Monday, 1 August 2022

It’s all about the unsaturated zone – the independent expert hydrogeologists will say

What happens to rain when it falls on the ground? The simple answer is that it either evaporates back into the atmosphere, flows to surface water bodies such as streams, or infiltrates into the soil.


Some of the water infiltrating into the soil will be taken up by vegetation. The remaining water will percolate down through the unsaturated or vadose zone to the water table and the saturated zone, where it becomes recharge to the groundwater system. In the Straitgate area, less than half of the rain falling onto the ground will add to the groundwater system as hydrologically effective rainfall.


The rain falling onto the ground is slightly acidic. After evapotranspiration – the loss of water from the soil both by evaporation from the soil surface and by transpiration from the leaves of the plants growing on it – the substances dissolved in that water remain behind, and the water in the soil becomes more acidic. Carbon dioxide in the soil – from microbial decay of organic matter and respiration of plant roots – will dissolve into the water making it even more acidic. 

The table below – from Baseline groundwater chemistry: the Sherwood Sandstone of Devon and Somerset – shows the chemical composition of rainfall at North Wyke, 45 km west of Ottery St Mary.

The rain falling on Straitgate Farm will have much the same composition, which means that the groundwater – so important for many people's drinking water supplies – starts life with a pH of 4, or less.

Water with a pH of 4 is ten times more acidic than water with a pH of 5 and 100 times more acidic than a pH of 6. The Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 2016 state that tap water should have a pH between 6.5 and 9.5. A pH of 7 is neutral. 

At Straitgate, the weakly acidic solution travels slowly through the unsaturated zone over a period of years and, after reacting with carbonates in the rocks, loses most of the acidity and becomes drinkable.

Straitgate has no doubt provided a valuable source of drinking water for local inhabitants for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

Why is the unsaturated zone important? The rock/water interactions to control acidity are dependant on the time the water spends in contact with the underlying geology. The flow rate in the unsaturated zone – where the soil pores are drier and their ability to conduct water drastically decreases – can be many times slower than in the saturated zone below the water table, as this video explains. 


It is the unsaturated zone at Straitgate that Aggregate Industries wants to remove.

As you might expect, the company claims this would make no difference. Its Statement of Case says:
6.25 The appellant has considered each private water supply and it has been concluded that there will be no significant impact on these current private water supplies 
6.16 The hydrological impact assessment has resulted in the findings that the dry working option will not affect the groundwater and surface water quantities feeding into the four streams flowing off the site, including the two flowing into Cadhay Wood and Cadhay Bog. The fish ponds at Cadhay House will similarly not be affected.
However, Aggregate Industries' conceptual groundwater model is based on a BIG mistake. The company's consultants have argued that groundwater moves through the unsaturated zone in a matter of days. The science – here and here for example – says it takes years, that for Sherwood Sandstone – the geology at Straitgate Farm – the flow rate of water percolating through the unsaturated layer is measured in metres per year (m/a), not metres per day.


The difference between the current situation and the one that will pertain once 5 m of the unsaturated zone has been removed will be a loss of some 32% of the flow time taken for water to reach the Cadhay Spring from the ground surface at Straitgate Farm. This is a very large loss and will result in a significant reduction in the pH of the local spring waters. In my opinion, the acidity level in the spring waters in the area could fall to pH 5 or even less, a value that is very much lower than that today and, contrary to the EA’s understanding is well below the lowest level set in the Drinking Water Standards.
The Public Inquiry in October will undoubtedly tackle the effect on drinking water supplies of taking away virtually all of the unsaturated zone at Straitgate. To this end, Devon County Council and Straitgate Action Group have instructed independent expert hydrogeologists to act as witnesses. The Statement of Case from Devon County Council – the MPA – says:
6.12 ... the MPA has instructed an independent expert hydrogeologist to consider the evidence and materials produced on all sides to date, by Wood for the Appellant, by Professor Brassington for SAG, and by the EA. Having done so, their clear view is that Professor Brassington’s position that the Straitgate Proposals will result in a lowering of the pH of water reaching Cadhay is to be preferred (and has not been countered). The best available information is Professor Brassington’s analytical model. This predicts a halving of the average travel time of the water after it lands as rainwater. The water starts, due to evaporation and plant take up, as acidic. At present, its journey through the unsaturated zone sees it mineralise and the acidity “buffered” (its pH increases). Even then, at the moment (in baseline conditions), when water reaches Cadhay it is mildly acidic. The removal of the unsaturated zone by reason of the Straitgate Proposals would reduce the opportunity for the water to mineralise and so its pH would not be raised even to the extent it is presently.  
6.13 The result would be more acidic water at the fishponds than at present, and the likelihood is therefore that the ponds would be harmed by reason of a change in their ecology. The ponds themselves are part of a designated heritage asset (Grade II), as well as integral to the setting of Cadhay itself (Grade I). There may even be impacts to ecology outside the ponds themselves

Friday, 22 July 2022

Landbank above 7 years at time of Straitgate decision – revision shows

This week, Devon County Council issued a revision of the county's sand and gravel landbank as it stood at the end of 2020. 

