Wednesday, 27 September 2017

AI requests deferral

Time and time again Aggregate Industries' planning application for Straitgate Farm has been delayed for one reason or another.

Only last week we posted "it now looks likely that the determination of AI’s application, which missed the September DMC date, will miss the October DMC date too." This week DCC has confirmed that AI has indeed requested that determination of the Straitgate and Hillhead applications be deferred until the DMC meeting of 29 November.

Who knows whether this date will be met? Plainly not all is sorted in the AI camp, even after all these years. In fact, only yesterday AI’s traffic consultants were on site trying to work out how 150 cows could safely cross Ottery’s main road four times a day.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Does Devon's new Minerals Plan stand for anything?

DCC’s newly adopted Minerals Plan was in preparation for years and years. It came up with various Policies and Objectives.

It’s already clear, with Aggregate Industries’ multi-million mile haulage plan for Straitgate Farm, how little Objective 1 ("minimising transportation by road and generation of greenhouse gases") stands for.

Now Sibelco has found, following the approval of the A382 road improvement scheme at Newton Abbot, that Objective 2 doesn’t stand for anything either.

Objective 2 is all about safeguarding mineral resources, particularly those that are scarce or of national importance. The Minerals Plan claims:
For Devon’s industrial minerals and some aggregate minerals, non-mineral development will normally be opposed where it would sterilise resources of economic value.3.3.14  
We’ve written about Mineral Safeguarding before, most recently here. We argued that Devon’s new Minerals Plan could blight thousands of homes across the county and Is this really the best way to 'safeguard' minerals? There’s currently a DCC consultation about it. DCC says:
The Minerals Plan features the introduction of "Mineral Safeguarding Areas" which aim to secure valuable mineral resources from sterilisation by new development, to ensure that they remain available for use by future generations.
But where was Mineral Safeguarding when Sibelco needed it? Sibelco was concerned that the A382 improvements would sterilise significant reserves of "nationally scarce" ball clay and objected to the scheme. Sibelco's concerns were ignored, and following DCC's decision the company has lodged a Judicial Review. Here is the DevonLive article, and an excerpt from it:
A Sibleco spokesman said: “Sibelco has taken this course of action primarily in the interests of the UK’s strategic minerals reserves.
“Devon County Council, in common with other authorities across the country, is legally obliged to identify deposits and outline how they will be managed within a published and regularly reviewed Minerals Plan.
“In some areas deposits are safeguarded by formal consultation zones. One example is Newton Abbot and the Bovey Basin with the recognised economic importance of its ball clay reserves. The area relevant to the A382 programme is identified it as lying within the Mineral Safeguarding Area defined in the Devon Minerals Plan.
“Additionally, the Officer’s Report failed to include any reference to the section of the National Planning Policy Framework which advises that ‘great weight’ should be given to minerals extraction and that permission should not ‘normally’ be granted for non-mineral development where that would sterilise reserves.
“Given that significant reserves of ball clay will be affected by the A382 programme we argue that members did not have the relevant information that would have allowed an informed decision.
“Should similar mistakes or omissions be made again in Devon, or worryingly anywhere else in the UK, the implications for our strategic minerals reserves are grave. We will continue to press for dialogue to resolve the outstanding issues and see if a resolution can be reached.”
A Devon County Council spokesman said: “Following the grant of planning permission for the A382 scheme, Sibelco lodged an application for a judicial review of that decision. Currently the parties have agreed a three month stay to those proceedings.”

600+ companies have committed to BOLD CLIMATE ACTION

Aggregate Industries' parent LafargeHolcim is one of them:

LafargeHolcim has committed to the Low Carbon Technology Partnerships initiative (LCTPi), and must therefore "demonstrate leadership in the climate action arena". One of the initiatives of the LCTPi is to "Make freight transport climate compatible":

With 7.0 GtCO2eq of direct GHG emissions (including non-CO2 gases) in 2010, the transport sector produced 23% of total energy-related CO2 emissions. Freight Transport was responsible for 10% of these.
Reducing global transport GHG emissions will be challenging. The continuing growth in freight activity could outweigh all mitigation measures unless transport emissions can be strongly decoupled from GDP growth.
To address the challenges of climate change, freight transport systems need to be transformed globally.
Solutions will fall into four main categories, number one of which is "avoiding journeys where possible".

