Saturday, 21 July 2012

What does 'sustainable' mean?

Scheme of sustainable development:
at the confluence of three constituent parts.
Source: Wikipedia
The phrase "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" appeared as long ago as 1987, and now 'sustainable' development is the overriding theme running through the National Planning Policy Framework - "Sustainable means ensuring that better lives for ourselves don’t mean worse lives for future generations", "Sustainable development is about change for the better, and not only in our built environment" and "Development that is sustainable should go ahead, without delay – a presumption in favour of sustainable development that is the basis for every plan, and every decision." 

Quarrying sand and gravel from the Budleigh Salterton Pebble Beds, a finite resource, by definition can never be described as 'sustainable'. 

'Sustainable' can mean using recycled and secondary aggregates, or using farmland for the generation of food, or using groundwater for drinking water supplies, or using our scenic and historic assets to promote tourism for the support of local businesses.

'Sustainable' does not mean dumping ball clay sand and gravels as waste whilst quarrying for primary aggregates, or polluting local villages by hauling as-dug material to Woodbury Common for processing, or hauling silt or other material back to Straitgate for restoration, or damaging ancient woodland and wetland habitats, or losing groundwater supplies for up to 100 people and 380 acres of grazing land, or increasing flood risk to downstream communities.

Straitgate Farm performs a number of very useful functions, including being a productive dairy farm, holding groundwater for drinking supplies, and moderating water run-off to limit flooding. Quarrying would permanently degrade all these functions for future generations, and therefore would not only be unnecessary, unjustifiable, and unmitigatable, but completely unsustainable.

Aggregate Industries would have us believe they are committed to sustainability, and their web site with all that grass is very 'green'. The statement "As a company we are committed to sustainable construction and reducing the carbon footprint of the products we produce and transport" has been rolled out a number of times - however not in relation to their normal activities, but to the erection of wind turbines in Cornwall, Lancashire and County Durham.