Wednesday, 31 August 2016

"Nothing more than a sinister attempt... keep the processing plant at Blackhill in use after the current planning application runs out in December 2016.
That’s what one councillor thinks of Aggregate Industries’ planning application DCC/3861/2016 to vary the restoration conditions of Venn Ottery Quarry:
At [a] previous meeting we were told that Venn Ottery would be exhausted by Easter 2016 but still things rumble on... I strongly suspect that this links in with the application to quarry at Straitgate Farm and transport the quarried material to Blackhill.
Another councillor's objection agrees:
I think this is a ploy to continue processing at Blackhill processing plant and to delay restoring both it and Venn Ottery.
As we wrote on 12 August, AI has no permission to process any material (including from Venn Ottery) at Blackhill beyond 31 December. However, the Supporting Statement for the Venn Ottery planning application looks to have other ideas:
1.22 At the beginning of 2016, the remaining saleable reserve of sand and gravel was standing at some 190,000 tonnes. Production in 2016 will be “slowed-up” with production anticipated as being some 145,000 tonnes. This will leave 45,000 saleable tonnes of reserve remaining in the ground, extraction of which will be completed by the end of Quarter 1 2017 ie. by 1st April 2017.
We first raised this matter with the planning officer on 11 August only to be told:
there is no restriction or requirement for material from Venn Ottery quarry to be processed at Blackhill
Which is all well and good, but where would it be processed? We raised this matter with the planning officer again on 17 August, saying that:
We would nevertheless be interested to hear what AI have to say about it; and, if it is not an error, where they would intend to process any material proposed for extraction post-2016. Perhaps you could let us know? The comment [1.22] is particularly interesting, considering their recently granted application for processing 40,000 tonnes of material from Hillhead at Blackhill, for which the justification given was to utilise excess capacity. As well as AI's assurance at the Liaison Meeting that extraction at Venn is due to finish imminently.
The planning officer then recognised that "The application documents didn’t adequately address the intentions for processing intentions between 31 December 2016 – 1 April 2017. I sent an email on 17th August 2016 requesting clarity in this regard from the applicant:"
Could you provide an update to the statement (preferably in a word document so it may be clearly published on the website) explaining intentions for processing between 31 December 2016 – 1 April 2017. If the intention is to stockpile the material on site - this will need to be addressed in an amended plan. If the intention is to transport the material elsewhere - this is required to be referenced.
You can see why many people think this is another ploy to keep Blackhill running longer - to fit in with the delayed planning application for Straitgate; production of Venn Ottery material was apparently "slowed-up" by AI in 2016, only for the company to have the audacity to then say, in trying to claim exceptional circumstances required by the NPPF to operate in an AONB, that it needed to import 40k tonnes from Uffculme or else:
Should materials not be permitted to be imported to the site, this could potentially result in the processing plant at Blackhill Quarry otherwise remaining under-utilised for the remainder of the planning permission
For the sake of a site of European importance to nature, for the sake of the AONB, for the sake of the people in Woodbury and those who live along the B3180, for the sake of all the visitors to Woodbury Common, it's plainly obvious that processing of sand and gravel at Blackhill must come to an end in 2016 and the site restored - as the existing planning conditions state. The Venn Ottery planning application is open for comments until 8 September.

Edit: Since the above post, AI has provided the following update: