Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Bovine movements

Aggregate Industries’ application to quarry Straitgate Farm may contain liberal amounts of bulls**t, but it says nothing about bovine movements.

In AI’s rush to get its hands on the sand and gravel, it has forgotten about the cows - the 180 dairy cows that would need to cross the B3174 Exeter Road four times each day to access replacement pasture if the company's plans went ahead. It’s something that should have been addressed in AI’s Transport Assessment; it’s no surprise - after this, this and this - that this document has been found inadequate again. As we said in our submission:
24. The applicant makes no allowance for continuation of farming at Straitgate, specifically how the dairy herd will continue to access pasture from fields either unworked, not in the applicant’s ownership, or south of the B3174. [211]
211. The applicant proposes restoration to BMV farmland.
212. In order that a viable and working farm at Straitgate is maintained to resume farming in a timely manner post extraction, and that valuable agricultural land is not lost from production, a number of issues need addressing:
213. How would the dairy herd continue to access pasture in fields either unworked or not in the applicant’s ownership on the north and east of the site? What new gateways and breaks in hedgerows would be needed?
214. With less pasture, the dairy herd would need access to more fields, available on the south side of the B3174. What safe provision would be provided for the dairy herd to cross this road four times a day?

AI has already had experience of cattle movements across this road. Here’s a scene from a few years ago when drilling equipment was moved off site. Obviously, 180 cows crossing four times a day and up to 200 HGVs extra a day would seriously impact the functioning of the main road into and out of Ottery.

The issue was raised with the company at the Public Exhibition in November. AI chose to ignore it. The matter has now been referred to DCC Highways.

EDDC’s landscape response recommends refusal

...the site helps to shape the setting of the East Devon AONB... the development would permanently alter the landform of a locally distinctive ridge... the proposals for how the site will be worked offer little mitigation for impacts on the long distance views from East Hill.
EDDC also points out that "topsoil should not be stored in mounds greater than 2m otherwise the chemical composition of the soil will alter". AI wants to store top soil in mounds 3m high; although, even at this height, the company has not allowed enough land to do this, as back-of-the-envelope calculations for our submission show.

EDDC concludes:
Currently the submitted LVIA as part of the Environmental Statement does not sufficiently address... How the site helps to create the setting of the East Devon AONB [etc]... it is recommended that planning permission is refused.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

“LafargeHolcim CEO set to step down over Syria controversy”

LafargeHolcim’s chief executive is set to step down on Monday following an internal investigation into a plant the Swiss-French cement company operated in Syria until September 2014.
His expected exit, which was first reported by France’s Le Figaro, would be another blow for the cement company. Last year its chairman stepped down and the group is under pressure to deliver an ambitious integration programme in weak global markets following the 2015 merger.
Human rights groups in France have filed a lawsuit and have alleged that the company had “business relations” with militant group Isis and may have taken part in financing the group.
LafargeHolcim is the parent company of Aggregate Industries; its dealings in Syria have already been covered on this blog: Welcome to LafargeHolcim, This is the company that is looking to profit from Straitgate Farm and LafargeHolcim ‘in the cross-hairs of French presidential candidates’.

Friday, 21 April 2017

AI has decided to do another dormouse survey

Any hopes Aggregate Industries may have had to start ripping out the 2km of hedgerows at Straitgate Farm this year appear to have been dashed. Next week, some 200 dormouse nest tubes will go up around the site. The tubes will be checked for dormice at various points up until October or November.

All of AI’s wildlife surveys are now out of date - but, for now, the dormouse survey is the only one the company has plans to redo. Why would AI want to check for this European Protected Species again, when apparently it hasn’t yet been asked to by DCC or Natural England? It could be that AI knows it won’t secure a licence from Natural England with an out of date survey. Or it could be for another reason.

AI hasn’t done anywhere near enough timely tree planting for the displaced dormice to have anything worthwhile to move into; trees and hedges have been planted in the wrong place, and Exeter Airport also wants large chunks removed. How can AI get around this? It could simply do more planting, and wait for it to grow. Or it could try something else.

The last time AI was backed into a corner and performed an unscripted wildlife survey, it came up with a population of EPS - in that case GCNs - to prove why it couldn’t process material at Rockbeare. This time it will be hoping for the reverse. It will be hoping that the population of dormice has gone, or is certainly less than was discovered before. It will be hoping that the meagre planting that has already been done will be enough to support any population found.

The last population of dormice was found by consultants SLR in 2013. AI has asked a different contractor to do the job this time.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

AI’s traffic consultant “cannot” give a reason why...

... his traffic count for the B3174 Exeter Road - to support Aggregate Industries' application to quarry Straitgate Farm - bore no relation to reality.