This was the landbank figure applicable last December when Aggregate Industries’ planning application to quarry Straitgate Farm was determined. The figure should have been 7.6 years – not the 5.7 years put forward by the Council. 

We pointed to the spurious fall in 2020's sand and gravel reserves – a loss of 0.9 million tonnes in excess of sales – at the time. The 10th Devon LAA claimed: 
There has been a significant reduction in reserves during 2020. This can be attributed to a reassessment of reserves by operators. 
Devon County Council has now sent a correction – Appeal Note – Landbank - 20/07/2022 – to the Planning Inspectorate, which states: 
1.3 In the course of preparation of the [as yet unpublished] 11th Devon LAA, based on aggregates sales and reserves data for 2021, it has been identified in July 2022 that an inaccurate figure for reserves provided by a mineral operator [not the Appellant] for the 2020 aggregates survey has resulted in the calculation of an incorrect duration for the sand and gravel landbank.

3.7 Contrary to the statements made in the committee report as outlined in paragraph 1.1 above, Devon’s sand and gravel landbank was, using the revised landbank figure of 7.6 years, above the seven years minimum required by Policy M11 of the Devon Minerals Plan [CD8.02] and paragraph 213 of the National Planning Policy Framework [CD8.01]. 
Indeed, the notion that the landbank was less than the 7 years suggested by the NPPF featured heavily in the committee report that informed councillors determining the Straitgate application: 
6.1.10 The 10th LAA for Devon... shows that, at the end of 2020, the landbank for sand and gravel was 5.7 years and it has therefore fallen below the seven years minimum required by paragraph 213 of the NPPF and Policy M11 of the DMP. 

6.1.12 In this context, Part 2 of Policy M11 presumes in favour of permitting proposals for a new or extended sand and gravel site as the relevant landbank is below the minimum duration… 
Crucially, the apparent shortfall guided the "Planning Balance and Reasons for Recommendation": 
7.5 A number of objectors have pointed out that the reduced amount of aggregate to be derived from the site must now mean that the harm caused by the proposal would outweigh the benefit of working the site; however, the current aggregate landbank has also fallen below the required seven years supply and this would weigh significantly in favour of this proposal in the absence of any other site coming onstream in the near future. 
Clearly, with more than 7 years’ worth of permitted sand and gravel, the size of the landbank should NOT have "weigh[ed] significantly in favour of this proposal". 

Indeed, knowing the true figure, the officers might even have had to recommend refusal, given what "a fine balance" the whole decision was: 
7.22 Although this site is allocated in the current Devon Minerals Plan, the length of time it has taken to bring it to determination has reflected the complicated issues that needed to be addressed, and it is acknowledged that the benefits of delivering the Minerals Plan proposal and maintaining the required aggregates supply, set against the impacts of the proposed development, has been a fine balance 
Aggregate Industries' statement of case for the appeal also plays heavily on the fact that the landbank for sand and gravel was below 7 years. 

One might reasonably conclude that the company's case is now even flimsier.

Holcim’s cost to society in 2021? 156 million tons of CO2 emissions

As the UK hit 40°C this week, a milestone in UK climate history, spare a thought for residents of an Indonesian island threatened by rising sea levels who have begun legal action against the cement producer Holcim – parent company of Aggregate Industries. 


You can see why. We have posted about Aggregate Industries’ parent, and its record on CO2 emissions. Last year we posted LafargeHolcim’s cost to society in 2020? 146 million tons of CO2 emissions – more than many countries

Since then the name has changed but the pollution goes on. In 2021, Holcim's cost to society has INCREASED to 156 million tons. 


So much for all the claims, for all the greenwash:


Holcim maintained its focus on CO2 emission reduction in 2021... we acknowledge we must accelerate our CO2 reductions in the coming years.
And what about Aggregate Industries, Holcim's UK subsidiary? 


