Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Remember GCNs and why AI couldn’t use Rockbeare to process Straitgate material?

For many years, Rockbeare had been earmarked, both by Devon County Council and Aggregate Industries, to process material from Straitgate Farm. As far back as 2003, in a last ditch attempt to keep Straitgate in the previous Devon Minerals Plan, AI had said:
It is this Company’s view that there is an inextricable link between Straitgate Farm and the Rockbeare Minerals Working Area... It is the Company’s intention to transfer plant to Rockbeare as soon as working is completed at Blackhill... Working the reserve at Straitgate Farm initially and possibly wholly through our existing mineral site at Rockbeare we believe is both efficient and has environmental benefits.
Straitgate Farm was put in the current Minerals Plan on the basis of the availability of a nearby site for processing the sand and gravel. At that Plan’s Examination Hearings in 2016, AI hoodwinked the Inspector, telling him it "wouldn’t wish to rule out" Rockbeare. But a month later, Waycon Precast Ltd submitted a planning application for Rockbeare – leasing the site from AI for a new precast concrete manufacturing plant. The application had obviously been in the pipeline for some time.

Therefore, when AI, in the same year, lost the argument over continued processing at Blackhill, the only remaining site available to house the relocated processing plant was at Hillhead near Uffculme. This now means that if Straitgate ever got the go-ahead, every load of as-dug material, which would include 20% waste, would require a round trip of 46 miles for processing; every finished load would have effectively travelled 58 miles before any onward delivery. Utterly ridiculous and utterly unsustainable.

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust

And GCNs? When AI was previously trying to argue why it shouldn't use Rockbeare – why it should continue processing at Blackhill, a factory with hundreds of HGV movements in the middle of an AONB and conservation area of European importance – the company suddenly went looking for, and had the good fortune of finding, some great crested newts. We posted about it in You couldn’t make this up!
It was remarkable really, because AI wouldn’t look for newts properly to support its application to quarry Straitgate – and still hasn’t – but didn’t hesitate to look for them at Rockbeare, which at the time wasn’t the subject of a planning application.

And it was a similar story at Blackhill, where GCNs couldn't be found when the site's planning application was being discussed, but could suddenly be found when that wasn’t on the table anymore, but biodiversity prizes were.

Of course, the presence of newts at Rockbeare did not have to block the site being used for mineral processing. Natural England told AI that the issue could be "addressed through European Protected Species licencing", in the same way the dormice – another protected species – would be at Straitgate, in the same way that Midland Quarry Products has just been granted a licence to translocate great crested newts at its quarry in Shropshire.

But once GCNs had been found at Rockbeare, and when you see that AI was recently forced to spend £425,000 to relocate reptiles from its Isle of Grain terminal site in Kent, you know what Rockbeare was all about. It was about money; the economic benefits that would fall to AI – leasing the site to a third party and avoiding the costs of moving GCNs. It was about what was right for AI, not what was right for Devon. It was about the profit that would accrue to LafargeHolcim’s bank balance in Switzerland, so that Devon could benefit from the diesel pollution of HGVs labouring back and forth on a 2.5 million mile haulage scheme, and the world’s broken climate could benefit from thousands of tonnes of CO2. Thank you Aggregate Industries. It’s good to know how much you care.