Thursday, 31 October 2019

Could mineral deposits interfere with plans for a new primary school in Ottery?

A new £7.2million primary school is planned for Thorne Farm, Ottery St Mary; land next to the school site has been earmarked for 150 homes to help fund the cost. A Devon County Council consultation on the proposal runs until 18 November. This Sidmouth Herald article has more details.

We posted on plans for the new primary school – which would be just 1000m downhill and downwind of any dust, PM10, PM2.5, from a proposed quarry at Straitgate Farm – earlier in the year, in Preparing for climate change – a local example in Ottery St Mary. We also posted about the 50th anniversary of the devastating floods in East Devon including in Tipton St John, the village whose primary school is set to be relocated.

Planners will need cognisance of the flooding implications for the Thorne Farm site too. More than 50 properties in the Thorne Farm area suffered flooding in 2008 when the Cadhay Bog stream, which originates at Straitgate, became a raging torrent. The Environment Agency subsequently built a flood relief scheme, but conceded:
... the scheme for Thorne Farm does not take account of any increased surface water flows that may occur as a result of quarrying upstream of that site.
The proposed site of the new primary school is in a Mineral Consultation Area. In 2017, we posted about how the new Devon Minerals Plan had plastered Mineral Consultation and Safeguarding Areas all across Devon where few existed before. Objective 2 of the Minerals Plan now aims to:
Safeguard from other forms of development Devon’s current or potential economic mineral resources, together with the infrastructure needed for their processing and sustainable transportation and the capacity required for the tipping of mineral waste, to ensure their continued availability to meet the needs of future generations.
Policy M2 of the Minerals Plan says:
Mineral resources and infrastructure within the Mineral Safeguarding Areas defined on the Policies Map will be protected from sterilisation or constraint by non-mineral development within or close to those Areas by permitting such development if:
(a) it can be demonstrated through a Mineral Resource Assessment and in consultation with the relevant mineral operators that the mineral resource or infrastructure concerned is not of current or potential economic or heritage value; or... 

(d) there is an overriding strategic need for the non-mineral development…
Point 3.3.14 says:
For Devon’s industrial minerals and some aggregate minerals, non-mineral development will normally be opposed where it would sterilise resources of economic value.

At the time, we posted Devon’s new Minerals Plan could blight thousands of homes across the county and Is this really the best way to 'safeguard' minerals? Shortly after that, in Does Devon's new Minerals Plan stand for anything?, we pointed to the problems Sibelco had with mineral safeguarding when planning permission was granted by Devon County Council for improvements to the A382. Sibelco was concerned the scheme would sterilise significant reserves, and lodged an application for a judicial review of that decision.

A primary school and 150 new homes are certainly enough to sterilise nearby mineral deposits, deposits the nature of which one operator in particular considers important enough to necessitate a 2.5 million mile haulage plan.

Inset Plan 3 from the Devon Minerals Plan shows the proximity of such mineral resources and safeguarding areas to the land in question. The resource north of Cadhay Bog (S8 in this document) was assessed by Devon County Council in 2012. The Council considered that "the potential yield [of S8] is unknown, but a crude calculation assuming 15 metres depth gives an estimate of 12.2 million tonnes". However, despite then safeguarding the minerals five years later, and throwing in a 250m 'buffer' for good measure, the Council also concluded in 2012 that S8 was unsuitable for mineral extraction due to "significant harm to biodiversity and water environment".

Nevertheless – given that plans to relocate Tipton St John Primary School to the land at Thorne Farm owned by Devon County Council have been in the pipeline for some time, and that according to Devon County Council, "no other suitable sites are available that can produce a development income to pay for the school" – it will surprise some to learn that the question of sterilised mineral resources has yet to be broached.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

AI’s planning application to quarry Straitgate Farm will now enter a new decade

Surprise, surprise. Aggregate Industries has yet again failed to meet an agreed extension of the determination date for its planning application to quarry Straitgate Farm.

On 18 June, Devon County Council and Aggregate Industries agreed that the period for determination would be extended "from 28th June 2019 to 31st December 2019". It was the 8th such extension granted for this application. This latest extension – like the others – has now been missed, given that the submission of any further information would require at least 30 days of public consultation before the Council’s last DMC meeting of 2019 on 27 November.

