Monday, 29 October 2012

Jobs - after years of decline that argument no longer has merit

Any application to quarry Straitgate would, no doubt, use the argument of "jobs for local people" - not new jobs, as Aggregate Industries have stated there would not be any, but the safeguarding of jobs.

However, the number of jobs safeguarded would in fact be small - earlier in the year there were just nine employees at Blackhill Quarry, and at-risk Straitgate Farm itself employs four. A modern sand and gravel quarry does not support anywhere near, say, the 230 jobs offered by a tungsten mine.

The jobs argument may have had merit at the Public Inquiry in 1968 to support English China Clay's application to quarry Straitgate, Blackhill, and Colaton Raleigh, but, in those days 41 people worked at Blackhill, and a further 148 at Rockbeare.

Nationally the sand and gravel business has been in decline ever since, and "consolidation through mergers and acquisitions has seen in excess of 5,000 quarrying companies in 1960 reduced to some 200 currently" of which Tarmac, Lafarge, Aggregate Industries, RMC and Hanson now account for over 80% of output. Even over the last 10 years there has been a dramatic fall in employee numbers in sand and gravel, with the UK Minerals Yearbook reporting over 8000 employees in 2001, but under 3000 in 2010. The HSE says the "industry has difficulty attracting and recruiting staff" and "anecdotal evidence suggests an ageing workforce".

The economic ramifications of a Straitgate Quarry on the wider area would be far greater than the immediate loss of the four farm jobs, and the extract from a DCC document below highlights the "Impacts of Mineral Development on the Economy". For Ottery St Mary and surrounding communities it is clear that the "Adverse Impacts" would far outweigh any of the "Opportunities".