Whilst AI plots multi-million mile HGV schemes in Devon, Cemex is making history

HISTORY has been made with the first jumbo train of 34 wagons departing from Associated British Ports rail terminal in Cardiff, South Wales, and travelling to Acton in London, saving the equivalent of more than 80 truck loads on some of the country’s most congested roads.

What happened last time DCC approved a major minerals application?

We’re referring to Wolf Minerals’ open pit tungsten mine just outside Plymouth, near the villages of Sparkwell and Hemerdon.

Wolf Minerals are an Australian mining outfit whose sole operation is the Drakelands Mine. Last November, DCC considered a planning application from the company to extend operations from 2021 to 2036. Sparkwell Parish Council responded to the application, and were:
Concerned about blasting and impact of vibration on people and their property. The application should be delayed or rejected until the unacceptable levels of disturbance to residents can be proven to be an extraordinary occurrence and not likely to re-occur. A track record of blasting impacts needs to be established... Current issues should be resolved before consent is granted for a further 15 years. Their own consultation has indicated health issues arising from lack of sleep caused by Low Frequency Noise (LFN) and additional information is required on this matter as 56 households and up to 103 individuals have stated that they are affected and are experiencing health impacts with more suspected outside the Parish.
Despite this, the officer’s report recommended approval:
The protection to be afforded to residents has to be balanced with the reality of the scale of this particular mining operation which is one of the largest mines in Western Europe. 6.64
And, although councillors heard first hand (41 minutes in) about the "horrendous invasive unacceptable" impact that blasting and LFN was having on the lives of local residents, the application was approved.

Wolf is now back with a new application. To rub salt into residents’ wounds, it’s for a new explosives store. Apparently:
There were difficulties involved in achieving ‘just in time’ delivery of the material, and on occasions blasts had had to be postponed.
So, have the impacts from blasting been reduced? Not if this article is anything to go by:
Cllr May said unfortunately villagers felt that ’nothing ever really changes’, and there had been a blast on the day of the meeting that had been ’really bad’… residents experienced things falling off shelves in their homes…
Looking beyond the health cost to local residents, it looks like Wolf Minerals could need more than a new explosives store to survive:
Martin Potts, analyst at FinnCap, said: "I’d be surprised if the tungsten price rise alone can save them. You’d have to say it’s going to be difficult. The question is: if at the end of this [turnaround] it’s not generating cash, then what happens next?"
Photo: Jeff Collins

Friday, 22 September 2017

AI’s new junction plan

We posted this week about how HGVs kill more pedestrians than cyclists, and today, as if by magic, a new junction plan, "drawing 0308.101 Rev E" with pedestrian footway, appeared on DCC’s website for Aggregate Industries’ proposal for Straitgate Farm.

But the new plan has nothing to do with our post. It's to do with the concerns that Vectos and countless other people had raised over the potential impact of AI’s plans on pedestrians and schoolchildren.

In fact, the new junction plan only appeared on DCC’s website following a number of enquiries; DCC received the plan almost 2 weeks ago, but due to an oversight had not published it for local people and landowners to comment on.

DCC Highways "are still considering" this new plan. Their response should be published on DCC’s website in due course.

However, since DCC is still waiting for information from AI on the "consequential tree loss on the western boundary" and "additional information on the cattle crossing" - and further to our Update - it now looks likely that the determination of AI’s application, which missed the September DMC date, will miss the October DMC date too.

For anybody wishing to comment on this new drawing, or any subsequent environmental information published on DCC’s website, they will have 30 days to do so, in accordance with "The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017":
Further information and evidence respecting environmental statements 25 (7) Where further information is requested under paragraph (1) or any other information is provided, the relevant planning authority, the Secretary of State or the inspector, as the case may be, must suspend determination of the application or appeal, and must not determine it before the expiry of 30 days after the latest of— (a) the date on which the further information or any other information was sent to all persons to whom the statement to which it relates was sent; (b) the date that notice of it was published in a local newspaper; or (c) the date that notice of it was published on a website.
Any comments can be made online or by email to reference DCC/3944/2017.

Thursday, 21 September 2017


Back on the 12 July, DCC’s DMC committee resolved to make a site visit to Straitgate Farm in advance of determining Aggregate Industries’ planning application on 6 September.