Aggregate Industries’ planning application will now enter 2020. That’s worth thinking about.

Aggregate Industries launched its application to quarry Straitgate Farm back in 2015, having started site investigations in earnest in 2011. This of course ignores the planning application and public inquiry in the 1960s.

Some local people have been involved with this affair as far back as 2000; even Brexit is at risk of being done quicker than that.

Aggregate Industries has taken the best part of a decade (half a century, if we don’t ignore the 1960s) to work out how it can get its hands on less than a million tonnes of saleable material. And remember, that’s sand and gravel, not diamonds – no wonder Aggregate Industries is having problems with profitability. If all aggregate producers took that long with their planning applications, there would be no aggregates industry.

Why less than a million saleable tonnes? Because that’s what would be left after processing, and once the base of the proposed quarry has been raised to take account of the elevated groundwater levels recorded in 2018.

You might think there would come a point – after all these years – when someone would say enough is enough. The amount remaining is hardly viable. And remember, AI’s last two quarries in East Devon produced significantly less than expected – and there's every chance Straitgate would too. At nearby Marshbroadmoor:
The original planning application gave a figure of 1.1 million tonnes, but, due to geological faulting, nothing like that amount ever came out... an application was [later] made in 2010 for the bulk of the reserve, some 176,000 tonnes, to be processed at Blackhill.
And given all the delays, the site at Straitgate Farm is clearly not suitable, and with Aggregate Industries’ sand and gravel processing operations now 23 miles away up the M5, clearly not sustainable.

Nevertheless, year after year, Devon County Council keeps granting extensions to this multinational, despite the continued anxiety imposed on the community by this invasive and never-ending proposal.

We know what’s driving Aggregate Industries, but what’s driving the Council?

Monday, 21 October 2019

AI’s water consultants are still confused about Cadhay’s mediaeval fishponds –
but now have ‘no objection’ to including them in a Section 106

You would have thought after all these years that Aggregate Industries’ hydrogeology consultants – now going under the name of Wood, previously Amec Foster Wheeler, previously AMEC – would understand the water environment around Straitgate Farm, and in particular how the mediaeval fishponds, that are so important for the setting of Grade I listed Cadhay, derive their water. You would have thought the Environment Agency, having visited Cadhay, would also know.

Since we posted Professor of Hydrogeology says ‘ANY quarrying at Straitgate would cause problems’ in May, and Professor rebuts EA’s response to his report. Has the EA got it all wrong? in July, and EA wants AI to address Professor’s water concerns in August, Aggregate Industries' consultants have indeed attempted to address Prof Brassington’s concerns – in this document – and the Environment Agency is seemingly content that all is now well. The fact that the Environment Agency has discounted the advice from a Professor with 50 years' experience of hydrogeology in favour of consultants working on behalf of an aggregates giant set on digging as deep as it can, speaks volumes. The Environment Agency now says:
Having reviewed the further information submitted [from Wood in response to Prof Brassington’s report and correspondence] we maintain our position in respect of this proposal. We have no objections to the proposal only if the conditions we have previously recommended are included on any subsequent planning permission. We are pleased to note that Aggregate Industries have no objection to Cadhay House Spring being included within the Section 106 agreement.
It’s unlikely to be the end of the story, but plainly the Environment Agency didn’t read the entire memo, because Aggregate Industries has promised more.

We have previously posted about the mediaeval fishponds at Cadhay, most recently that the Devon Gardens Trust objects and Historic England gives assurance that “importance of Cadhay” will be recognised. The Devon Gardens Trust wrote:
The water supply to the fishponds comes from a spring located just below the extraction site at Straitgate Farm, a mile to the west of Cadhay. The fishponds have relied on the spring as a source of water for over 500 years. If the proposed extraction disrupts the spring and the water supply, the fishponds which are an essential and important feature of the gardens at Cadhay, will be turned into a quagmire, to the considerable detriment of the historic designed landscape.
Aggregate Industries’ water consultants make great play that the fishponds are 2km from Straitgate, but clearly still don’t understand how they work. They claim:
The ponds are situated in a body of River Terrace Deposits and likely owe their existence mainly to the presence of shallow groundwater, with water levels being mostly maintained by groundwater supply from relatively local recharge to the Otter Sandstone and potentially high storage in the River Terrace Deposits.
They clearly don’t understand that the clay-lined ponds are totally reliant on springs emanating from just below the proposed extraction area at Straitgate Farm. They clearly don’t understand that water to the ponds is fed by this leat:

