Monday, 10 December 2012

Could DCC ever call an end to "Mineral Madness"?

Whilst DCC's Local Aggregate Assessment (LAA) seems a more balanced document than many of the past, with a comprehensive overview of Devon's aggregates market, in the end actions and allocations of Preferred Sites will speak louder than words. Nevertheless there are signs, possibly, that DCC has listened to the representations made at the meeting on 26 April and in the public  consultation on the issue of need. In the LAA for example:

  • Devon has the capacity to support increased production of secondary and recycled aggregates
  • there is potential for increased substitution between the different types of aggregate, including the use of crushed rock fractions instead of sand and gravel
  • during the later part of the period to 2031 covered by the LAA, some of the sand and gravel supply previously delivered from Devon will be met from Somerset
  • indicating a potential need for this Plan to provide for further sand and gravel resources if the minimum landbank of seven years is to be maintained to 2031, subject to monitoring through future iterations of the LAA (our emphasis)
  • A more appropriate method is the use of a weighted ten year average, with greater emphasis given to the figures in later years than those earlier in the ten year period

On the flip-side, the LAA points out that:

  • [the] Minerals Plan will need to consider the relationship between the location of the reserves making up the landbank and the spatial pattern of working to be pursued
  • it would be unwise to assume that full substitution of one resource by another is feasible, or always desirable, as technical requirements may constrain this
  • Information from the minerals industry [Devon Stone Federation (2012)] highlights the particular qualities of the Pebble Beds resource

So whilst DCC's position may have shifted, it might only be towards a more balanced discussion, and it remains to be seen how the Council will support increased substitution by secondary, recycled and crushed rock fines, and allow for this in its forecast shortfall for sand and gravel. It is nonetheless a welcome indication of local people having some small influence in Devon's corridors of power, but not enough to become complacent. The irreparable loss of Devon farmland is at stake, and DCC has a long way to go before it embarks on a campaign on behalf of its electorate, as Staffordshire County Council did in 2010 by calling to end "Mineral Madness", prompting a "new allocation system [resulting in] ten million tonnes less quarrying over the next decade across the county".