Thursday, 5 February 2015

Why should local people believe AI this time?

Aggregate Industries has said lots of things over the years. It nows tells us, in its Scoping Request, that:
Subject to planning consent, it is therefore proposed that mineral processing from Straitgate Farm would take place initially at Blackhill Quarry for a period of approximately 4-5 years until the end of 2021. Sand and gravel which may then be potentially worked from the “wet working option” would be processed at Rockbeare.
Blackhill, of course, was meant to be restored years ago. It’s now an isolated sand and gravel processing factory sitting in an AONB, adjacent to areas of European importance to nature, 8 miles from Straitgate. AI’s unsustainable plans would generate a million HGV miles on Devon’s roads over 5 years.

Can we take AI’s new plans at face value, or should we instead read:
We have no intention of processing at Rockbeare. Holcim, our Swiss paymasters, won’t expense the move. If we did ever win permission for “wet working” at Straitgate, we would apply to extend permission for Blackhill again. DCC has given permission before, and before, and before, and we expect them to do so indefinitely.
Are we being disingenuous? Let’s see what Aggregate Industries has told people in the past:

…[Blackhill Quarry] would close completely after the application area was excavated, because the quarry site is limited by the Special Protection Area, candidate Special Area of Conservation and other landscape designations.
It is estimated that winning and working of mineral within the Thorntree area will be completed in late 2009. At this point, the processing plant will be dismantled and removed from site, leaving only the weighbridge and stock piles operation whilst stock is depleted.
3.6.1 It is anticipated that importation and processing operations will take place over a period of approximately 5-6 years based upon predicted sales… Upon cessation of processing operations it is anticipated that final restoration would be completed within 12 to 18 months.
Whilst it was making claims about Blackhill, AI was also making claims about Rockbeare. It may not want to use Rockbeare for processing Straitgate material now, but in 2003 it was a different story:
It is this Company’s view that there is an inextricable link between Straitgate Farm and the Rockbeare Minerals Working Area... It is the Company’s intention to transfer [Blackhill] plant to Rockbeare as soon as working is completed at Blackhill... Working the reserve at Straitgate Farm initially and possibly wholly through our existing mineral site at Rockbeare we believe is both efficient and has environmental benefits.

AI is in the business of winning permissions. It will say whatever it thinks it needs to, as demonstrated above, and local people will rightly assign little weight to any claims it makes about the future.

The truth is, if AI had moved to Rockbeare when quarrying at Thorn Tree Plantation had finished, and had not been so profit-hungry, so short-sighted, it could have used the site to process both Venn Ottery and Marshbroadmoor material, covering moving costs, saving hundreds of thousands of polluting miles on Devon roads, and now be in the right place should it win Straitgate. That it didn’t is the company’s problem, and not one for which local people or Woodbury Common should now pay the price.