Kirstin McCarthy, sustainability director at Aggregate Industries, says: 
We need to transform our business and we have already made progress.
This is the same sustainability director who spoke in support of the company’s wholly unsustainable 2.5 million mile haulage plan for Devon

She says: 
Our priorities are to reduce our impact on the climate, protect and enhance nature and the environment, drive the transition to a circular economy and protect and support our people and communities.
More greenwash. 

But for how much longer can companies make meaningless, hollow claims? Lawyers and environmentalists have greenwashing companies in their sights.


As one article in the financial press remarked: 
The popular ploy of marketing everything from burgers to investment funds as 'green' doesn’t look sustainable any more.
Suggest they include concrete in that list.

Concrete lobby takes swipe at sustainable timber

We all know that timber is a sustainable building material. It’s renewable and locks in carbon.

Not only does wood remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than it adds through manufacture, but by replacing carbon-intensive materials such as concrete or steel it doubles its contribution to lowering CO2. 
Could we return to wood as our primary building material? One architect says: 
It’s not only realistic, it’s imperative. It has to happen. In architecture you always go back to the sketch: the sketch is climate change.
The concrete industry plainly feels threatened.
 

Steve Elliott, chairman of BAR, the trade association for UK manufacturers and fabricators of concrete reinforcement products, claims: 
When you consider the destructive harvesting, industrial manufacturing process, additional chemicals and monoculture plantations it may be that too much credit has been given to timber being a green material. Indeed, it may better to keep the ‘wood’ alive rather than cut it down and build with it.
David Hopkins, chief executive of Timber Development UK refuted such "strawman arguments": 
This report from BAR really brings nothing new to the table other than a desperate attempt to smear a sustainable construction material by those sectors which have a less than positive tale to tell about their environmental impact 

There are already fully verified environmental product declarations behind all timber construction products which consider the whole supply chain. This means the impacts of timber products are measured, assessed, and verified by independent experts from forest to factory to operational building – right through to the product’s end of life. 

The truth is that timber is a renewable material which comes from sustainably managed resources – growing throughout Europe – which absorbs and stores carbon and requires very low energy inputs to process into high-performance low-carbon construction products. 

Concrete, on the other hand, requires materials such as sand – produced from dredging rivers and seabeds, destroying ecosystems and habitats in the process – and huge inputs of energy and water to manufacture. It’s a very high carbon material – and an issue which must be tackled to decarbonise construction. 

Rather than a constructive attempt to find solutions to the climate crisis, they would rather waste time dreaming up strawman arguments like this report because they know they cannot compete in a market with a greater focus on sustainability.
In other news:
 

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

AI’s statement of case


Aggregate Industries, on the other hand, says "no material reason for refusal has been substantiated." Well, they would say that wouldn’t they?

This, and other nuggets of wisdom, can be found in Aggregate Industries' statement of case and wishful draft statement of common ground, for those interested. 

A letter from the Planning Inspectorate to Devon County Council sheds light on what we can expect over the next few weeks. 

Devon County Council has made the assurance to local people that: 
We have forwarded all the representations made to us on the application to the Planning Inspectorate and the appellant. These will be considered by the Inspector when determining the appeal.

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Planning Inspectorate issues Start Date for AI’s appeal against Straitgate decision

Following news of Aggregate Industries’ appeal against Devon County Council’s refusal last year for a sand and gravel quarry at Straitgate Farmposted about earlier this month – the Planning Inspectorate has today started the clock on the process and issued a Start Date. 

The respective references are APP/J1155/W/22/3299799 and APP/J1155/W/22/3299802, where more detail can be found.

AI withdraws application to extend Chard Junction Quarry in Dorset AONB

We have previously posted about Aggregate Industries’ unsuccessful attempts to extend its quarry at Chard Junction, a development that would have caused considerable harm to the Dorset AONB for the sake of a relatively small amount of decorative stone. The NPPF affords the highest level of landscape protection to AONBs, where exceptional circumstances are required for major development. 

The application WD/D/19/000451 to extend the quarry was thrown out by Dorset Council last year

The company reapplied with application P/FUL/2022/00109 for some 830,000 tonnes – here’s the non-technical summary – with what many thought was essentially the same proposal. It raised the same concerns. CPRE said
Exactly as before, CPRE vigorously opposes this application for a new large quarry at Westford Park Farm. There is no significant change to the previous application which was refused. Apparently the material to be extracted has somehow magically changed from decorative sand to gravel for building purposes. 
This is not an ‘extension’, as billed in the application, but a new quarry with a road for haulage. There is a distinct space between the old and new quarry which includes a road. It is again of the greatest importance that this application is for a major development (of a quarry) in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 
Aggregate Industries has now withdrawn the revised application

A smaller application P/FUL/2022/01971 for 50,000 tonnes at the same site has also been withdrawn.

