Saturday, 31 October 2015

And the reason for the delay until 2016?

It's unreal. At this late stage of the application process, Aggregate Industries is still having difficulty with agreeing to leave a 1m standoff of unquarried material above the maximum water table to protect drinking water supplies and stream flows.

DCC asked AI in the middle of October to clarify the subject. Two weeks later, the matter remains unresolved and "will be the subject of a meeting between AI/Amec/the Environment Agency and DCC as Flood Authority in the second week of November".

It’s disgraceful that AI is still not being straight on such a critical issue. It makes a mockery of AI's claims that "the applications were the culmination of three years of careful planning and consideration". The importance of leaving this 1m of unsaturated material has already been acknowledged. AI's ridiculous attitude is even more shameful given that the company proposes no Section 106 to safeguard Cadhay’s water supplies, the subject of an Environment Agency SPZ that stretches across the proposed excavation site.

Since AI is unable to straightforwardly confirm that this 1m would indeed be left unquarried, one can only assume, given the list of attendees, that AI wants to renegotiate the condition and thereby reduce the protection for local peoples' drinking water, the protection for wetland habitats in ancient woodland, and the protection for downstream communities against flooding - the condition confirmed by the EA back in July, the condition detailed in DCC’s draft Minerals Plan, the condition assumed by AI's own hydrogeological consultants:
The proposed quarry at Straitgate Farm would work the mineral dry and to a proposed limit of 1m above the highest predicted water table.
It is difficult to identify if “winter flashiness” is due to reduced unsaturated zone thickness or other factors that affect recharge… Within the proposed development the establishment of a 1m freeboard over and above the highest known water level provides for this eventuality.
In its letter, DCC warned AI:
Given the importance of this point, to you as the proposed operator, and evidently to the MPA and the EA who were both of the understanding that you had agreed to this restriction. I am now asking you to clarify in writing whether you are intending to work to the proposed levels set out in the Amec technical Note to the Policy Team and the EA (and on which their recommendation was clearly based) or whether you wish for the MPA to consider your proposal as working to the highest measured level of the winter water table without the 1m standoff.
You will understand the importance of this point and the need for absolute clarity in your response as it has serious implications for the further progress of this application.
DCC has confirmed that AI's response will be posted on the website with the application documentation, if and when received.

Environment Agency