DCC was getting a bit ahead of itself, because it wasn’t until the end of July that AI actually responded to the Council’s request for information on the 61 substantive points. At the time we wrote that local people:
now find themselves facing another mass of documents, and another consultation; a consultation, whether by design or not, that will begin at the start of the school holidays.
Nevertheless, DCC rushed to make the 6 September meeting, because, as we know, 'DCC’s job is to deliver Straitgate'. However, the EA raised further concerns and determination was delayed.

Regardless of this, at the DMC meeting of 6 September, the Chairman was "fairly well assured" that Straitgate would be determined at the next meeting, on 25 October. A site meeting for the councillors determining the application was arranged for Monday 23 October, meeting at County Hall at 9am, to visit Straitgate then Hillhead 23 miles away, to be back before 12 noon.

Despite the Chairman being "fairly well assured", one week later DCC wrote to AI asking for an extension of the determination date to 30 November.

At this stage, it’s therefore unclear when Straitgate will be on the agenda.

Whether an indication of the company’s ineptitude or the constraints posed by the site itself, or both, it is now well over two years since AI first submitted a planning application to quarry Straitgate Farm.

Monday, 18 September 2017

HGVs kill more pedestrians than cyclists

Vectos, the highways consultants engaged by a third party, were concerned by the lack of pedestrian provision in Aggregate Industries’ 200 HGVs a day plans for Straitgate Farm. They pointed to "HGVs and Vulnerable Road Users" from RoSPA which states:
More pedestrians are killed or injured casualties in collisions with HGVs than cyclists. In 2015, 186 pedestrians were killed or seriously injured on British roads in accidents involving at least one HGV.
Over half of the HGVs which hit a pedestrian were moving off when they struck the pedestrian, and almost all the pedestrians were crossing the road in front of the HGV at the time of the collision. In some cases, the driver failed to stop because they had not realised that a collision had occurred. 

It's easy to see why - when you consider HGV blindspots, indicated below:

Addressing the Straitgate Farm plans, Vectos warned:
The indicative route of a permissive path is show on drawings SF2 & SF6 but the proposed access design (drawing 0308.101 Rev D) does not show this facility nor does [it] allow for the separation of the pedestrians and HGVs which will access and egress the proposed site, as no specific footway provision is demonstrated.
It is noted that currently school students are required to cross the B3174, however based on the ROSPA note on HGV and pedestrian interaction, I am of the opinion that the introduction of 200 HGVs a day HGV at this location presents a safety risk to pedestrians (including school students).
We’ve mentioned pedestrians before, on the lane that AI wants to make its own with up to 200 HGVs a day: Birdcage Walk, Provision for two-way 44-tonne HGVs, but where do pedestrians fit in?, AI hasn't thought about school children either.

Here’s "drawing 0308.101 Rev D". See if you can spot how the pedestrians that currently enjoy Birdcage Lane are supposed to fit into AI’s scheme.

If DCC were to approve these reckless plans in their current state after so many warnings by the public, and now by Vectos, people would obviously know where to point the finger if something awful happened.

For anybody who thinks Vectos is being alarmist, google "pedestrian lorry OR HGV".

For the millions of people already affected, climate change is no joke

You might have thought that an innocuous Lib Dem motion calling on DCC to condemn Trump for pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement would have been easy for all parties to back. But no.

Senior Tories ridicule Lib Dem move, joking that they fear the billionaire may mistake the county for North Korea and launch an attack

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

AI’s new head of aggregates is off already

In July we posted that Aggregate Industries had appointed Mike Pearce as managing director of its Aggregates division with:
a responsibility to ensure the business acts responsibly and sustainably in each and every one of the communities that it is part of.
We suggested "he should have a good look at what his company is trying to get away with at Straitgate Farm". Perhaps he did. Today it’s been announced he’s moving to Breedon.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

So, what’s AI planning to do?

Aggregate Industries' intention to provide a cattle crossing on the main road into and out of Ottery St Mary certainly seems to be making some headlines.

It’s not surprising that there’s so much concern. Apart from the potential impact on the A30, vehicles on this 60 mph stretch of road would start to queue just beyond the brow of this hill.

