landbank exhausted by the end of 2026, with the landbank dropping below seven years in 2020" 4.2.5.

Amazing. But all this should be taken with a huge pinch of reality:

For a start, DCC has mis-calculated. As shown below, even using this fantasy scenario, the landbank in years as defined by the NPPF - "reserves" divided by "10yr average" - wouldn’t fall below 7 years until 2021, even with an inconceivable quantum leap in demand.

Secondly, "the average annual predicted sand and gravel sales in the housing trajectory scenario (0.705Mt)" 4.2.8, is a staggering 51% higher than sales in 2016 - and this is the year, as previously noted, that housing starts already sit at a 9-year high.

And thirdly, even DCC recognises:
A note of caution should be attached to predictions for future rates of house building, as experience shows that these may not be realised. In 2008, the Draft Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West identified an annual average housing requirement for Devon of 6,960 for the period 2006 to 2016, which exceeds by 71% the house completions achieved over the last ten years. 4.1.4
So, given that our council tax pays for these pie in the sky forecasts, is this 'stress test' of any use at all?

Or is it just a way of trying to help a certain aggregates company justify a planning application to quarry a small greenfield site in East Devon when there’s already 13 years of permitted sand and gravel reserves?

Friday, 14 July 2017

AI’s modus operandi

Many will be surprised to learn that it wouldn’t be Aggregate Industries' personnel rolling up their sleeves and quarrying Straitgate Farm. According to the company:

Contractors would haul any material off site.
Contractors would be engaged for soil stripping, earthworks and restoration.
And contractors are expected to be brought in to extract any sand and gravel.

It’s AI’s hard-nosed modus operandi: screwing down costs now it's part of the lean mean LafargeHolcim money counting machine, as workers facing the sack at AI’s Glensanda superquarry are finding out:
“They are simply sticking two fingers up at the regulations and the hard-working employees formerly of Hargreaves. This is a terrible time for GMB Scotland members working at that quarry.”
Glensanda has cropped up on this blog before. Material from the quarry is even shipped to Devon.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

When quarries come too close to people…

Residents in the area have complained for years about the dust. Two independent tests earlier this year found the dust contained high concentrations of crystalline silica, which could cause lung cancer and silicosis, an irreversible disease, over a long period.
"It is like sandpaper in my eyes."
Christchurch's city plan has no requirement for setback distances from quarries, but the Ministry for the Environment's good practice guidelines recommend a setback distance of 500 metres from those containing crystalline silica.
The quarry... was now within 90 metres of one house and 150m from several others.
At Straitgate Farm, in first world Devon, set back distances of 100m seem to be acceptable.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

AI appoints new head of Aggregates division, and other news

Aggregate Industries has appointed Mike Pearce as managing director of its Aggregates division. Mr Pearce will apparently focus on "innovation, customer service, health and safety and sustainability." 

Indeed, AI's PR machine states that Mr Pearce:
has a responsibility to ensure the business acts responsibly and sustainably in each and every one of the communities that it is part of.
In which case he should have a good look at what his company is trying to get away with at Straitgate Farm. And ask himself whether a polluting, climate-unfriendly, multi-million mile haulage plan for Devon is either responsible or sustainable.

Obviously, AI hasn’t set the bar very high in the sustainability department, and yet, according to a new survey, sustainability will define leading firms over the next decade.
It is essential that companies address sustainability throughout their business operations and make it core to the way they do business
Meanwhile, in other news, the Serious Fraud Office has launched an investigation into Amec Foster Wheeler - AI’s water consultants.

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.

AI's been using asphalt plant without permission since 2014... and still drags its feet

The original planning permission for this plant was time-limited:
upon completion of the mineral working at the mineral site, the plant hereby approved shall be removed and the area restored the interests of visual amenity.
Last May, AI submitted a planning application to retain the plant. In February of this year, DCC advised:
the deadline date for the determination of this application has been extended to the 7th March 2017 in order to allow further discussions and consideration of biodiversity off setting which may be required as a result of the land occupied by the asphalt plant not being restored for the benefit of nature conservation, as originally envisaged
AI is still dragging its feet on this, and DCC has now arranged another extension:
a further extension to September 29th 2017 [has been agreed] as the planning agent is still awaiting an ecologist report from AI
But why should the area not be "restored... in the interests of visual amenity"? 

