Monday, 16 November 2015

How many AI 'suits' does it take to have a meeting with the EA?

No, it’s not the start of a joke. A meeting at the Environment Agency on Thursday saw seven 'suits' turn up from Aggregate Industries and Amec in an effort to explain why it would be a good idea to quarry right down to the water table at Straitgate Farm, and backfill with material not good enough for quarrying.

After three years of preparation, and after a mountain of documents, it’s either an indication of AI’s incompetence or its powers of obfuscation that it's still having to explain such fundamental parts of its application to DCC and statutory bodies alike. Local people would have to prey that AI is better at quarrying than coming clean with the facts.

The result of the meeting with the EA is that a Technical Report is to be produced by Amec and AI over the next 3 weeks, which will be sense-checked by the EA and DCC before another round of formal consultation, probably lasting into the New Year; it’s obviously AI’s way of saying Happy Christmas.

Readers will remember that the EA had previously advised that:
Aggregate Industries have proposed to stop quarrying a metre above the water-table. We expect DCC to make this a condition of any permission that is granted.
Even AI, when it quarried Thorn Tree Plantation on Blackhill, said:
To protect the hydrology of the area it is proposed to cease excavation at 1 metre above the maximum level of the water table Aggregate Industries, ED/01/25/HQ, 2001, Site visit
AI has no such concerns here; after all, it’s only peoples’ drinking water. But AI desperately needs this 1m of resource to make any of its numbers stack up.

Nevertheless, AI's report will have to explain why overburden that’s not good enough for the company to work, the one full of clays, will drain as well as sand and gravel - for local drinking water supplies and to prevent flooding. The EA admits it would not be a good idea to backfill with clayey materials.

AI will no doubt claim that drainage can be maintained, even improved. Quite how so, after it removes the stones and sand for itself, remains to be seen. AI will also need to explain, how the soils, having their guts ripped out of them, will still be "capable of being managed as Best and Most Versatile land" 5.30.

This is AI's soil survey. Regular points across the site were surveyed. C stands for clay