Back in May, DCC asked AI:
If [a cattle crossing] will happen as a result of the proposal then the impacts should be factored into the safety assessments and traffic calculations.
To supplement the grazing needs of the tenant’s dairy herd it will be the intention of the applicant to provide a new dedicated route for cattle from the existing milking parlour at Straitgate Farm to the land south of Exeter Road. 1.5
But no safety assessments or traffic calculations were provided. As we wrote last month:
Clearly nobody has thought this through. Or if they have, they've chosen to keep quiet. 
It was left to objectors and highways consultants Vectos to raise concerns:
So what’s AI’s plan? Is AI going to assess the impact? Or is it looking to DCC to find a fix?

Does AI need to assess the impact? DCC’s Reg22 request certainly thought so; it was the number one thing AI had to answer. The legal advice we’ve received is also clear: a cattle crossing would be a consequence of the development, and should have been addressed in the Transport Assessment. Moreover, AI’s application is subject to an EIA:
The environmental impact assessment must identify the direct and indirect effects of a project on the following factors: human beings, the fauna, the flora, the soil, water, air, the climate, the landscape, the material assets and cultural heritage, as well as the interaction between these various elements.
It’s clear that the crossing could impact upon the safety of human beings. An average of almost 7000 vehicles a day was recorded on weekdays on this road in 2015 - before AI’s plan to add up to 200 HGVs a day. And who knows how many more vehicles there might be now, with all the new development in Ottery St Mary?

So what’s AI’s plan? Replacement pasture would obviously be needed to maintain a viable farm. AI says:
The applicant is the Landlord of the Agricultural Tenant at Straitgate Farm who has the benefit of an Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 Tenancy Agreement. 1.2
What that benefit effectively means is that any notice to quit can only be served on the land needed for quarrying. Indeed, for Straitgate Farm:
... such resumption of possession not to terminate the tenancy hereby created except in regard to the land taken. 43
In any case, the farmer could already use the B3174 for a cattle crossing to access land to the south of the road as required, without needing any planning permission.

So, what is AI’s plan?

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Just how many policies would DCC be ignoring to push Straitgate Farm through?

As Charlie Hopkins concluded:
The proposed development conflicts with a number of Objectives and Policies set out in the Development Plan, namely Objectives 1 and 6, Policies M16, M17, M18, M20, M21, and M22 of the adopted Devon Minerals Plan 2011-2033.
The application is contrary to, and conflicts with a number of core principles, policies and guidance set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
There are not sufficient material considerations in favour of the development so as to outweigh the provisions of the Development Plan.
The adverse impacts of permitting the proposed development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.
Why do policies matter?
Indeed, it was a fact recognised by the Chairman of DCC’s Development Management Committee only this year when the new Minerals Plan was adopted, when he spoke not only about the "years of hard work [that] have gone into preparing and consulting on this important document", but also that "all mineral development will need to comply with the plan...".

Now it looks like DCC is wanting to forget all about policies - in order to facilitate the destruction of East Devon farmland, mayhem on Ottery's main road, and millions of miles of polluting HGV haulage.

In which case, local people will rightly wonder what all the "years of hard work" were for, if - when the first greenfield quarry application comes before it - so many of the polices contained within DCC's expensive new Minerals Plan stand for nothing.

And if the policies stand for nothing, and the Council has its own agenda, people will also question the point of responding to DCC's various consultations - like the latest one detailed below - and will most likely conclude none at all.

Is AI one of the 6%?

Some 94% of businesses worldwide feel that organisations should reduce their greenhouse gas emissions even when the law does not require them to... according to a new report from Imperial College London, which reveals that 79% of firms believe climate change poses a risk to their business.
A proper carbon tax would be one of those risks - and could wipe billions from polluters' profits:
A group of leading economists warned this year of catastrophic global warming within 13 years unless countries ramped up taxes on carbon emissions to as much as $100 per tonne. The economist and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and the former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern were among experts who said governments needed to tackle polluting industries with a tax on carbon dioxide at $40-$80 a tonne by 2020.
Many economists have described climate change as an example of market failure, as unbounded capitalism has so far failed to curb rising pollution. Global warming puts a huge cost and risk on future generations who will suffer the consequences, without these costs and risks being reflected in market prices.
Aggregate Industries' 2.5 million mile CO2 belching haulage plan for Straitgate clearly shows that it's above all this climate concern; that the heavy lifting can be left for others; that it is indeed one of the 6%.

