Thursday, 21 March 2019

What part of ‘NO’ do quarry companies not understand?

During the time Aggregate Industries has been trying to work out how to destroy a farm in East Devon for a relatively insignificant amount of sand and gravel, in Scotland another quarry battle has been raging.

New Lanark is one of only six World Heritage sites in Scotland - the others being the island of St Kilda, Skara Brae in Orkney, the Roman Antonine Wall and Edinburgh's Old and New Towns and the Forth Bridge.
Cemex wanted to expand its current site into protected land close to the banks of the Falls of Clyde near New Lanark…. The Scottish government said it would not grant planning permission for the application in its entirety.

We have tweeted about this story on and off over the years. The controversy began in 2012 when Mexican multinational CEMEX first submitted its planning application to extend Hyndford Quarry towards the world heritage site:
… prompting objectors to launch a campaign against the extension, arguing that it would intrude into the buffer zone around the New Lanark world heritage site and be too close to the scenic Falls of Clyde. A working group, including representatives of Save our Landscapes and the New Lanark Trust, was set up, and more than 7,000 people signed a protest petition.
CEMEX’s plans were then called in by the Scottish Government, a public inquiry took place in 2014, and Scottish ministers refused planning consent in 2016. You might have thought that would be the end of it, but no. CEMEX appealed, and last month the Scottish government again refused consent.

So, that really must be the end of it, surely? Apparently not: CEMEX is now "considering legal action to get the decision reversed." Chair of the group Save Our Landscapes said:
The last time Scottish Ministers rejected the extension, Cemex assured UNESCO that it accepted the decision. It then launched an appeal that has cost themselves, the Scottish taxpayer, and community groups thousands of pounds and has delivered exactly the same result as last time. Cemex seems to have failed to notice that Scotland is a democracy and it is normal for elected politicians to make decisions here.

Humans take the lead in landscape evolution

Humans now have a greater effect on shaping the surface of the Earth than natural processes do, according to studies from the British Geological Survey and the University of Leicester:
In a study entitled ‘Humans are the most significant global geomorphological driving force of the 21st Century’ Dr Anthony Cooper and his co-authors estimate that 316 billion tonnes (about 150 cubic km) of sediment is currently created annually by humans through the excavation of minerals and modification of the landscape to develop expanding cities and infrastructure around the world. This is 24 times greater than the sediment shifted each year by all the world’s major rivers.
One hundred years’ worth of data on mineral, metal and cement production (and the waste materials these generate), plus construction, dredging and land reclamation estimates, have been studied and all reveal a dramatic increase in the amount of sediment created from the mid-20th century onwards as the world’s population has grown.
Who on Earth can be shifting all this material? #OnlyLafargeHolcimCan

LafargeHolcim is the parent company of Aggregate Industries.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Yet another HGV crash on the B3174 Exeter Road

It was only last month that we posted Another lorry in the ditch outside Straitgate.

Today, yet another truck has ended up coming off the B3174 Exeter Road.

What could possibly go wrong with Aggregate Industries' plans for Straitgate Farm to put up to 200 HGV movements a day along this same stretch of road?

EDIT 16.3.19: According to local reports, the lorry came off the road when trying to pass another truck coming from the opposite direction. The main road into and out of Ottery was closed for some 5 hours as a result. Those familiar with this road will be aware that this type of accident happens all too frequently - many documented on this blog - a clear indication that the road is not suitable for AI’s plans.

The EA and “our precious groundwater resources”

Straitgate has occupied a disproportionate amount of the Environment Agency's time over the years – right back from when it was put forward for the Minerals Plan in 2012. At that time, the EA warned:
The importance and value of this area may be under-represented by the appraisal undertaken so far. When our groundwater team map the Source Protection Zones (SPZs) for all of the private water supplies in this area I expect that [Straitgate] will be an important part of their catchment areas.
Our policy on the protection of water resources from changes to aquifer conditions (see general comments below) will govern our response to this and every other site. The number of private water supplies suggests to me that this would be a difficult site to take forward. Similarly, if this area is shown to be a significant part of the catchment for the water features near Cadhay, its deliverability as a viable site would seem unlikely.
Cadhay's water features? Here's a photo of one of the mediaeval fishponds, integral to the setting of the Grade I Tudor manor house:

What does the EA mean when it talks about SPZs? Here's the SPZ that the EA put in place at Straitgate in 2013 – across the area that AI wants to quarry – in an effort to protect Cadhay's water supplies:

Environment Agency

But it's not just Cadhay that has an SPZ. Many private water supplies rely on the groundwater at Straitgate for drinking water. As The Environment Agency’s approach to groundwater protection states, "all groundwater abstractions intended for human consumption or food production purposes have a default SPZ1".

