Friday, 10 April 2015

And while we’re on the subject of assurances made by AI

Apart from the impact of 44-tonne HGVs pounding up and down the B3180, one of the main issues of contention in Aggregate Industries' 2010 application to process Venn Ottery material at Blackhill Quarry was the height and extent of its stockpiles - the ones sitting in the middle of an AONB, SPA, SAC, SSSI.

We have already established that although DCC recognised that "mineral developments in AONBs must demonstrate that they are in the public interest, and that there is an overriding national need for the development which cannot be reasonably met in some other way”, it chose to ignore an undesignated industrial site two miles closer, for no reason other than the profits of a Swiss multinational.

But it was East Devon AONB that raised the issue of Blackhill's stockpiles, and DCC admitted:
The major impact of the proposal is the visibility of the stockpile areas, particularly for viewpoints from the East Devon Way and other public rights of way. Currently Blackhill Quarry is required to be restored by March 2012, and this proposal would effectively delay the restoration of this part of the site by up to 6 years. 6.13
AI assured the Council that it had a plan:
In terms of the visual impact, the Applicant has agreed to produce an annual stocking plan for Blackhill, with an aim to reducing the stocking areas and hence the visual impacts. In the event that planning permission is granted this could be secured by planning condition. 6.19
A planning condition was indeed added and formed part of the proposal that councillors voted upon:
9. Prior to the commencement of the development the operator shall submit a detailed stocking plan that shall include measures to reduce the quantities of stock held on the site and provide a height limit to the stockpiles. The stocking plan shall be reviewed annually and the development should be carried out in strict accordance with the agreed details, or such alternative details that may and subsequently be agreed in writing by the Mineral Planning Authority. REASON: In the interests of the visual amenity of the area.
Which all sounds well and good. But no "detailed stocking plan" was ever submitted by AI, or asked for by DCC. The development was not carried out "in strict accordance" with any agreed stocking details. The "visual amenity" of the AONB continued to be impacted.

DCC forgot to put Condition 9 on the formal notice. And AI conveniently 'forgot' all about it too.

Something to bear in mind when AI tells people "...we’ve been operating quarries in East Devon for over half a century and working in partnership with the surrounding communities every step of the way." Something to bear in mind when AI says it has a plan. Something to bear in mind when AI asks people later this year to trust it again, with 5 more years of delayed restoration for Woodbury Common.