Thursday, 20 October 2016

The absurdity is... Straitgate was never needed for the Minerals Plan

The absurdity of allocating Straitgate Farm in the Devon Minerals Plan is clear for all to see - when 1) you consider that there’s less than a million tonnes of resource at Straitgate (if drinking water supplies are to be protected in line with the Environment Agency’s advice) - and 2) you consider item 56 in the Inspector’s report:
To meet the anticipated shortfall, the Plan identifies two new potential areas of production. These are known as Straitgate Farm and West of Penslade Cross. Potentially, some 9.2 million tonnes would be available from these two sites. I appreciate that this figure is in excess of the requisite 7.7 million tonnes; also that a possible contribution would come from prior extraction. However, a degree of flexibility would be appropriate. I do not find that the provision would be excessive.
In other words - in a Plan running to 2033, a Plan that should be looking towards more sustainable secondary and recycled building materials, a Plan for a county where sand and gravel production has been in decline for the last 25 years - DCC has needlessly allocated an additional 1.5 million tonnes of sand and gravel; more than the total available at Straitgate Farm.

If that's not bad enough, then let's consider sustainability and the fact that Aggregate Industries is now talking about a 50 mile round-trip for each load of as-dug material from Straitgate, taking it all the way to Uffculme for processing; to the area next to Penslade Cross, to the area where the majority of the sand and gravel resource in the Minerals Plan is allocated. Sounds like madness, doesn't it?

Now consider the job of the independent Inspector, as detailed in paragraph 182 of the NPPF:
The Local Plan will be examined by an independent inspector whose role is to assess whether the plan … is sound… namely that it is:
Justified – the plan should be the most appropriate strategy, when considered against the reasonable alternatives, based on proportionate evidence;
How Straitgate, with all its constraints, all its problems with processing and access, could be deemed the most appropriate strategy is unfathomable; laughable.

With hundreds and hundreds of consultation responses comprehensively ignored over the last four years, Aggregate Industries and the other mineral companies may as well have written the Plan themselves.