Monday, 10 November 2014


Somerset’s Minerals Plan is at a much more advanced stage than Devon’s - after DCC’s prolonged wait for Aggregate Industries to prove the viability of Straitgate Farm. Somerset’s Plan was examined in September, and a list of modifications is now out for consultation from 5 November to 17 December.

Somerset has limited resources of sand and gravel, but is a significant producer of crushed rock. This meets some of its demand for sand and gravel, but otherwise Somerset is supplied by quarries in Dorset, Devon and elsewhere. Of the 378k tonnes of sand and gravel that Somerset 'imported' in 2009, 65% came from Dorset (mainly AI’s Chard Junction Quarry on the Dorset/Somerset border) and, if the numbers are to be believed, less than 10% came from Devon (mainly from Hanson’s Town Farm Quarry at Burlescombe, on the Devon/Somerset border, which produces around 170k tonnes pa) [SCC LAA 2013]. In 2009, Devon 'imported' 93k tonnes of sand and gravel from elsewhere; 'much is likely to have originated' from AI's Chard Junction Quarry [DCC LAA 6.4], which produces around 160k tonnes pa.

SCC LAA 2013
What worries Somerset, and plainly the Planning Inspector, is what happens when these quarries finish:
Somerset County Council is mindful that reserves at the Town Farm site in Devon are expected to run until the early 2020s and that the planning permission at Chard Junction expires in 2023 [SCC Statement Sep'14 5.3]
There is a potential resource of around 400k tonnes near Hanson's plant at Whiteball, near Wellington:
Extraction at Whiteball may be proposed on the Somerset side of the border during the next 10 years, moving from extraction on the Devon side of the border. Whilst this is unlikely to change Somerset’s approach towards sand and gravel policy, it will alter the import/export figures, leading to Somerset exporting to local markets in Devon. [SCC LAA 3.10]
But following public examination, SCC has been prompted to add a new paragraph, 6.78:
Somerset County Council encourages proposals to come forward for sand and gravel extraction that are in accordance with relevant policies in the Development Plan and contribute to sub-regional supply. Informed by updates to the Somerset Local Aggregate Assessment, the need for new sources of sand and gravel is anticipated to become more pressing in the early 2020s, notwithstanding there may be benefits of proposals coming forward more quickly. [SCC Statement Sep’14]
If Somerset is now looking for sand and gravel supplies from within its own borders, does this reduce how much Devon needs to allocate in its new Plan? Probably not. SCC said:
It would be premature for the Plan to allocate sites for sand & gravel at this stage, noting the lack of interest from industry in sites for sand and gravel extraction in Somerset (except for interest in the continuation of Whiteball operations) and the lack of information on available resources other than those around the Whiteball operations. [SCC Statement Sep'14 6.9]
And DCC has already recognised the issue. In its latest LAA:
...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 through continued working at Whiteball. [3.25] However, this supply from Somerset will be offset by the likely cessation of supply of sand and gravel from Dorset, as Chard Junction Quarry, located close to the boundary with Devon and supplying materials into the east of the county, is anticipated to cease working in 2022/23. [3.26]
From a strategic point of view, this likely cessation of supply of sand and gravel from Dorset into the east of the county is probably another reason why Straitgate is so important to AI.