For those unclear of the EA's responsibilities, the above document explains:
We are the Environment Agency. We protect and improve the environment and make it a better place for people and wildlife.
We operate at the place where environmental change has its greatest impact on people’s lives. We reduce the risks to people and properties from flooding; make sure there is enough water for people and wildlife; protect and improve air, land and water quality and apply the environmental standards within which industry can operate.
Acting to reduce climate change and helping people and wildlife adapt to its consequences are at the heart of all that we do.
We cannot do this alone. We work closely with a wide range of partners including government, business, local authorities, other agencies, civil society groups and the communities we serve.
The EA also tweets about "our precious groundwater resources". Here's a few relevant to Straitgate:

Mining’s human cost

"The Brumadinho tailings dam catastrophe is an unwelcome reminder of the industry’s atrocious safety record", according to The FT’s Investors Chronicle article Vale disaster sends shockwaves beyond Brazil. We’ve already posted about this disaster here and here. Now, following pressure from prosecutors, Vale's CEO and other executives have resigned. As the BBC reports in the saddening article Looking for bodies, looking for answers:
A month on from the collapse, 171 people have been confirmed dead, but the recovery operation continues to search for the bodies of another 141 people - all reported missing by their families.
It’s a race against time. Very soon the bodies will begin to decompose fully, and the rescue dogs will be less effective.
As the IC points out:
History, Karl Marx once wrote, repeats itself "first as tragedy, the second time as farce". Perusing the global mining industry’s expressions of horror at last month’s Brumadinho tailings dam collapse, it is hard not to recall the line. Describing a disaster likely to have killed more than 300 people as “tragic” might carry more weight had the incident not arrived just 38 months after another of Vale’s Brazilian iron ore operations failed, again at huge human and environmental cost.
…. efforts to quantify tailings dam failures around the world appear to suggest that the deadliness, magnitude and even frequency of such disasters are getting worse
The magazine also points to, which supports research in tailing dam failures and has compiled data on such disasters over the last hundred years:
Our banner is an ever-looping image of the actual failure by static liquefaction of Vale’s Dam I at the [Brumadinho] Cรณrrego do Feijรฃo mine.... which ranks as the 6th worst in recorded history, based on data available as of February 6, 2019.
The data suggests a worsening trend. In fact:
Without major changes to law and regulation, and to industry practices, and without new technology that substantially reduces risk and increases loss control, our current prediction is for 19 Very Serious Failures between 2018 and 2027.
However, deaths from tailing dam collapses is just the tip of the iceberg of mining’s human cost. The BBC article The dangers of mining around the world reports:
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), while mining employs around 1% of the global labour force, it generates 8% of fatal accidents.
Although there are no accurate figures, estimates suggest [mining] accidents kill about 12,000 people a year.
Mining unions say many disasters go unreported:
It is a very dark industry

Monday, 11 March 2019

Concrete: “the most destructive material on Earth”

LafargeHolcim – parent company of Aggregate Industries – is the largest cement producer in the world.

Aggregate Industries is now a cement producer in its own right too, and loves the sight of concrete:

The problem for AI, and the rest of us, is that all this concrete comes at a price – an environmental price. The Guardian recently ran a series of articles – Guardian Concrete Week – warning us of "the shocking impact of concrete on the modern world":

Given that the production of every tonne of cement (a key component of concrete) releases a tonne of CO2, it's hardly surprising that:
Nearly 6% of all UK greenhouse gas emissions, and up to 8% of the world’s, are now sourced from cement production.

Industry leaders are now embarrassed, aware that they are in danger of being financially penalised and tarred as climate laggards who refuse to change in the face of the climate emergency. They well know that not only is it quite possible to build most structures safely without cement, but their own research has shown that green, cement-like products using recycled byproducts which are just as strong can be made from other industries, such as steel slag, fly ash from coal-fired facilities or some types of clay. Instead they trust that nascent technologies like carbon capture and storage which could allow emissions to be buried will come on stream, and that more efficient plant will reduce cement emissions by as much as 20-25%...
But technological change will not alone drive cement emissions down fast enough. What is needed to speed up cuts is a global cement, or concrete tax. Only if the whole industry is forced to pay far more for the emissions of its product will companies shift to cleaner practices.
Apart from a cement or concrete tax, another article suggests what else can be done to reduce the destructive impact of concrete. Fortunately, new materials are also emerging – including cross-laminated timber to construct 'plyscrapers':
This material is lightweight but as strong as concrete and steel, and construction experts say it can be more versatile and faster to work with than concrete and steel – and even, it seems, quieter.

This week, a group of institutional investors coordinated by ShareAction, with over $1tn of assets under management, sent letters to company CEOs, including two large concrete firms, to ask them to set emissions targets in line with the Paris climate agreement.
Instead of just asking for disclosure of climate risks, these investors are asking for hard targets, and to sign up to a number of initiatives related to renewable electricity, energy productivity and electric vehicles.
The cement firms contacted include... LafargeHolcim (Switzerland).
According to ShareAction:
Cement has been on our radar for a while now. It was a priority sector agreed with the investor group because it is one of the most carbon-intensive industries.
The most severe, but least understood, impact of concrete is that it destroys natural infrastructure without replacing the ecological functions that humanity depends on for fertilisation, pollination, flood control, oxygen production and water purification.
As Jonathan Watts writes, our concrete slabs “entomb vast tracts of fertile soil, constipate rivers, choke habitats and – acting as a rock-hard second skin – desensitise us from what is happening outside our urban fortresses”.

