Thursday, 8 September 2016

AI's plans are still up in the air

We are now into September, but it's unlikely that a revised planning application from Aggregate Industries for Straitgate Farm will land on Devon County Council's desk any time soon; AI’s plans for "essentially the same development" have gone awry.

Why? DCC has again underlined that it will not support Blackhill being extended beyond the end of 2016, to process any material from Straitgate, which is good news for Woodbury Common and all those who live in Woodbury and along the B3180.

Since AI has given up on the alternative of processing at Rockbeare you would be forgiven for thinking that must be the end of it. But no. Unbelievably, as mooted at the Venn Ottery Liaison Meeting, AI is now considering processing Straitgate material at Hillhead - some 23 miles away - an astonishing 2.5 million HGV miles in total - equivalent to driving around the earth 100 times - equivalent to almost 4000 tonnes of CO2 - equivalent to 1% of AI's total annual process emissions; AI has obviously no thought for sustainability, climate change, air pollution, the environment, even the NPPF:
To support the move to a low carbon future, local planning authorities should plan for new development in locations and ways which reduce greenhouse gas emissions
And AI certainly has no thought for DCC's new Minerals Plan:
Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change is a key consideration and statutory duty for the Devon Minerals Plan, and will be a cross-cutting theme for the Strategy. 2.2.4
AI already has millions of tonnes of sand and gravel resources at Hillhead. It therefore makes a mockery of any strategic thinking in the Minerals Plan; apparently the reason why the County needed both south (Straitgate) and north (Penslade, near Hillhead, Uffculme) sites:
Maintaining the production of sand and gravel from the southern and northern parts of the Pebble Beds is also important in minimising transportation distances to the main markets in Devon and adjoining areas in accordance with Objective 1 and Policy M1. 5.4.8
Spatial Strategy (Policy M1) ensures that the distances that minerals are transported by road are minimised 3.4.7
This spatial pattern will also minimise the contribution of mineral development to climate change. 2.5.3

If Penslade is not on the cards for another 10-12 years (again, from the Venn Ottery Liaison Meeting) it's likely that AI would want to extract material from Straitgate on a campaign basis - during the summer months when groundwater levels are lower - somewhere in the order of 100,000 tonnes per year. How this still makes financial sense, with extensive haulage and road junction engineering costs, remains a mystery. Who ever thought that sand and gravel could be so profitable?? Or have the LafargeHolcim bean-counters in Zurich taken their eyes off their free-spending Devon colleagues?

On the site access front, it now looks likely that the proposed entrance at Little Straitgate will be ruled out on safety grounds. AI is running out of options. However, following the recent meeting, Hi-vis jackets out in force, an AI surveyor was out measuring up along Birdcage Lane this week. How muddy lumbering 44-tonne HGVs pulling out from this lane, some 60m along from Little Straitgate, won't present overtaking and fast-moving cars on the dangerous B3174 with exactly same safety issues is unclear. How this tiny lane can accommodate two-way HGV traffic with pavement facilities to protect pedestrians, including from adjoining public footpaths, is also unclear; no doubt AI has another cunning plan.