“Mineral Safeguarding consultation gets underway”

A consultation has been launched today (Monday 4 September) on guidance to protect mineral resources in the county.
The Minerals Plan features the introduction of "Mineral Safeguarding Areas" which aim to secure valuable mineral resources from sterilisation by new development, to ensure that they remain available for use by future generations.
"The protection of mineral resources is an important issue that affects many developers and communities in Devon, and we are keen to hear from people to ensure that the new document meets their need and provides clear guidance."
Apparently, "Devon County Council is seeking views from anyone involved in submitting, responding to or determining planning applications in Devon, or those with an interest in the county’s mineral resources" and to that end the Council sent emails to selected parties.

Who was on DCC’s invite list? Certainly not Straitgate Action Group. 

Perhaps we’ve been unable to demonstrate "an interest in the county’s mineral resources" - despite responding to countless mineral consultations over the last 17 years and various planning applications, despite being the only active group in Devon giving an alternative view on minerals.

Perhaps it was something we said, here or here.

Or perhaps DCC only wants to hear from its mineral industry chums et al.

Whatever the reason, if DCC really thought "the protection of mineral resources is an important issue" and that they should "remain available for use by future generations", why is the Council about to rubber stamp one of the most unsustainable quarry proposals imaginable - squandering a "diminishing resource" with mobile processing plant and a 2.5 million mile climate and pollution busting haulage scheme?

Monday, 4 September 2017

Highway consultants demonstrate AI’s attempt to use Birdcage Lane has ‘failed’; Damage to 3rd party property ‘would expose Council to legal action’

On the instructions of a third party, a large law firm has responded to Aggregate Industries' application to quarry Straitgate Farm, specifically addressing:
1. the highway and safety impacts of the proposed access along Birdcage Lane;
2. the unsustainability of the proposed development in policy terms;
3. the impact of the proposed access works on a tree within [3rd party] land.
Highways consultants Vectos have also been engaged.

The head of the planning team at Foot Anstey writes that DCC "will agree that the safety of people is more important than the extraction of sand and gravel":
The application is now the third attempt by the applicant to find a means for accessing the development. As the Vectos Report demonstrates, this attempt has failed. Any scheme which raises the prospects of harm to children is, self-evidently, both sub-optimal and unacceptable. No application should be approved which places 200 HGVs per day in potential conflict with pedestrians and school children. This is reflected in policy, both at a local and national level… The LPA will agree that the safety of people is more important than the extraction of sand and gravel. Unless the applicant can demonstrate that safety will not be compromised, permission should be refused.
Vectos has raised a number of significant concerns relating to the proposed development. These include problems with right-turning traffic from the B3174/Exeter Road, problems with the interaction between the required new cattle crossing and the operation of the B3174, and, most worryingly, significant problems of pedestrian safety, including those of children… the LPA cannot lawfully grant planning permission without properly considering the Vectos Report, the response to that Report by the applicant, and any residual adverse and harmful highway and safety impacts.
The Vectos Report gives more detail:
The design does not take into account the impact of HGVs emerging on right turning traffic into Birdcage Lane. Vehicles will have to wait on the B3174 longer creating a hazard. There is evidence of collisions occurring due to turning traffic along the B3174. As a result, in accordance with TD 42/95 a right turn lane should be provided;
… the currently proposed access and proposed Birdcage Lane adjustments do not take into account the safety of pedestrians (including school students) and should be considered not to provide safe and suitable access for all people, which is contrary to paragraph 32 of the NPPF.
The provision of a Cattle crossing over the B3174 may have severe impact on the operation of the B3174, which in the absence of assessment is not known.
On the "Unsustainability of the Development in Policy Terms", DCC is reminded by Foot Anstey that "the inclusion of the application site in the DMP is only the first stage" and whilst:
 … there may be a planning need at some future date for allowing development at Straitgate notwithstanding its non compliance with policies… in 2017, a grant of permission at Straitgate would be premature at best, as alternative sites already exist which will deliver the requisite mineral requirements, and which do not have adverse environmental and other planning impacts.
On the damage to third party property, Vectos concurs with AI’s consultants, who have said that it is "likely [that Tree H] will be damaged by the development and need to be felled."

Foot Anstey has advised DCC that the third party:
... will not allow damage to his property. Accordingly, any development which may cause such damage will be resisted through available legal means, which may include an application for an injunction and/or an action for damages. Any such action would be brought against both the applicant and the Council (in its capacity as the local highways authority), and may also include a private prosecution for criminal damage.