Production of the sand and gravel feedstock for this asphalt plant is no longer carried out at Rockbeare. In fact, for the foreseeable future, aggregate feedstock for this plant will be produced at least 23 miles away up the M5.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Seasonal working scheme for Straitgate can't work as AI describes

Aggregate Industries says that any "excavation [to the Maximum Winter Water Table at Straitgate Farm] will always have at least 1.0m of unsaturated gravels beneath".

For large areas of the site, however, this is impossible.

It throws yet another question mark over AI's plans for Straitgate. The company's Head of Geological Services will apparently refer back to water consultants Amec Foster Wheeler, after the matter was pointed out to him at a meeting last week.

Just to recap, AI’s seasonal working scheme, unlike other local quarry schemes that leave 1m unquarried above the MWWT where groundwater receptors are at risk, relies on groundwater levels falling by at least 1m during the summer months to allow extraction down to the MWWT; DCC wanted to know if such a scheme had even been tried before. AI's Supporting Statement explained:
The resource declared assumes a working base that coincides with, and never drops below the Maximum Winter Water Table (MWWT) modelled by hydrogeological specialists AMEC Foster Wheeler following extensive monitoring and analysis since January 2013. Moreover, the working method ensures that the floor of the excavation will always have at least 1.0m of unsaturated gravels beneath. 2.4.7 
But such a working method could ensure no such thing.

Firstly, the MWWT was derived from just a handful of 'maximum' water levels, which may or may not actually be maximums. As Dr Helen Rutter said in her report:
This surface is only a model of reality, and may not represent actual groundwater levels across the site...
The steep hydraulic gradient combined with limited monitoring, in my opinion, is likely to result in errors in the actual depth to maximum groundwater across the site.
The accuracy of the maximum winter water level grid may benefit from additional piezometers...
It will, however, be 12 months or more before any useful information can be drawn from these.

But, crucially, groundwater levels at three of the older piezometers do not fall by 1m over the year. In fact, the difference between the maximum and minimum values over the various years of monitoring is just 24cm for PZ01, 42cm for PZ05 and 40cm for PZ2016/001. It is therefore impossible for quarrying down to the MWWT in these areas to "always have at least 1.0m of unsaturated gravels beneath".

Again, this point was picked up by Dr Helen Rutter, who said:
Groundwater levels may fluctuate by less than a metre across the intended deepening area, raising questions as to the practicality of the proposal in terms of maintaining a one metre separation between excavation and the water table.
All of this obviously affects the amount of resource available. 

AI produced a document for last year's Minerals Plan Examination - XD28 Straitgate Farm Resource Statement May 2016 - to convince the Planning Inspector that the company really could lay its hand on 1.2 million tonnes. It again claimed:

The resource declared assumes a working base that coincides with, and never drops below the maximum recorded winter water table... these levels will only be progressed during summer months when the water table is at least 1m below the said modelled surface thus maintaining a minimum 1m buffer zone.
But the Inspector was misled. The document boasted that "Calculations have been undertaken by Chartered Geologists", and yet a 1m buffer zone could obviously not be maintained "below the said modelled surface".

AI would therefore be unable to extract 1.2 million tonnes, even by using this unorthodox scheme. PZ05 and PZ2016/001 are towards the middle of the site - shown on the map below. Losing say 60cm depth of resource across 25ha would equate to some 240,000 tonnes (0.6m x 25ha x 10,000m x 2/m3 less 20% waste) - reducing the size of any benefit that must be balanced against the proposal's considerable harm.

Of course, it may be that AI knew this this all along, and had no intention to "always have at least 1.0m of unsaturated gravels beneath" where it quarried. After all, who else would know?

Who else would know - until drinking water supplies became impaired or properties became flooded?

Plans to install piezometers at Penslade

Last year, an Aggregate Industries spokesman confidently told the Venn Ottery Quarry Liaison Meeting:
Can the applicant inform the MPA regarding the likely timescale for developing the Penslade resource? 8.3
something's obviously changed.

Indeed, at a meeting last week, AI's Head of Geological Services confirmed that budgets are now in place to install piezometers at Penslade - the other Preferred Area for sand and gravel in DCC’s newly adopted Minerals Plan.

At least 12 months of groundwater data would be needed before any planning application. The site is identified as having up to 8 million tonnes of resource, and is 23 miles closer to where AI wants to process Straitgate Farm material.

Monday, 26 June 2017

What’s AI doing to improve truck safety?

In 2015, CEMEX UK became:
the first company in the country to own and operate the new Econic tipper, designed by Mercedes-Benz and providing the driver with an unrivalled field of vision helping to protect vulnerable road users.
In 2017, CEMEX continues to add Econic tippers to its fleet; as it should do.
Pedestrians and cyclists continue to be killed by HGVs at an alarming rate.