Apparently in January 2016, Aggregate Industries' consultants performed a one week Automatic Traffic Count on the B3174 outside Little Straitgate. No one locally noticed it, which is surprising given the interest in the matter, given that many of us use that road every day, given that just two months previously various members of the public alerted us to an ATC just a short way further down the road.
So, are AI’s B3174 traffic count figures fictitious? We ask the question because we have the results of the ATC commissioned by Highways England, performed 13-26 November 2015. Their results bear NO relation to AI's numbers.
Readers may remember that AI’s DM Mason had previously tried to tell us:
The B3174 Exeter Road carries 4,272 vehicles per day [5-Day Av 24 hour flow] 9.11
But it was nonsense. In reality, Highways England had commissioned an ATC for this road a couple of months earlier that had counted 6,634 in week 1 and 6,936 in week 2.

AI’s consultant was subsequently asked by DCC to comment on this and a number of other issues. His response is here. On the subject of the count, he writes:
It is clear that the traffic count undertaken on my company’s behalf on the B3174 Exeter Road during January, 2016 may be considered somewhat anomalous. I cannot give a reason for this anomalous count. However, I am content to use the data from the two counts undertaken in November, 2016 [sic] for Highways England as the basis for calculating the impacts of the proposed development at Straitgate Farm.
So that’s ok then? Mr Mason is content to now use the real information provided by objectors, to replace his count, provided from where? Thin air? How many times in this debacle over Straitgate Farm has this now happened, that the correct information has had to come from objectors? 

It means that, for a planning application involving over 107,000 HGV movements, AI won't have even supplied their own accurate traffic count for the road that would be most affected.

Of course, almost 18 months on from Highways England's counts, the traffic on the B3174 may now be even higher. Who knows? Certainly not AI or DM Mason.

And then local people are meant to trust the conclusions from AI’s traffic consultant, when he says - for a development putting up to 200 HGV movements per day on Ottery’s busiest road:
This Transport Assessment concludes that the proposed development is acceptable in highway terms. 10.21
If it wasn't so serious, it would be laughable.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

What sort of company is Aggregate Industries…

... to plan to put mobile processing plant 23 miles away from the quarry face?
... to plan to do this for 10-12 years, for 1.5 million tonnes of material - 300,000 of which would be waste?
... to plan to have this plant further away from its target market - entailing another 1 million miles?
... to be planning what it's planning for Straitgate Farm, when there are headlines like this?

Employers have been told they are legally obliged to protect their staff from diesel fumes — and could be sued if workers develop cancer later in life. The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have issued the warnings because diesel fumes have been reclassified as a “grade 1 carcinogen”, meaning they are a “definite cause of cancer”. As many as 500,000 UK jobs are affected.

The cracks took a long time to appear, but when they did they splintered rapidly. In 2012 came the first major evidence of some truly dreadful health impacts. Nitrogen oxides and dioxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) pumped out by diesel exhausts were fingered as silent killers. The studies multiplied. The European Environment Agency found that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from diesel fumes had caused around 71,000 premature deaths across the continent in a single year. It said the UK experienced 11,940 annual premature deaths from NO2, the second highest in Europe behind Italy. The World Health Organisation declared diesel exhaust a carcinogenic, a cause of lung cancer in the same category as asbestos and mustard gas.

A diesel scrappage scheme would be part of a new strategy to improve air quality after Europe said UK proposals did not go far enough.

The effect on wellbeing of exposure to nitrogen dioxide, a gas mostly produced in diesel fumes, is comparable to the toll from losing a job, ending a relationship or the death of a partner, research suggests.

“We are force-feeding the natural world a diet of nutrient-rich junk food and it is having a devastating impact.”

An East Sussex authority has placed a moratorium on any new development within its boundaries that could generate additional traffic following concerns over the sensitivity of a special area of conservation (SAC) to nitrogen dioxide pollution from motor vehicles.

Humans must reduce net greenhouse gases emissions to zero “well before 2040” in order to ensure global warming does not go above 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, scientists have warned after carrying out a study using a sophisticated new computer model. The analysis suggests that efforts to prevent temperatures rising to potentially dangerous levels may have to rely heavily on “negative emissions” technology that is still in its infancy. Commenting on the study, Professor Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre, said the “important” research spelled out the “enormous challenge” ahead.

Greenland ice is a great analogy for the Earth’s climate. It has inertia, meaning it acts slowly but once it gets going, it’s hard to stop. When the Greenland ice sheet starts to go, it may take a while to melt but it is nearly impossible to stop. Predicting how fast this melt will take is interesting from a scientific vantage point but there are also enormous social and economic consequences. Right now, 150 million people live within a meter (3 feet) of today’s sea level.

A new study published in Nature Communications looks at changes in solar activity and carbon dioxide levels over the past 420 million years. The authors found that on our current path, by mid-century humans will be causing the fastest climate change in approximately 50 million years...

Monday, 10 April 2017

LafargeHolcim ‘in the cross-hairs of French presidential candidates’

As the owner of Aggregate Industries, LafargeHolcim - and its billionaire shareholders - would be the ultimate beneficiary of any scheme that destroys an East Devon farm for sand and gravel.

