Wednesday, 31 May 2017

DCC wants to know if AI’s seasonal working scheme has ever been tried before

The Devon Minerals Plan states that "any proposal [for Straitgate Farm] should include provision for alternative supply in the event of derogation of private water supplies resulting from mineral development"; indeed, it was a fact recognised in Amec’s water report.

However, as we mentioned in Amec’s water report has been whitewashed, and despite Aggregate Industries addressing this in the last application, the company has now fallen silent on the matter.

Full detail should be provided including proposals for either a bond or legal agreement dealing with this matter. 2.8
They have also asked that:
information should be provided on the provision of alternative water supplies to mitigate any unforeseen adverse effects of the quarrying operation on the hydrology of the downstream County Wildlife Sites at Cadhay Wood and Cadhay Bog. 2.8
It will be interesting to see what AI comes up with for that one; Cadhay Bog is shown in the photo below.

But DCC has raised another matter connected to this subject. It wants to know whether AI’s seasonal working scheme - the one that puts the drinking water supplies of 100 people at risk - has actually been tried before; whether, in fact, it should be considered “novel”:
The applicant is requested to provide information on other sites either in their control or operated by another company where the proposed working technique is used successfully. Reason: The MPA will wish to consider whether the proposed working technique is a “novel approach” as set out in the NPPF Paragraph: 048 Reference ID: 27-048-20140306 in respect of the requirements for guarantees on the amelioration of impacts on local water supplies should there be any technical failure. 8.5
For those reliant on the site for their private water, this is what Paragraph 48 says:
When is a financial guarantee justified?
A financial guarantee to cover restoration and aftercare costs will normally only be justified in exceptional cases. Such cases, include:
where a novel approach or technique is to be used, but the minerals planning authority considers it is justifiable to give permission for the development...

Another quarry company up to no good?

Wildlife police are probing claims that a protected birds’ nest was deliberately destroyed at a Perthshire quarry.
Concerned residents at Blackford raised the alarm after a known roost for rare sand martins disappeared near Milton of Panholes.
The nest is on land which is earmarked for a new quarrying operation.
It is illegal to destroy, damage, take, obstruct or interfere with any wild bird nest while it is being built or in use. The penalties can be up to a maximum £5,000 fine and/or six months’ jail.
RSPB Scotland has also raised concerns to planning officers that there was no mention of the sand martin colony in paperwork submitted to the local authority.
Photo evidence of the birds’ nest has been passed to officers.
It wouldn't be the first time that sand martins have been harmed at quarry sites:

In 2006, the owner of another quarry in Perthshire was fined £400 for killing up to 40 young sand martins after bulldozing their colony.

In 2005, a quarry company was fined £3,000 after pleading guilty to the destruction of 20 sand martin nests at a quarry in Cumbria.

In 2003, an assistant quarry manager was fined £6,000 for deliberately destroying 30 sand martin nests at a quarry near Hereford.

Friday, 26 May 2017

“Building firms need to start treating diesel emissions in the same way as asbestos”

Poor air quality, with diesel the biggest culprit, is now thought to be the cause of 40,000 deaths in the UK each year.
But while cars and lorries have attracted most attention, less reported is the contribution of other polluters to the problem, particularly construction sites.
According to the most detailed air-quality study in the UK, the London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, construction sites are responsible for approximately 7.5% of damaging nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, 8% of large particle emissions (PM10) and 14.5% of emissions of the most dangerous fine particles (PM2.5).
While a small amount of this (about 1%) is dust from site activities like demolition, the vast majority comes from the thousands of diesel diggers, generators and other machines operating on sites.
Yet this machinery is not held to the same emissions standards as on-road vehicles. What’s more, its proportionate impact will only get higher as on-road emissions drop, according to Daniel Marsh, King’s College London academic and project manager for the London Low Emission Construction Partnership.
So what are the chances the industry can improve?
Given the construction industry’s questionable history with asbestos, which wasn’t regulated until 1983 or completely banned until 1999 – almost 40 years after the cancer link was proven – some are sceptical. In 2005, the Health and Safety Executive found that each year more than 230 construction workers die from cancers caused by exposure to diesel fumes, a figure it hasn’t since updated, even though more is now known about diesel’s noxious effects.
Increased awareness within the industry itself may help. At least one online community for UK builders warns “Construction firms to be sued over diesel cancer!”:
The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health stated: “in Britain, over 650 people a year die of lung or bladder cancer as a result of being exposed to diesel exhaust fumes at work. About 800 new cases of cancer linked to diesel exhaust exposure are registered each year.”

