Monday, 26 November 2012

No introductions in AI's first formal communication with Straitgate locals

AI's "To whom it may concern" one-working-day-warning letter was sent to us and local councillors, but surprisingly not to those residents most affected. We forwarded the letter, but, as the company's first formal communication to residents around Straitgate, it lacked any message of introduction.

No "Let us introduce ourselves. We are a big friendly Swiss-based multinational building materials giant who has owned Straitgate Farm for some time. We are sorry to inform you that we now want to dig up your neighbourhood."

No "We understand this will cause inconvenience and aggravation, but the hunt for minerals is of national importance and must go on."

No "We know that DCC hasn't finished deciding where its Preferred Sites for sand and gravel quarrying should be, but as an important company we expect planning permission to be a formality."

No "We know the county has enough sand and gravel for many years, but we unfortunately built an expensive processing plant in an area of European importance for wildlife conservation, and we want to keep it running with local material. What we don't want to do is spend millions of pounds building another one in a more appropriate location."

No "We are sorry that you have been suffering from the rain and flooding. We do, nevertheless, propose to take away millions of tonnes of groundwater storage in your area that has the potential to make your situation a whole lot worse. We are sorry for any inconvenience that will be caused."

No "For those with private water supplies, we are sorry about that too, but that's not our problem."

No "You are cordially invited to a drinks evening, where we can get to know each other and you can learn what plans we have for your neighbourhood, details of the the hole that we will create and the developments that will inevitably follow. You will be able to correct things that our consultants have got wrong - we value the input of local people. We find that engaging with locals at an early stage can sometimes help people to accept the damage we cause."

No "We hope we can learn to live together in harmony. Not peace because as you know our operations are noisy, oh, and dusty too. Actually, harmony may be difficult too, with the impact we will have on your views, local roads and tourism, but we do appreciate your cooperation in these matters."

No, there was none of that. Just "Please be advised that we have liaised with Devon County Council's Development Control Department with regard to these proposals which are permitted activities under Part 22, Class A of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 - Mineral Exploration."

Is this the way to endear yourself to a blighted community, when you are the cause of that blight?