LafargeHolcim has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. So much so, the City of Paris can no longer bring itself to buy the annual 3000 tonnes of sand from the French-Swiss cement conglomerate, to convert a stretch of bank along the Seine into a makeshift beach. The decision to drop the company was in keeping with "the ethical commitments that Parisians can expect from the city":
Last week, as Bloomberg reported in "How Trump's Wall and Hitler Ended Up in French Political Debate", the company was targeted in the French Presidential Debate. The debate's "winner", according to polls, advocated that:
"Accomplices should be punished" said [Jean-Luc Melenchon]. "I find it very strange that the case of Lafarge, a global cement producer which acknowledges having paid IS to continue producing its damned cement, hasn’t been mentioned. Well, this company should be seized by the state. We need to make an example of those who plot with the enemy."
Nathalie Arthaud said 'LafargeHolcim is an example of what’s wrong with capitalism':
"It built the Atlantic wall under Petain and Hitler," she said, referring to the defenses built by Nazi Germany along the coast of continental Europe during the second world war. "Now, we’ve all learned, it’s been doing business with IS, and now, it wants to build the wall between the U.S. and Mexico. It’s clear that these large groups won’t be stopped by a change in regime or a new constitution... The only thing that counts for them is their cash..."
It's something more to bear in mind, whilst DCC decides whether to ignore Objective 1 of its shiny new Minerals Plan - the Plan that was a decade in the making, the Plan that apparently "All mineral development will need to comply with" - and embrace this company's plans to fill our local roads with trucks and 2.5 million miles of diesel pollution.

AI targeted by protesters

In a fortnight of action against the fracking supply chain, protestors have targeted Aggregate Industries' Carnforth quarry in Lancashire:

"We’re up here today because fracking isn’t a playground game. We need to give Aggregate Industries a reason to rethink its position, which is at odds with local democracy."
"Lancashire said no to fracking. We’re asking Aggregate Industries to do the decent thing. Follow the example of other companies in the area. Step away from fracking your neighbours and we’ll gladly come down."

In Colorado, AI “gave mining a bad name”

Quarrying brings concerns wherever it turns up. Promises are made. People are let down.

In Northern Colorado, a concrete company is trying to convince residents of the merits of a new sand and gravel quarry that - just as with Straitgate - is proposed to be worked over some 10-12 years.
Residents are worried about dust, increased traffic, noise and water impacts from the 123-acre site
And they’re reluctant to believe project organizer Loveland Ready-Mix’s promises to mitigate those impacts because they say gravel operations have burned their community before.
“These plans will say, ‘We’re going to use berms and plant vegetation and do all these things,’” said Terry Waters, a Laporte resident who was involved with previous gravel pit opposition efforts. “And they don’t do it.”
At a public meeting, the company representative faced an uphill battle:
“All we can do is try to educate people,” she said. “We don't want to come in and ruin your life and your business. That's not what we're about.”
Residents were "unswayed":
They say they’ve heard those mitigation strategies before -- from Aggregate Industries, a company that mined gravel at the Stegner property just west of North Taft Hill Road about a half-mile south of US 287. Despite complaints from neighbors, the operator performed noisy work on weekends, flooded basements and produced a lot of dust without watering...
Aggregate “gave mining a bad name”...

Monday, 3 April 2017

The decent thing...

... if you are going to include someone else's land in your planning application, is to tell them. More than decent, it's the law. Under Article 13 of The Town and Country Planning Order 2015:
an applicant for planning permission must give requisite notice of the application to any person (other than the applicant) who on the prescribed date is an owner of the land to which the application relates...
Furthermore, the planning application itself must include a certificate showing "owners of any part of the land to which the application relates". Again, it’s the law:

Aggregate Industries has not complied with this. The land to the right of Birdcage Lane, "corner tree to be removed to enable widening" in the photograph above, is owned by a third party. This was confirmed to AI last year. Despite that, the third party was not named on the ownership certificate, and received no notice of the company's planning application for Straitgate Farm.

The land AI requires was purchased over 20 years ago by the current owners; the sales particulars read:

As we posted in You really couldn't make this up, this land is critical for AI's plans:
The widening of Birdcage Lane at Straitgate will provide a safe means of accessing the B3174 Exeter Road... 5.4.10
Birdcage Lane will be widened adjacent to the site access to accommodate turning and travelling vehicles. Birdcage Lane will be widened to 6.5 metres to allow a vehicle to enter the lane from Exeter Road whilst a vehicle is waiting to leave to Exeter Road and to allow vehicles to pass. 7.8
AI is telling DCC that it owns the tree and hedge. The claim is of course utterly absurd, but it shows how desperate the company has become. It wasn't much over a year ago that AI was claiming something similar for another piece of land:
The applicant contends that it has necessary rights over the surface to implement the proposals as presented 8.78
But it didn't, and look how that turned out.