Other operators have also deployed the Econic tipper, not only in London.

But - if you Google "econic truck" AND "aggregate industries" you’ll be disappointed. AI use contract hauliers. It’s unclear what new measures, if any, are being stipulated by Aggregate Industries to make their contractors' HGVs safer for vulnerable road users.

Decline in Britain's dormouse population far more rapid than previously thought

New research from Exeter University - widely reported in the national press - concludes that, despite being protected, dormouse numbers have plummeted 72% between 1993 and 2014, and the species is in danger of extinction:
An urgent appraisal of dormouse conservation is required to ensure the species’ favourable conservation status.
The People’s Trust for Endangered Species which runs the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme, and who has also 'strongly objected' to Aggregate Industries' Straitgate Farm application, has called for more action:
The declines highlighted in this paper are alarming and there is an urgent need to review conservation of hazel dormice to protect this much-loved species.

Whilst AI are planning to grub up 2km of dormouse habitat in Devon, the PTES, in conjunction with other parties including Paignton Zoo, is actively working to boost numbers; this article describes one example.

Monday, 19 June 2017

“We welcome birdwatchers to our quarry…”

... says an Aggregate Industries' quarry manager in Staffordshire. In fact, so long as they stop wandering off the footpaths, "we ask birdwatchers to share their sightings and any logs of the species found":
Aggregate Industries operate both quarries and have claimed that the sand and gravel produced from the quarries create perfect habitats for wildlife, especially birds.
At Straitgate Farm, on the other hand, AI would rather not draw your attention to the birds that would be attracted to the water and wet grasslands left in perpetuity from any sand and gravel quarrying - given that it’s directly - just 195m - beneath an international flight path.

Moreover, rather than any signs welcoming birdwatchers and encouraging them to "share their sightings", there would instead be an altogether less-friendly Wildlife Habitat Management Plan which could lead to the "culling of wildlife".

Of course, it's another one of those issues that DCC will have to add to the planning balance;

weighing up the positives of the scheme...  against the ever expanding list of negatives:

Monday, 12 June 2017

Just how many products can a mobile processing plant produce?

Aggregate Industries wants to take any material it wins from Straitgate to Hillhead to be processed - not with fixed plant, but with mobile plant similar to that above. In its Reg22 request, DCC wants to know:
It is understood that the mobile processing plant installed at Hillhead Quarry is incapable of maintaining the product range offered by the Blackhill Plant. If the resource at Straitgate and its potential product range is economically important then can the applicant explain 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? 8.4
Who wouldn't be surprised if AI came back with some riposte about the wonders of modern mobile processing plants, and about just how many products state-of-the-art equipment can now produce? Which is why this recent article, "Little Paxton Quarry brought back to life", is interesting. It tells how one of AI’s sand and gravel quarries in Cambridgeshire has lain dormant for the past six years, until modern mobile processing plant was brought in. It tells how:
Having been operational for eight months, the plant is currently processing up to 200 tonnes/h to produce +75mm, 75–40mm, 40–20mm, 20–10mm and 20–5mm products, as and when required, as well as soft and sharp sands.
In other words, AI’s modern plant in Cambridgeshire can produce not "14 different finished products" but six - which backs what AI has said about Straitgate all along, that "mobile processing plant would severely restrict the output and product range".

So, let’s get this straight: AI proposes to haul Straitgate material an unsustainable 23 miles - 2.5 HGV million miles in total - to a location that’s further away from its target market - adding another million HGV miles or so - to a mobile plant producing a restricted range of products, a plant that can’t make the best or most sustainable use of "this diminishing resource".

Surely this can’t be the same company that crows:

Surely this can’t be what Devon’s newly adopted Minerals Plan had in mind when it promised:

... a Plan that apparently "emphasises the need to conserve mineral resources for future generations", not squander "this diminishing resource" at the earliest opportunity.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017


After DCC’s Reg22 Request and the Environment Agency’s objection, Aggregate Industries has spent the last month running around trying to address the multitude of issues that have been raised in the company's quest to destroy the ancient fields of an East Devon farm.

Readers can make up their own minds why Straitgate Farm, a relatively small site, should still be causing this multinational so much trouble after all these years. Perhaps, as we’ve said all along, the site should simply not be quarried.