The Devon Minerals Plan has made clear that:
Any proposal should include provision for alternative supply in the event of derogation of private water supplies resulting from mineral development. 
However, notwithstanding the fact that AI's legal assurances for alternative water supplies are “unfit for purpose”, and notwithstanding the fact that an alternative source may not be available in the event that any quarrying causes problems, and notwithstanding the fact that any proposed remedy could be too late anyway, Aggregate Industries – who previously had been unwilling to include Cadhay (neither its spring, nor its ponds, nor its wetland habitats in ancient woodland) in a Section 106 covering alternative water supplies – has now apparently had a change of heart:
Aggregate Industries have consistently maintained that the potential effects on Cadhay House Spring, the mediaeval fishponds (which are 2km from the proposed extraction area) and the wetland habitats will be negligible. However, Aggregate Industries have no objection to these being included in the Section 106 agreement.
Our emphasis.

Aggregate Industries – just as with some of our politicians – will now seemingly promise anything, deliverable or not, in order to get this planning application over the line.

‘Quarry dumping contaminates drinking water, costing up to £9 BILLION in clean up’

To underline the importance of protecting drinking water sources from untoward goings-on in quarries – be it from multinational cement conglomerates or others:
A man accused of dumping hazardous waste into a quarry may have caused £9 billion in damage to North Somerset's drinking water supply.

Brendan Moorehouse, prosecuting for the Environment Agency at North Somerset Courthouse on Monday, said: "With the huge harm, the huge cost of clean up and the risk to public health, this is an extremely serious case.
"The minimum cost of clean up is in excess of £50 million, and should the contaminants leach into the Bristol city water supply it could cost up to £9 billion."

Devon council moves to toughen green policies in face of climate emergency

As reported in Planning Resource, and elsewhere:
A Devon council has voted to give "appropriate weight" to climate change policies in its local plan and to develop new policies to strengthen its approach to environmental concerns in the wake of the authority declaring a "climate emergency" and the government's new statutory 2050 zero carbon target.
Teignbridge District Council voted to support the recommendations in this report, the purpose being:
To make clear what the current provisions are within the Local Plan for addressing the climate change challenge and to agree that these are given a weight which reflects fully the council’s declaration of a climate emergency and the new national statutory carbon reduction target. The report also sets out the Council’s direction of travel for a new suite of policies to address the climate change challenges as part of the update to the Local Plan and the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan.
with the justification that:
The Council has a responsibility through its planning functions to ensure that new development supports the transition to a low carbon future. Existing policies of the Local Plan should be implemented as effectively as possible and timely progress on the Local Plan update will enable us prepare new policies which are able to achieve the most positive impact and change. Addressing the energy and climate change challenge not only benefits the environment but has social and economic benefits too, helping to improve energy security, reduce fuel poverty, increase revenue from renewable energy generation and support general health and wellbeing of our population.

Coalition forces torch Lafarge cement plant in Syria

We have previously posted about LafargeHolcim’s involvement in Syria. Executives from the parent company of Aggregate Industries have been accused of financing terrorism. Later this month, the Court of Appeal in Paris will decide whether these charges will be upheld.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

‘It’s critical we stop extractive industries greenwashing their crimes’

That's the message in the article Towards a just, post-extractive transition by the author of a new report from the London Mining Network and War on Want, supported by Yes to Life, No to Mining.

Let's firstly remind ourselves, as the report itself does, of this CorpWatch definition:
GREENWASH: "The phenomenon of socially and environmentally destructive corporations attempting to preserve and expand their markets by posing as friends of the environment and leaders in the struggle to eradicate poverty."
According to the article, "the report reveals how the mining industry is greenwashing its operations, positioning itself as a deliverer of the minerals and metals critical to the renewable energy transition", when in reality "the majority of projected future demand for 'critical' minerals and metals does not come from the renewable energy sector at all, but rather from heavy industry, consumer electronics and military and other sources." The author of the report claims:
Mining corporations are aggressively and cynically marketing their destructive activity as a solution to the climate emergency.
Aggregate Industries and parent LafargeHolcim wouldn’t stoop to such levels, would they?