Sunday, 12 June 2022

Aggregate Industries sued for £8m after botched Silverstone resurfacing

In the same week we learnt that Aggregate Industries is to appeal Devon County Council's decision to refuse a quarry at Straitgate Farm, we also learnt that the company is to be sued for £8m. Some might call that karma. 

Aggregate Industries’ disastrous resurfacing of Silverstone in 2018, and the humiliating public relations nightmare that followed, was the subject of various posts on this blog. It now transpires that Silverstone is suing Aggregate Industries, the self-titled “racing circuit experts”, for £8m in damages: 

We all no doubt wish Silverstone the best of luck.

Another rural community standing up against the Holcim leviathan


Holcim, previously LafargeHolcim, causes aggravation wherever it goes: 
On the French Atlantic coast, a small town of a few thousand inhabitants is rising up against a powerful opponent: two massive sand mines that have been nibbling away at their land. 

The mines, run by industry giants Lafarge and GSM, already cover a surface of 115 hectares. The two companies have applied for an extension permit that could see their quarries grow by several dozen hectares. 

A citizens' association, La tête dans le sable (Head stuck in the sand), is firmly standing in their way. Its members say they won't let their rural community get sacrificed for the sake of sand.   

"The mining companies will dig huge holes. And that means the aquifer, water reserves found underground which are normally out of sight, are going to be burst open," explains Sylvain Jallot, the association's spokesperson. 

The non-profit claims that least 1 million cubic metres of water will evaporate from the surface each year, the equivalent of the domestic water consumption of about 30,000 people.  

The group has already organised several rallies and is leading a legal battle against the mining companies.

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Aggregate Industries appeals


Aggregate Industries won’t take no for an answer. It clearly has no respect for local democracy.

After three failed planning applications, the company has decided to roll the dice again and has submitted a last-minute appeal against Devon County Council’s refusal last year for a sand and gravel quarry at Straitgate Farm

Aggregate Industries’ appeal has been lodged with the Planning Inspectorate. A start date for the appeal process has not yet been issued, neither have the company’s grounds for appeal. The appeal is expected to be held by way of public inquiry, which is anticipated to last for 6 days.

Lest we forget, Aggregate Industries’ plans for Straitgate Farm necessitate hauling material 23 miles to Hillhead for processing, an astronomical 2.5 million miles in all. Any sustainability strategy, any ambitious targets the company might have are clearly meaningless.

Thursday, 2 December 2021

A fantastic result for Ottery St Mary

Aggregate Industries’ planning application to quarry Straitgate Farm was yesterday refused by the Development Management Committee at Devon County Council. 

A recording of the proceedings can be found here, and the minutes here.

The proposal for refusal was put forward on the grounds of: 

a) the great weight afforded by the NPPF to the protection of heritage assets irrespective of the degree of harm, 
b) the unacceptable impact on human health relating to private water supplies, 
c) the unresolved road safety issues relating to the cattle crossing and children’s bus stop, 
d) the lack of evidence of protected species due to failure to provide up-to-date surveys, 
e) the lack of a surface water management plan, still not produced after all this time,
f) the loss of mature trees and 1.5km of important hedges,
and the impact on climate change. 

The proposal for refusal was carried by 5 votes to 0, with 3 abstentions. 

Following this, the recommendation for the in-tandem application for haulage 23 miles to Hillhead was rapidly re-written, from a recommendation of approval to one of refusal on sustainability grounds. This revised recommendation was then put to a vote and passed unanimously. 

An enormous thank you to everyone involved over the years, including Cllrs Jess Bailey and Roger Giles, and Claire Wright, and to all those who have worked so hard behind the scenes. 

Special thanks as well to the professionals who have helped us along the way, particularly: 

Professor Rick Brassington 
Dr Helen Rutter 
Charlie Hopkins 
Tim Taylor – Khift Ltd 
Richard Moules – Landmark Chambers 

We can highly recommend them all. 

Yesterday was a very good day; a victory for local democracy.


Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Aggregate Industries’ quarry plan for Straitgate Farm REFUSED

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Simon Jupp MP ‘unable to support this application’

DCC planning officers couldn't even get the name right

Devon County Council's planning officers have had more than six years to get things right.

