Friday, 31 October 2014

Is this what it takes?

Something quite extraordinary happened this week. Lafarge Tarmac walked into the centre of a media storm, after it submitted Hopwas Woods near Tamworth, 50 hectares of ancient woodland, as a preferred site for sand and gravel quarrying for Staffordshires’s Minerals Local Plan. Local people were furious. A massive response erupted both in traditional and on social media; thousands signed online petitions. Let’s trace just how fast things happened:

Lafarge Tarmac have made an initial representation for Hopwas Wood to be included as a preferred site for future mineral extraction.
The scheme for Hopwas Hayes Wood was not included in the original Minerals Local Plan, which was consulted on earlier this year. But additional site options were then submitted by developers following the first draft and consultation with the public began last Friday.
The Woodland Trust has today been informed of the largest threat to a single ancient woodland site in England that the charity has seen in its 42-year history... Lafarge Tarmac is attempting to reap huge profits from the destruction of ancient woodland – an irreplaceable habitat – and we will object to this proposal in the strongest terms.
Ancient woods like Hopwas are nationally important and to destroy them would wipe out hundreds, if not thousands of years’ worth of ecology, history and beauty that can never be replaced.
What we're concerned about is that people are putting profits before the long term importance of the environment for society. 
Following dialogue with stakeholders and partners we have asked Staffordshire County Council to withdraw the Hopwas Woods proposal from the Minerals Local Plan. We pride ourselves on working in harmony with local communities and want to do so at Hopwas.
This is fantastic news for the people of Tamworth and Lichfield that Lafarge Tarmac have seen sense under the weight of public opposition to the plans. We have never seen a reaction like we have had to this story over an industrial plan. Congratulations to everyone who took part in campaigning to save the woods!
You have to ask yourself, what possessed Lafarge Tarmac to put forward such a site? And why they didn’t foresee the negative public response and the possibility of a barrage of damaging publicity? 

Saying that, in the space of a week, Lafarge Tarmac has seen sense. Aggregate Industries, on the other hand, has not. Are we in Ottery St Mary not shouting loud enough? Or is Lafarge Tarmac better at listening to local concerns than AI? If anyone needs reminding why Straitgate Farm should not be a preferred site in Devon’s Minerals Local Plan - see the post below. 

Ottery St Mary's ancient woodland at Cadhay Bog at risk from Aggregate Industries' plans