The report also talks about another term:
CARBON INTENSITY refers to carbon emissions per unit of production. Given that production is expected to increase, the relative decoupling of carbon emissions from production are cancelled out by the total increase in projected production.
In other words, reductions in CO2 per tonne can be undone by increases in total production.

This wouldn't apply to Aggregate Industries and LafargeHolcim as well, would it?

Clearly not at Aggregate Industries, because there is still no discernible progress on carbon emissions per unit of production – with CO2 emissions per tonne still increasing. So much for all that determination:

What about another measure of carbon intensity – what about carbon emissions per employee? In the year 2000, when Aggregate Industries’ CO2 emissions amounted 212,532 tonnes, the company reported this to be 59 tonnes per employee.

It’s not a ratio that Aggregate Industries mentions anymore. Perhaps that’s because, with annual emissions in the region of 1.3 million tonnes, it now equates to about 325 tonnes per employee per year. That’s quite a jump – a 450% jump – and certainly something to tell the grandchildren when they ask 'what did you do to help the climate crisis'?

But all this doesn’t stop Aggregate Industries pumping out more and more greenwash. Yesterday, in response to the government’s recent 2050 'net-zero' carbon target, the company issued a press release entitled A holistic approach to innovation will be key to realising net zero pledge states Aggregate Industries. The aggregate press regurgitated it as AI committed to 'net zero' carbon emissions:

The press release clearly calls on us to suspend disbelief, when the company that has overseen a five-fold increase in CO2 emissions claims:
as a forerunner in its commitment to the sustainability plight, Aggregate Industries continues to apply an increasingly eco-friendly approach to all business areas
The company’s CEO goes on to claim:
With the government committing to producing 'net zero' greenhouse gases by 2050, the construction industry’s role in safeguarding the future of our planet has never been more prevalent… Yes, it is a huge task but the sector has been working hard in recent years to address these issues - we believe that having more stringent local targets in place will only work to drive the industry to cut emissions further and faster.
Plainly when Guy Edwards talks about "working hard" and "further and faster" he’s forgetting Aggregate Industries’ 2.5 million mile haulage scheme for Straitgate.

You’d laugh about all this bilge, if the matter weren’t so serious.

Meanwhile, parent LafargeHolcim makes claims about carbon intensity too, about reducing carbon emissions per tonne, as we posted in LafargeHolcim has a way with numbers – CO2 emission numbers:
LafargeHolcim focuses on a kg of CO2 per tonne number – in fact, 576 kg CO2/t appears eight times in the [company's 2018 Sustainability Report], written in varying sizes of text, plainly because of that virtuous 1% reduction from the 2017 figure. But the "total cost to society" is not on a per/tonne basis, it is on a total CO2 emissions basis... You’ll find that number [121,000,000 tonnes CO2] only once in the report. It’s easy to miss, being buried on page 65 in very small text.
LafargeHolcim’s net CO2 emissions have in fact increased in 2018 – by 2.5%... All that enthusing about a 1% reduction in kgCO2/t has been swamped by LafargeHolcim selling 3.5% more cement.
And we've been generous: 121 million tonnes relates to the net CO2 emissions released by LafargeHolcim’s cement production in 2018. LafargeHolcim’s overall carbon footprint in 2018 is even higher, with total gross direct CO2 emissions of 135 million tonnes and total indirect CO2 emissions of 30 million tonnes.

Staggering numbers. But despite our climate emergency, LafargeHolcim is not planning to reduce its CO2 emissions per tonne by any more than 1% per year – to reach its target of 520kgCO2/tonne by 2030. So much for being the most ambitious etc etc:

What's even worse though – assuming the 520kgCO2/tonne target were actually achieved – is that if LafargeHolcim continues to sell 3.5% more material each year, total annual cement emissions would actually rise from 121 million tonnes in 2018 to some 160 million tonnes in 2030.

This is plainly not "consistent with the 2-degree scenario". It is however consistent, as this Financial Times analysis makes clear, with acting in a way that would "wipe out most life on the planet".

Construction industry suffers ‘devastating’ September

More bad news from the construction sector:

The survey shows that building activity in September 2019 fell at the second-fastest rate since April 2009, only narrowly outpaced by the fall seen in June this year. A historically steep drop in new orders was also registered, while recruitment activity fell at the fastest rate since the end of 2010.