“Child Labour in the Supply Chain of LafargeHolcim in Uganda: Unresolved Issues”

More revelations about the company that would ultimately benefit from any quarrying at Straitgate Farm.

The results of an investigation into child labour in the supply chain of Hima Cement Limited, a subsidiary of LafargeHolcim in Uganda, have been released. This is the press release:
For more than 10 years, LafargeHolcim and its suppliers benefitted from child labour among artisanal miners who supplied raw materials (specifically pozzolana, a volcanic rock) to the company in Uganda. Following a public scandal, including the publication of an article in the newspaper Le Monde in April 2016, LafargeHolcim stopped buying with artisanal miners and decided to work only with mechanised mines. Twerwaneho Listeners’ Club (TLC), based in Fort Portal (Uganda) partnered with Bread for All (BFA), based in Bern (Switzerland), to carry out an investigation following this scandal.
Their full report can be found here.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Devon sand and gravel sales down 14% in 2016

Whilst sand and gravel sales across the UK were up 2% in 2016 (see below), in Devon they were down 14% - from 542,000 tonnes in 2015 to 467,000 tonnes in 2016.

According to DCC, Devon's sand and gravel reserves (material already with permission to be extracted) stood at 7.04 million tonnes at the end of 2016. This provides a landbank of 13.4 years, using the 10 year average sales figure of 527,000 tonnes. The newly adopted Devon Minerals Plan runs a further 17 years until 2033. There is now therefore a potential shortfall of only (17 x 0.527) - 7.04 = 1.9 million tonnes.

Two Preferred Areas for sand and gravel are allocated in the Minerals Plan. Straitgate is identified as having up to 1.2 million tonnes - if no unquarried buffer is maintained above the maximum water table to protect water supplies; Penslade is identified as having up to 8 million tonnes. Both sites are owned by Aggregate Industries. The Regulation 22 Request for Straitgate Farm asks:
Can the applicant inform the MPA regarding the likely timescale for developing the Penslade resource? 8.3

Sand and gravel sales across the UK continue to flatline

According to the Mineral Products Association, sales of sand and gravel continue to be at levels little higher than during the recession.

Whilst there may be no shortage of sand in Devon...

... elsewhere in the world it’s a different story, reports The Economist:
A “sand mafia” in India intimidates locals in order to extract and transport the material. In Morocco and the Caribbean, thieves are stripping beaches bare. Even though fully accounting for illegally mined sand is not possible, sand is easily the most mined material in the world. According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), sand and gravel account for up to 85% of everything mined globally each year.
But why is there a shortage, when sand seems so abundant? Desert sand is too smooth, and so cannot be used for most commercial purposes. In any case, the proximity of sand to construction sites is generally important too: because sand is relatively cheap, it tends to be uneconomical to transport across long distances… existing deposits are being mined more quickly than they can be naturally replenished, which is damaging the environment. Dredging causes pollution and harms local biodiversity. Thinning coastlines affect beaches’ capacity to absorb stormy weather.
Fortunately, there are substitutes for sand: asphalt and concrete can be recycled, houses can be built with straw and wood, and mud can be used for reclamation. In rich countries, government policy will encourage a shift towards such substitutes. According to Britain’s Mineral Products Association, for example, nearly a third of all housing material used in Britain in 2014 was recycled.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

“Reduce emissions!”

Exclaims a tweet - from the company planning a 2.5 million mile emissions belching HGV haulage scheme across Devon.

Besides wondering how a passenger train can transport aggregates or ready mix concrete - and help Aggregate Industries “Reduce emissions!” - you have to question the environmental merits of any transport plan coming from a company that thinks it’s a good idea to use mobile sand and gravel processing plant 23 miles away from a quarry face for 10-12 years; a scheme that could cause the same road damage as 17 billion car movements.

To “Reduce emissions!”, processing plants should be as close to the quarry face as possible - using internal haul roads, not public roads. If AI’s forgotten, this is what a haul road looks like.