The report recommending approval of Aggregate Industries' scheme to quarry Straitgate Farm starts: 
1.1 The application is for the development of a new sand and gravel quarry... at Stairgate Farm. 
The officer’s report contains a multitude of material errors, inconsistencies and misleading statements, and a list has now been sent to Devon County Council to circulate to the Planning Committee before tomorrow’s decision. 

More importantly, a Pre-Action Protocol Letter for Judicial Review has also been sent to the Council. 

In response, the Council has now issued three pages of hastily revised conditions.

The Development Management Committee meeting to decide Straitgate's fate will be held tomorrow, 1 December at 2.15pm. 

The meeting will be livestreamed – the link can be found here.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

DCC officers recommend approval of AI’s application to quarry Straitgate Farm


Today, however, it should come as no surprise to readers – who will have long smelt the direction of travel, long sensed the approaching stitch-up – that Devon County Council planning officers are recommending councillors approve Aggregate Industries’ controversial and flawed scheme to quarry Straitgate Farm and decimate its best and most versatile agricultural land.


But as we said, this should come as no surprise. The writing was on the wall back in 2012, when selecting sites for inclusion in the Minerals Plan the Minerals Officer rejected nine others in a sham site appraisal exercise in favour of Straitgate, a site with a claimed 3.6 million tonnes, and the only site owned by Aggregate Industries. Even the Environment Agency recognised "some of the excluded sites may be preferable in environmental terms." 

The writing was still on the wall in 2017, when – with the recoverable resource now barely 1 million tonnes – it was made abundantly clear that Devon County Council’s job was to deliver Straitgate for the Swiss-owned multinational cement conglomerate. We posted: 
Aggregate Industries’ quest to quarry Straitgate Farm has been a long-running and sorry saga. Anyone hoping that its latest planning application would be decided on its merits – weighing up the multitude of conflicting issues – will be disappointed. 
Since 2017, there has been nothing but problems. Devon County Council has however favoured Aggregate Industries with 13 extensions of time for determination. In return, the company has been unwilling to supply information on various fundamental parts of the application, not only on the impact on the A30 and B3174 from the dairy cows that would need to cross Ottery’s main road 4x daily between replacement pasture and milking parlour, but also on the crucial issue of surface water management. The latter was, according to Devon County Council:
...so important in terms of the likely significant impacts of the proposal the MPA would wish to ensure that a SWM scheme can be designed to meet all of the requirements identified in advance of the determination of this application. 
This "so important" issue has now been left to resolve post determination – beyond the eyes of public scrutiny – which not only makes a mockery of the last 6 years and the process of Environmental Impact Assessment, but is, according to legal advice we have received, unlawful. Recent case law says: 
...a planning authority cannot rely on conditions and undertakings as a surrogate for the EIA process. It cannot conclude that a development is unlikely to have significant effects on the environment simply because all such effects are likely to be eliminated by measures that will be carried out by the developer pursuant to conditions and/or undertakings. 
Obviously, the planning officer’s report will now be scrutinised. As we know, planning committee reports are 'a fertile ground for judicial review challenges'. An earlier FOI request revealed that the case officer has already admitted privately that: 
Councillors will vote on the application at the DMC meeting on Wednesday 1 December.

Those dependent on the site for their drinking water will hope that councillors do the right thing.

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Determination date set – finally

After more than 6 years, Devon County Council is now sufficiently confident to put Aggregate Industries' disastrous planning application for Straitgate Farm and parallel application for haulage all the way to Hillhead, before the planning committee on 1 December 2021, at 2.15pm.

Agenda papers are expected to be published on 23 November, and will be available here.

Monday, 15 November 2021

‘pH of water supplies could fall to 5 or less’ – so what remedy in Straitgate’s S106?

The Environment Agency is supposed to know about water.


In June 2020, the Environment Agency advised Devon County Council, in an email now released through an FOI request, that Professor Brassington: 
…asserts that quarrying would cause the pH to exceed the Drinking Water Standard, but a Drinking Water Standard for pH does not actually exist. 
However, the Environment Agency was wrong. 

