Monday, 1 February 2016

Cozy relationships

It might look to many - from the debacle last Wednesday - that Devon County Council’s Minerals Planning function is joined at the hip with a global cement conglomerate.

Aggregate Industries' planning applications have yet to be determined, but many of the numbers and arguments contained within them have already fallen down on scrutiny; some of these can be found in the draft Minerals Plan.

But it goes further. Take one look at DCC’s 4th Local Aggregates Assessment published late last year. Some of its conclusions are supported by references. When one of those references* - backing the flawed argument for both 'southern' and 'northern' sites because the "proportion and size of gravel decreases from south to north" 2.5.4 - is taken from AI’s own undetermined-catalogue-of-errors planning application for Straitgate, you know you're in trouble.

We’ve already dealt with the issue of Gravel at Hillhead, and the fact that this didn’t stop Hillhead Quarry operating for decades, the fact that this doesn’t stop Hanson working Town Farm Quarry near Burlescombe, the fact that this won't stop AI from applying to quarry Penslade if its application for Straitgate founders, and the fact that this hasn't stopped DCC from relying on Penslade to cover the sand and gravel shortfall indicated in its Minerals Plan.

Indeed, one of the planning applications DCC received last year was the "variation of existing permission at Blackhill Quarry to allow for importation of sand and gravel from Houndaller (Hillhead) Quarry for processing to end of 2016 (awaiting validation)" 2.5.7.

But some people in DCC gave up listening to anybody other than the quarrying industry years ago. Consultation with the public has been a charade. In reality, Devon’s new Minerals Plan has been shaped by the minerals industry, for the minerals industry. Silly of us for thinking it could be any other way.

*SLR Consulting Ltd (2015) Proposed Extraction of Sand & Gravel at Straitgate Farm, Devon and Retention of Quarry Processing Plant at Blackhill Quarry, Woodbury, Devon: Environmental Statement Volume 2. Sheffield: SLR.