“Funding a terrorist organization can never be treated as a cost of doing business”

LafargeHolcim, the parent company of Aggregate Industries, continues to be the subject of the world's press following the resignation of its CEO and the funding of terrorists in Syria:

LafargeHolcim’s troubles do not end there. The company has also attracted criticism from Emmanuel Macron, one of the two candidates in the second round of the election, and from other French politicians for saying it was ready to supply cement for Donald Trump’s planned wall along America’s border with Mexico. The giant firm’s market value is stuck at 15% below its level in July 2015, when it began trading, as it struggles to cut costs and generate earnings. The company doubtless hopes that Mr Olsen’s resignation will help to put at least one of its headaches behind it.
Meanwhile, The New York Times warned that:
President Trump or anyone else considering doing business with the company should bear in mind the words of Jeffrey Taylor, a United States attorney in 2007 when Chiquita Brands International pleaded guilty to making payments to a terrorist organization in Colombia. “Funding a terrorist organization,” he said, “can never be treated as a cost of doing business.”

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Just in case the next Prime Minister doesn’t know what to do…

... the Mineral Products Association has highlighted its priorities for the next government.

What a relief to know that in these difficult times - with Brexit, Trump, North Korea, and the need for strong and stable leadership, etc, etc - "the MPA has outlined 6 main priorities, which it believes will help Government deliver continuing prosperity for the UK". Because, yes, deep down, we all know that what the country really needs - to be able to move forward in times such as these - is:
reforming ‘Red Tape’ by improving the operation of the mineral planning system and environmental permitting.
Yes, if only people didn’t scrutinise mineral planning applications so keenly - see post below - the world would be so much better; not for the environment of course, but for the profits of the international conglomerates the MPA represents.

The chief executive of the MPA promises that:
The industry is ready to play its part and has also set out priorities for the sector to ensure future demand is met more sustainably.
Of course, when he says "more sustainably", he's ignoring one MPA member’s cunning plan to haul sand and gravel 2.5 million miles back and forth between Ottery and Uffculme.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

AI’s planning application is in a mess

That much is clear from DCC’s Regulation 22 Request, issued today.

Aggregate Industries' Environmental Statement had crowed:
Save for the access point, the scheme now applied for is very similar to the 2015 scheme and having been through detailed consultation with the first application, the Applicant is extremely confident that it understands and has adequately covered all the likely significant effects of the proposed development. ES Ch1 6.13
But AI's confidence was misplaced. Its application to quarry Straitgate Farm is in a mess. The company has clearly not understood or adequately covered all the likely significant effects.

Following on from the EA’s objection and the LLFA’s objection, DCC has now served the company with a Regulation 22 request for further information on 61 substantive points - ranging from bovine movements to "novel" working techniques. The number of points is quite remarkable when you consider that this is AI’s second attempt at the site, and when you consider just how many years the company has been running around trying to make this work.

Readers may remember that back in July 2015, at the same stage of the last application, a similarly long list of requests was issued. Several months later, the company was forced to pull the application.

As far as DCC is concerned, this request now 'stops the clock' on the current application until such time as the relevant information is supplied. Here are just a couple of the things that DCC wants to know:

On Transportation of material:
8.1 It is noted that current ES does not provide the information on comparative transportation distances and CO2 emissions, and the applicant is requested to explain why the previous view on the unsustainability of Hillhead Quarry as a location for processing materials from Straitgate Farm appears to have changed. Reason: Policy M12 establishes the principle of extraction at Straitgate Farm, but one of the key requirements of supporting Appendix C is that “transportation of extracted materials for processing elsewhere should meet the requirements of Objective 1 and Policy M22 for minimal transportation by road” [Objective 1 also seeks to minimise generation of greenhouse gases].
On Alternatives:
8.4 It is understood that the mobile processing plant installed at Hillhead Quarry is incapable of maintaining the product range offered by the Blackhill Plant. If the resource at Straitgate and its potential product range is economically important then can the applicant explain why this proposal is not premature until such time as there is sufficient processing capacity to deliver the most efficient use of this diminishing resource?

DCC - in its role as Lead Local Flood Authority - also objects

At this stage, we object to this planning application because we do not believe that it satisfactorily conforms to Policy MP24 (Flooding) of Devon County Council's Minerals Plan (2011-2031) which states that proposals for mineral development must not lead to an increased risk of fluvial, surface water or groundwater flooding. The applicant will therefore be required to submit additional information in order to demonstrate that all aspects of the proposed surface water drainage management system have been considered.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

EA objects

The Environment Agency have objected to Aggregate Industries' application to quarry Straitgate Farm:
We object to the planning application, as submitted, because the applicant has not supplied adequate information to demonstrate that the risks posed to groundwater can be satisfactorily managed. We advise that this further information should be requested under Regulation 22 of the Environmental Impact Assessment regulations. Without this information we would recommend that planning permission should be refused on this basis in line with paragraph 109 of the National Planning Policy Framework.