Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Utter madness - AI's derelict industrial site is 6 miles closer than Woodbury Common

Two planning applications from Aggregate Industries, one to quarry Straitgate Farm, one to process the material on Woodbury Common, are now being checked by DCC and should be uploaded here in the next few days. In summary:

Aggregate Industries wants to to quarry a greenfield site - a productive dairy farm hosting miles of ancient hedgerows, dormice, and spring water for ancient woodland and 100 people - at a time when the county already has millions of tonnes of sand and gravel with planning permission.

Aggregate Industries wants to process this material in the middle of an AONB, in a Natura 2000 site that is threatened by traffic pollution - when the company's old block works site at Rockbeare, shown below, lies empty, derelict and two miles by road from Straitgate, not eight.

It is shameful that Woodbury Common still forms part of AI’s misguided plans for Straitgate. AI should work out its existing reserves, clear up its existing mess and use its existing industrial sites - before being permitted to despoil any more of our precious farmland and internationally designated wildlife sites.

But it’s not just us saying that the alternatives must be properly assessed. Since Woodbury Common is an SPA/SAC, a Natura 2000 site, the EC Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC Article 6.4, enshrined in the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, has something to say about it too:
If, in spite of a negative assessment of the implications for the site and in the absence of alternative solutions, a plan or project must nevertheless be carried out for imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including those of social or economic nature, the Member State shall take all compensatory measures necessary to ensure that the overall coherence of Natura 2000 is protected. It shall inform the Commission of the compensatory measures adopted. 
Where the site concerned hosts a priority natural habitat type and/or a priority species the only considerations which may be raised are those relating to human health or public safety, to beneficial consequences of primary importance for the environment or, further to an opinion from the Commission, to other imperative reasons of overriding public interest. 
In other words, if the planning authority decides there is no alternative to Blackhill - and plainly these photographs show otherwise - then plans, such as AI’s heavy polluting HGVs, that impact a Natura 2000 site, can only proceed for imperative reasons of overriding public interest; "projects or plans that serve only the interests of companies or individuals are not covered by the [imperative reasons of overriding public interest] test". No allowance should be made for excuses such as the one used in 2010 to justify the decision to process Venn Ottery material at Blackhill:
The option to provide fixed plant at Rockbeare has the advantage of the site being outside of the AONB. However, [AI] considered that this would be uneconomical in terms of the investment required due to the limited permitted reserves at Venn Ottery and Marshbroadmoor. [6.17]
DCC must remember that profits of a multinational cement giant are not supposed to enter the equation.