In a letter last week to the Council, Professor Brassington wrote
At the moment the acidity of the water (measured by its pH) is low around 6.5 pH units. The EA state that there are no regulations regarding the pH of drinking water, however they are wrong. The Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 2016 for England in Schedule 2 Indicator parameters states on line 7 that the Hydrogen ion should lie between 9.5 (maximum) and 6.5 (minimum) as measured as a pH value at the consumers’ taps...
Reducing the travel time will mean that less carbonate materials are dissolved and so the pH will fall. I intuitively feel that it could get to pH 5 or even less. 
...as the pH scale is logarithmic the difference between pH 6.5 and pH 5 is fifteen-fold 
It is my view that Devon County Council should not grant permission for this proposal as it will result in severe problems to private water supplies that will become too acidic to drink. 
Here are The Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 2016 and The Private Water Supplies (England) Regulations 2016 which do indeed state – just as Prof Brassington said – that tap water should have a pH between 6.5 and 9.5:

How embarrassing that the Environment Agency of all people should not know this. How much else do they claim to know, but don’t? After all, the Environment Agency has been taken in by Aggregate Industries' assertion that groundwater speeds through the unsaturated zone in a matter of days, when peer-reviewed scientific papers say it takes years.

Devon County Council has previously said it would be "guided by the views of the Environment Agency who retain professionals qualified in this technical field." 

Where does this leave the Council, who has put such faith in the technical competence of the Environment Agency? 

Where does this leave the Council, knowing Aggregate Industries’ proposal to quarry Straitgate Farm would cause private water supplies to become too acidic to drink, for more than 100 people, for businesses, and for Grade I listed Cadhay?

Where does this leave the Council, when the S106 Draft Heads of Terms – the only such document so far seen by stakeholders, with little more than two weeks before determination – provides no remedy should pH breach unacceptable levels?

The Environment Agency's proposed conditions, 31 January 2020, say: 
In its water quality provisions, the S106 agreement shall include pH.
The draft S106 Heads of Terms shared with stakeholders references pH only once: 
The content of an annual monitoring report that will include: f)  A review of water quality data, including pH levels;
But being contained in a monitoring report, which may or may not be delivered years late, is one thing. Doing anything about it is a completely different matter.

DCC Highways offers no objection – but answers nothing

Devon County Highways, as the Local Highways Authority, the LHA, has taken 4 years to produce a response to Aggregate Industries’ planning application to quarry Straitgate Farm. It needn’t have bothered. It answers nothing.

…in order to assess the potential highway safety impacts the MPA needs to have reliable information on existing and potential agricultural crossings of the Exeter Road and, in particular how this would be controlled in the future in the interests of highway safety.
Reliable information on the impact of agricultural crossings has not been provided. EDDC objected

I’d be really grateful if you could take onboard the comments from East Devon DC in your response – especially as AI still seem to be leaving the real impact of the quarry/cattle crossing/farm viability to us to consider with no real evidence that they wont be causing problems down the line – except their say-so. 
Does the LHA answer this? No. 

The case officer also wrote: 
The other (late) issue I have been presented with is the tree officer saying that the road access sections don’t include the trees he was concerned about and he still isn’t convinced that the gravel path won’t impact on the third party tree. Given that AI will need our agreement to do any works in the highway verge I’m assuming that the control would be with us and we wouldn’t permit any construction that could impact on that tree or they will probably sue us? So we do have the control? I just need you to confirm that and I will go back to AI and tell them that (and explain in my report). 
Does the LHA answer this? No. 

The case officer also wrote: 
The SAG are chasing about why we didn’t think the Vectos access through Little Straitgate was a less damaging alternative (in terms of hedgerow/tree loss). My recollection was that it was in the wrong place in terms of highway safety but if there’s any chance of clarifying that in your final response it would help me to deal with that point?
Does the LHA answer this? No. 

In 2018, Vectos transport consultants put forward an alternative site access to Devon County Council. As it turns out, this alternative had already been considered behind the scenes by Aggregate Industries. Vectos said the alternative site access:
...would remove many of the local concerns and provide comparative advantages, which include… Improved safety for children waiting for school buses at Birdcage Lane/Toadpit Lane junction… Removal of threat of injunction and legal action against Council from the neighbouring landowner whose property would be damaged… [whilst] Visibility for right-turning quarry traffic exiting at this widened junction would not be significantly different to the visibility at the Exeter Road/Birdcage Lane junction.
Aggregate Industries has failed to include a comparison of environmental effects for this alternative in its Environmental Statement. Planning guidance says:  
...where alternatives have been considered, paragraph 2 of Schedule 4 [of The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations] requires the applicant to include in their Environmental Statement a description of the reasonable alternatives studied (for example in terms of development design, technology, location, size and scale) and an indication of the main reasons for selecting the chosen option, including a comparison of the environmental effects. Paragraph: 041 Reference ID: 4-041-20170728 
So, how could Devon County Council, without a "comparison of the environmental effects", lawfully conclude that the development would be acceptable?

