Saturday, 1 December 2012

A few facts learnt from AI's week at Straitgate Farm

Digging test pits to assess the suitability of the gravel, and drilling boreholes to monitor groundwater levels, marks the start of a 12-18 month period of data-gathering by AI about the Straitgate Farm site. Consultants will be instructed to investigate biodiversity, highways, and hydrogeology. In 2014, AI hopes to be in a position to apply for planning permission, subject to the information collected showing no 'showstoppers'. AI is currently not interested in the Penslade site at Uffculme for sand and gravel.

Eight test pits were dug, providing almost 400 tonnes of sand and gravel to be processed in AI's plant at Blackhill. The Environment Agency visited the site to check on proceedings. No archaeology of note was found. The excavator made light work of the 6-7m deep pits, but the 6-wheel-drive haul truck frequently needed its help after becoming embedded in the wet muddy ground. The geology showed smaller pebbles than at Venn Ottery, but size distribution and the quality of the material will be assessed in due course in AI laboratories. A proportion of the sand and gravel from the test pits will be made into concrete blocks for strength analysis, and to determine the most efficient blends of gravel/sand/cement. Results are due around February 2013. There was more overburden than expected in a number of pits, up to 4 metres, or even more in places. Boreholes for six groundwater monitoring stations will have been drilled by next week, 3 more than originally planned. Data on groundwater levels will be collected over an 18 month period.