He makes a powerful case for how concrete transforms a culture (a civilisation intertwined with nature) into an economy (a production unit obsessed by GDP statistics, which politicians can inflate for personal gain … simply by pouring more concrete).
Concrete-hungry HS2 and Hinckley are two obvious examples in the UK.

What does LafargeHolcim say? According to the company's US CEO:
As this industry is responsible for having such a large impact on our world, LafargeHolcim is always focused on making sure that the products and services that we provide are sustainable for the future.
We must transform the way we operate to become more innovative and mindful of the use of resources and our impact on the environment.
If the unsustainable 2.5 million mile haulage plan for Straitgate is an example of LafargeHolcim transforming the way we operate – we're all in trouble.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Straitgate determination date extended for 7th time

We asked:
What on earth can be causing the company so many problems?
AI's application has now been lifeless for 18 months. It’s about time AI put up or shut up.
So, what do we get? More delay. More can kicking.

Devon County Council has agreed yet another extension with Aggregate Industries for the period for determination of its Straitgate application - the seventh - this time from 31 March to 28 June 2019.

What has been achieved since the last extension, or the one before, or before that?

Who knows? DCC is still awaiting information it requested from AI some 18 months ago.

And so the farce goes on.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Some of AI’s drivers clearly have an issue with road safety laws

At Aggregate Industries, for example, we operate an incredibly robust approach to the enrolment of our 1,000-plus franchisee drivers… blah blah blah

Given that HGVs in the wrong hands, or hands containing mobile devices, are lethal weapons – as in the case of the Newbury A34 tragedy in 2016 – perhaps the company should look closer to home first. The RAC warns us that:
Using a handheld mobile phone while behind the wheel of a car is a controversial and incredibly dangerous issue…
The law is clear on when you can use a hand-held device behind the wheel. It is only legal if you are safely parked – and this does not include waiting in traffic or when sat at the traffic lights.
Contrary to what many drivers seem to think, the law still applies when your vehicle is stopped at lights or in a traffic queue. If your engine is running, your phone should be nowhere near your hands.
The AI driver below obviously thinks he’s above the law. Fortunately, however, he was caught on camera, and the film has been shared widely on social media:

But it’s not an isolated incident – despite the incredibly robust approach to enrolment AI has for its drivers. We have previously posted examples; here are a few more:

It’s all very concerning.

So when the MPA – the trade association that represents AI and others – talks about a new vision, a vision supposedly aimed at:
Driving Change, Raising Standards and Improving Perceptions
perhaps that vision needs to be repurposed:
Driving must Change, to Raise Standards and Improve Perceptions

East Devon roads are most dangerous in county

In 2017, there were 31 deaths and 384 serious injuries from collisions in the county of Devon... In 2013, the figures were 16 and 293 respectively.
Of those [in 2017], 84 were in East Devon, 46 in Exeter, 31 in Mid Devon, 58 in North Devon, 45 in the South Hams, 64 in Teignbridge, 32 in Torridge and 55 in West Devon.
Over the last five years, East Devon has seen the most KSI [killed or serious injured] collisions with 351, while Torridge has seen the least, with 149.
Devon's roads are not to blame, according to Cllr Jerry Brook:
No road is unsafe, just the people that are on it, and it is not the roads that are unsafe but the way that people drive. Most of us have to put up with the idiots that misbehave on the roads.
Nevertheless, in 2017 we posted Why are Devon’s highways so dangerous? We pointed to the Road Safety Foundation ranking all 78 counties by road safety improvement since 2010:

We posted:
Why is Devon doing so poorly?
Perhaps DCC’s relaxed attitude to Aggregate Industries’ Straitgate Farm plans to put up to 200 HGVs a day onto a dangerous B road, for an onward 46-mile round trip, gives you a clue?
Or perhaps, by Cllr Brook's reasoning, Devon just has more idiots on the road.

Friday, 1 March 2019

If this is how much politicians care about climate change...

If you look at the trends, we are not heading for that apocalyptic 2 degree rise, we are heading something that looks more like 3 degrees, the consequences of which we cannot possibly estimate.
... the idea of children missing a few hours of geometry or PE to wake our political system up is somehow the wrong thing to do just seems ... absurd.


Two weeks ago, we posted about Local Aggregate Assessments. The LAA is a requirement of the NPPF. We pointed out that DCC’s last LAA was for the period to 31 December 2016, published July 2017.
The LAA will continue to be published annually to inform development and monitoring of Minerals/Local Plans, including recent sales and revisions to levels of reserves and the length of landbanks.
Readers with an interest in such matters will no doubt be relieved to learn that DCC has just published its 7th Devon Local Aggregate Assessment for the period to 31 December 2017.