Monday, 15 June 2015

Can AI demonstrate ‘exceptional circumstances’ to justify the use of an AONB to process sand and gravel, and not Rockbeare or another industrial location?

Aggregate Industries wants to haul as-dug sand and gravel from Straitgate across Woodbury Common, an area of international importance to nature in an AONB - 1.2 million HGV miles over 5 years - because, it says, it is not able to process the material at Rockbeare, one quarter the distance away.

In recent advice, DCC said:
Given the availability of an alternative location for processing at Rockbeare Hill Quarry (3.5km from Straitgate Farm) with the opportunity to also consider a range of alternative processing locations, it may be difficult for the site promoter to demonstrate the ‘exceptional circumstances’ required for development in the AONB.
We have written about what might represent 'exceptional circumstances' before, but AI claims it has to use the AONB because its derelict industrial site at Rockbeare is too small:
Although the processing plant at Blackhill occupies just over 1 ha in area, and could therefore be accommodated within the Charcon Concrete plant area which is now closed, there is insufficient space elsewhere on the site for the finished product stockpiles. At present AI uses 3.85 ha of land at Blackhill Quarry for stockpiles, an area that would be increased if some stockpiles could not use the old quarry faces to reduce their land take. This area of land is not available at Rockbeare Quarry. 5.35
Which seems odd, because this tool measures the site at over 16 ha:

There are, of course, no 'exceptional circumstances' why AI has to process material in an AONB; in fact, SLR confirms that Blackhill is "the applicant’s preferred option" 5.39, not the applicant’s only option.

What's driving these unsustainable plans is AI's bottom line, and that of its Swiss multinational parent; again, SLR helpfully confirms this by telling us that staying at Blackhill "would enable best use to be made of the investment that has already been made5.39, which is no reason at all to continue to impact a Natura 2000 site or the East Devon AONB.