The LHA's response is remiss in other areas too. On traffic surveys, the LHA reports: 
...the LHA does not dispute the number of vehicle movements as described in the TA.
The LHA ignores the fact that the traffic counts are now more than 3 years old. 

On cumulative impact of permitted development, the LHA reports:
The LHA agrees with the number of sites and residential units, plus care home that have been evaluated in the TA.
This ignores all the development that has occurred since 2018.

On collision data, the LHA reports:
The LHA agrees with the collision data put forward in the TA and does not disagree with its conclusions.  
This is despite the collision data only covering up to 2016, and only covering a short stretch of the road – conveniently ignoring a recorded fatality. The LHA's conclusion is also surprising, because although Aggregate Industries’ Transport Assessment claims: 
No collisions involving HGV’s have occurred within the three year period and none have been attributed to excessive speed.
the case officer – knowing there have been accidents on the B3174, including HGVs, many reported on this blog – asked the LHA to:

Thursday, 11 November 2021

DCC moves to climate-focused road repairs – so there’s even less need for Straitgate


However, with 23 miles separating the proposed quarry face and processing plant, any sand and gravel extracted from Straitgate Farm would have higher amounts of embodied carbon, even before processing and onward distribution is taken into account. 

Each as-dug load would require a 46-mile round trip. Each as-dug load would contain 20% silt, a waste product. In total, some 2.5 million miles of HGV haulage would be required, with effectively 500,000 miles of that for waste. 

It's lunacy. No other UK aggregates operator hauls as-dug material 23 miles for processing. No other UK aggregates operator produces sand and gravel that would have such a high carbon footprint.

This week, Devon County Council announced "an absolute game-changer":
Devon is leading the way on new approach to carbon-reduction in highway maintenance 
We are adopting a pioneering new, climate-focused approach to road maintenance that is winning plaudits nationally. 

We’re reviewing our road maintenance procedures – the materials we use, how they’re produced, how they’re used, how they’re applied, the labour required, the time it takes, how long they last, everything – to assess the carbon impact of the work we do. 

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Cabinet Member responsible for highway maintenance, said: 

"In the past, we’ve looked at road maintenance from the point of view of cost and quality. Those factors – the cost to fix something and the performance of the products – have determined how we got the job done. 

"But now we’ve got a third, and arguably most important factor – carbon impact – that is determining a new approach to road maintenance. 

"Now we’re thinking about the materials we use, and how high in carbon their production is; waste, and whether there’s a lot of waste; sustainability, and how long that repair will last. 

"It’s putting carbon-reduction at the heart of our design, alongside performance and cost." 
Councillor Andrea Davis, Cabinet Member charged with responsibility for climate change response, said: 
"The ramifications are enormous. It’s an absolute game-changer that we will not go back from. 
"We have made a public commitment that this council will be net-zero carbon by 2030, and a lot of our carbon output is from the responsibilities we have as a highway authority."
What does this mean? Road contractors will now need to show the carbon footprint of material used for Devon County Council work.

And how long will it be before the disclosure of embodied carbon is required for other markets? 

Today, at COP26, more than 100 organisations led by the UK Green Building Council are due to publish a Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap for the nation’s built environment. One of the recommendations:
Introduce the regulation of embodied carbon for new buildings and major refurbishments
The World Green Building Council has also issued "a bold new vision" that: 
By 2030, all new buildings, infrastructure and renovations will have at least 40% less embodied carbon
Could the sand and gravel resource at Straitgate become a high-embodied-carbon stranded asset?

AI marking out Straitgate’s proposed site access to show DMC councillors next week

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Professor sends lecture videos to EA et al.

Aggregate Industries, its water consultants Wood, the Environment Agency and Devon County Council can’t or won’t get their heads around the nature of groundwater flow through the unsaturated zone – the vadose zone, the zone that Aggregate Industries wants to remove at Straitgate Farm, the zone so important for surrounding private water supplies. This is despite countless warnings from Professor Brassington, a renowned authority on the subject. 

Aggregate Industries' consultants have claimed "recharge reaches the water table in the BSPB through unsaturated thicknesses of between approximately 3 and 10 m within between 1 and 3 days". Professor Brassington says groundwater flow through the unsaturated zone takes years, and the removal of it will in time make drinking water sources too acidic. 

In an effort to overcome this apparent lack of understanding, Professor Brassington has sent the above bodies links to a series of online mini-lectures by Professor John Selker of Oregon State University, who, Professor Brassington writes: 
...covers the flow through the vadose zone very clearly and clarifies this bit of the hydrological cycle that is often missed by hydrogeologists in our training. 