Whatever the reason, AI has assured DCC that a response to its Reg22 Request and other matters will be produced by the end of this month, which will then be subject to yet another round of consultation. AI is working towards determination at the DMC meeting of 6 September. However, bear in mind that previous assurances AI has made on dates for Straitgate have rarely been met.

On the issue of water, and following a meeting last month between AI and the EA, the company will this week* embark on yet another round of borehole drilling and piezometer installation to monitor groundwater levels at additional locations. You might have thought that for this relatively small site, deciding where to put a few boreholes would have been a simple matter for AI’s experts - but apparently not. Six boreholes were drilled in 2012. Less than a year later, it was decided that a further five were needed. Amec, AI’s consultants, then helpfully highlighted that there was "no piezometer in the centre of the site" and another two were then installed last year. And this week, contractors will drill and install another five piezometers, this time "around the N/NW perimeter of the site." Three existing piezometers will also be replaced. If AI had simply assured the EA that it would leave the typical 1m unquarried buffer above the maximum water table, it surely wouldn’t be in this mess.

On the issue of ecology and mitigation planting, DCC’s planning and ecology officers met with AI at Straitgate last week. It’s likely that AI has been persuaded to modify the extraction area to reduce the amount of hedgerow lost; something we suggested in our response. Extra standoffs from trees and hedgerows for soil storage are also likely to be agreed. New dormouse and bat surveys are now underway in preparation for AI attempting to secure licences from Natural England.

On the issue of access, AI has apparently resurveyed Birdcage Lane and has produced new draft plans magically showing that two-way HGV traffic can enter and exit the Exeter Road junction within the existing confines of this tiny lane - without the need for third party land. It’s anybody’s guess quite how that’s been achieved.

On the issue of bovine movements across the B3174, AI was at Straitgate this week trying to work out how 150 displaced cows could cross the busy Exeter Road - without bridge, underpass or flashing warning lights - four times a day to new pasture - closing the road for around 20 minutes at a time.

This point alone makes the scheme unworkable. The Exeter Road is the main road into and out of Ottery St Mary. Apart from the obvious safety implications of vehicles, and aggregate HGVs, backing up towards the brow of a hill, AI will also need to explain to the ever growing population of Ottery St Mary why they should face such delays on their drive to and from work and school each day.

And all this to allow the company to truck sand and gravel 23 miles up the M5 for mobile processing.

If AI’s scheme didn’t look like a joke before, it certainly does now.

*Edit: Drilling now due to commence 12.6.17

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

DCC wants to know if AI’s seasonal working scheme has ever been tried before

The Devon Minerals Plan states that "any proposal [for Straitgate Farm] should include provision for alternative supply in the event of derogation of private water supplies resulting from mineral development"; indeed, it was a fact recognised in Amec’s water report.

However, as we mentioned in Amec’s water report has been whitewashed, and despite Aggregate Industries addressing this in the last application, the company has now fallen silent on the matter.

Full detail should be provided including proposals for either a bond or legal agreement dealing with this matter. 2.8
They have also asked that:
information should be provided on the provision of alternative water supplies to mitigate any unforeseen adverse effects of the quarrying operation on the hydrology of the downstream County Wildlife Sites at Cadhay Wood and Cadhay Bog. 2.8
It will be interesting to see what AI comes up with for that one; Cadhay Bog is shown in the photo below.

But DCC has raised another matter connected to this subject. It wants to know whether AI’s seasonal working scheme - the one that puts the drinking water supplies of 100 people at risk - has actually been tried before; whether, in fact, it should be considered “novel”:
The applicant is requested to provide information on other sites either in their control or operated by another company where the proposed working technique is used successfully. Reason: The MPA will wish to consider whether the proposed working technique is a “novel approach” as set out in the NPPF Paragraph: 048 Reference ID: 27-048-20140306 in respect of the requirements for guarantees on the amelioration of impacts on local water supplies should there be any technical failure. 8.5
For those reliant on the site for their private water, this is what Paragraph 48 says:
When is a financial guarantee justified?
A financial guarantee to cover restoration and aftercare costs will normally only be justified in exceptional cases. Such cases, include:
where a novel approach or technique is to be used, but the minerals planning authority considers it is justifiable to give permission for the development...

Another quarry company up to no good?

