Monday, 31 July 2017

If mobile processing plant can do it all, was the Blackhill extension secured on a lie?

Was DCC hoodwinked back in 2010, when Aggregate Industries wanted to secure a 6 year extension to its processing plant on Woodbury Common in the East Devon AONB?

Modification orders were served on AI to restrict quarrying at Blackhill Quarry in 1999, following the SPA and SAC European nature conservation designations on Woodbury Common; £6 million pounds was paid out in compensation as a result. Nevertheless, AI went on to secure permission to quarry an extension to the site in 2002, and later to process material from Venn Ottery until 2016.

So was DCC hoodwinked? If what AI now says is true, then it would appear so.

Back then the officer’s report read:
In order to assess the acceptability of continued working at Blackhill, it is necessary to consider alternative arrangements for processing sand and gravels from Marshbroadmoor [Rockbeare] and Venn Ottery Quarries. The Applicant has provided additional information on this aspect.6.15
... if mobile plant were to be used at Rockbeare the range of materials would be less, sales reduced, and the life of Venn Ottery Quarry prolonged.6.17
Even as recently as 2015, in its last application for Straitgate, AI was still banging the same drum:
The Blackhill Quarry [fixed] processing plant currently produces some 14 different finished products... substitution of the Blackhill plant with a mobile processing plant would severely restrict the output and product range. 8.29, 8.30
Now of course, AI has changed its tune. This means that either what it said in 2010 and 2015 - or what it's saying now - is untrue.

Why? Because faced with this recent Reg22 question from DCC:
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? 8.4
AI responded by saying:
If the relocation of the Blackhill processing plant is not viable a number of options to process the mineral have been investigated... [including] on a campaign basis when required a mobile crushing plant consisting of... 
And, in contrast to 2010 and 2015, we're now told:
It is however possible to produce 20-5, 20mm all in or surface dressing mix by mixing on the ground with a loading shovel. Therefore not using the Blackhill plant is not fully restrictive on the product offerings. 8.4
"Mixing on the ground with a loading shovel" doesn't sound like the most elegant solution, more akin to something out of Bake Off, but it goes to show that nothing can be trusted; AI will say whatever it takes.