‘Greenwashing – the new climate denial’


Whilst "the world is on track for disastrous levels of global heating far in excess of the limits in the Paris climate agreement", here are the latest announcements from the parent of Aggregate Industries: 


Clearly the greenwashing from Holcim has reached new levels, because for the world’s largest cement company – mining finite resources, destroying biodiversity, emitting millions of tonnes of CO2, contributing to climate change and hardship for millions of people – to claim "Sustainability is at the core of what we do" is simply asking people to suspend all rational thought. Lest we forget, Concrete is the most destructive material on Earth.

And the insanity continues. Did you know "The words innovation and sustainability mean the same thing"? No, neither did we. If you thought innovation was related to new ideas, and that sustainability was about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, Holcim wants you to think again. Not content with greenwashing, the multinational cement giant now wants to redefine the English language.

But don’t despair. Thank goodness Aggregate Industries – a company that has given up reporting its CO2 emissions – is playing its part for COP26:


It's hard to believe, given its multi-million-mile haulage plans for Straitgate, but Aggregate Industries claims to have net-zero ambitions. 

Here’s net zero explained:

A Sydney man has set an ambitious target to phase out his alcohol consumption within the next 29 years, as part of an impressive plan to improve his health.
The program will see Greg Taylor, 73, continue to drink as normal for the foreseeable future, before reducing consumption in 2049 when he turns 101. He has assured friends it will not affect his drinking plans in the short or medium term. 
Taylor said it was important not to rush the switch to non-alcoholic beverages. “It’s not realistic to transition to zero alcohol overnight. This requires a steady, phased approach where nothing changes for at least two decades,” he said, adding that he may need to make additional investments in beer consumption in the short term, to make sure no night out is worse off. 
Taylor will also be able to bring forward drinking credits earned from the days he hasn’t drunk over the past forty years, meaning the actual end date for consumption may actually be 2060. 
To assist with the transition, Taylor has bought a second beer fridge which he describes as the ‘capture and storage’ method.

EA labelled ‘irresponsible’ after appealing landmark human rights ruling

If you thought the Environment Agency existed "to create better places for people and wildlife, and support sustainable development", think again. After allowing the sewage scandal, now this: 

Lawyers have accused the Environment Agency of 'wasting time and taxpayers money' after the regulator lodged an appeal against a High Court ruling, which found that it had failed to protect the life of a five-year-old child in its regulation of the Walleys Quarry landfill in Newcastle-under-Lyme. 

During the original hearing in September, Dr Ian Sinha from Alder Hey hospital said that unless Mathew Richards, who was born with bronchopulmonary dysplasia, had access to clean air his lungs will not recover and continued exposure to Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) emissions from the landfill site will mean that Mathew's life expectancy will inevitably be shortened.” 

The High Court ruled that the agency needed to do more to protect the local population as early as possible and that all measures must be “taken to reduce off-site odours as early as possible so that the WHO half hour guideline (5ppb) [five parts per billion] is met, addressing the undesirable current effects on people’s well-being and the symptoms they are experiencing”. 

It also said that from January 2022 off-site H2S should be reduced to below the US Environmental Protection Agency reference concentration of 1ppb. 

However, the EA was granted permission to appeal the ruling at the end of October. In its grounds for appeal, the EA argues that the judge presiding on the case “erred in deciding that judicial intervention was either justified or appropriate”. 

The EA argued that as the specialist statutory regulator, it was for itself and “not for the court, to evaluate and to determine the further action needed in order to restore gas emission levels at and in the locality of Walleys Quarry to acceptable levels and within an acceptable timescale”. 

The EA also argued that it was not found to have breached or to be breaching “positive obligation and [that there was] therefore neither a justification nor a requirement for a remedy”.  

Matthew Richard’s solicitor Rebekah Carrier, of Hopkin Murray Beskine, told ENDS that it was “astonishing” that the EA “had made extensive submissions to the Court of Appeal without even mentioning the fact that the pollution from the site is shortening Mathew’s life”.  

“Rather than waste time and public money on an academic appeal the EA should be putting their efforts into making the area safe.” 

Carrier said her legal team would “be drawing the Court of Appeal’s attention to the irresponsible failure of the EA to even mention the risk to Mathew’s health in its submissions to the court and asking the Court of Appeal to give the appeal the short shrift it deserves”.  

The Court of Appeal hearing is expected to take place before Christmas.