Wildlife police are probing claims that a protected birds’ nest was deliberately destroyed at a Perthshire quarry.
Concerned residents at Blackford raised the alarm after a known roost for rare sand martins disappeared near Milton of Panholes.
The nest is on land which is earmarked for a new quarrying operation.
It is illegal to destroy, damage, take, obstruct or interfere with any wild bird nest while it is being built or in use. The penalties can be up to a maximum £5,000 fine and/or six months’ jail.
RSPB Scotland has also raised concerns to planning officers that there was no mention of the sand martin colony in paperwork submitted to the local authority.
Photo evidence of the birds’ nest has been passed to officers.
It wouldn't be the first time that sand martins have been harmed at quarry sites:

In 2006, the owner of another quarry in Perthshire was fined £400 for killing up to 40 young sand martins after bulldozing their colony.

In 2005, a quarry company was fined £3,000 after pleading guilty to the destruction of 20 sand martin nests at a quarry in Cumbria.

In 2003, an assistant quarry manager was fined £6,000 for deliberately destroying 30 sand martin nests at a quarry near Hereford.

Friday, 26 May 2017

“Building firms need to start treating diesel emissions in the same way as asbestos”

Poor air quality, with diesel the biggest culprit, is now thought to be the cause of 40,000 deaths in the UK each year.
But while cars and lorries have attracted most attention, less reported is the contribution of other polluters to the problem, particularly construction sites.
According to the most detailed air-quality study in the UK, the London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, construction sites are responsible for approximately 7.5% of damaging nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, 8% of large particle emissions (PM10) and 14.5% of emissions of the most dangerous fine particles (PM2.5).
While a small amount of this (about 1%) is dust from site activities like demolition, the vast majority comes from the thousands of diesel diggers, generators and other machines operating on sites.
Yet this machinery is not held to the same emissions standards as on-road vehicles. What’s more, its proportionate impact will only get higher as on-road emissions drop, according to Daniel Marsh, King’s College London academic and project manager for the London Low Emission Construction Partnership.
So what are the chances the industry can improve?
Given the construction industry’s questionable history with asbestos, which wasn’t regulated until 1983 or completely banned until 1999 – almost 40 years after the cancer link was proven – some are sceptical. In 2005, the Health and Safety Executive found that each year more than 230 construction workers die from cancers caused by exposure to diesel fumes, a figure it hasn’t since updated, even though more is now known about diesel’s noxious effects.
Increased awareness within the industry itself may help. At least one online community for UK builders warns “Construction firms to be sued over diesel cancer!”:
The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health stated: “in Britain, over 650 people a year die of lung or bladder cancer as a result of being exposed to diesel exhaust fumes at work. About 800 new cases of cancer linked to diesel exhaust exposure are registered each year.”

“Child Labour in the Supply Chain of LafargeHolcim in Uganda: Unresolved Issues”

More revelations about the company that would ultimately benefit from any quarrying at Straitgate Farm.

The results of an investigation into child labour in the supply chain of Hima Cement Limited, a subsidiary of LafargeHolcim in Uganda, have been released. This is the press release:
For more than 10 years, LafargeHolcim and its suppliers benefitted from child labour among artisanal miners who supplied raw materials (specifically pozzolana, a volcanic rock) to the company in Uganda. Following a public scandal, including the publication of an article in the newspaper Le Monde in April 2016, LafargeHolcim stopped buying with artisanal miners and decided to work only with mechanised mines. Twerwaneho Listeners’ Club (TLC), based in Fort Portal (Uganda) partnered with Bread for All (BFA), based in Bern (Switzerland), to carry out an investigation following this scandal.
Their full report can be found here.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Devon sand and gravel sales down 14% in 2016

Whilst sand and gravel sales across the UK were up 2% in 2016 (see below), in Devon they were down 14% - from 542,000 tonnes in 2015 to 467,000 tonnes in 2016.

According to DCC, Devon's sand and gravel reserves (material already with permission to be extracted) stood at 7.04 million tonnes at the end of 2016. This provides a landbank of 13.4 years, using the 10 year average sales figure of 527,000 tonnes. The newly adopted Devon Minerals Plan runs a further 17 years until 2033. There is now therefore a potential shortfall of only (17 x 0.527) - 7.04 = 1.9 million tonnes.

Two Preferred Areas for sand and gravel are allocated in the Minerals Plan. Straitgate is identified as having up to 1.2 million tonnes - if no unquarried buffer is maintained above the maximum water table to protect water supplies; Penslade is identified as having up to 8 million tonnes. Both sites are owned by Aggregate Industries. The Regulation 22 Request for Straitgate Farm asks:
Can the applicant inform the MPA regarding the likely timescale for developing the Penslade resource? 8.3