Thursday, 6 December 2012

For AI it's all or nothing

The Head of Geological Services at Aggregate Industries explained to a number of people at a meeting today why, in his view, Straitgate Farm is so important to his company. For AI it's all or nothing. All if it wins permission, because in the decades following on from Straitgate, and with a foothold in the area, it will look to exploit its surrounding mineral rights. Nothing if permission fails, since any other application in the area would have a high chance of failure too. AI would instead turn its attention to Penslade, necessitating a new plant costing c.£2-3 million and losing geographical sales coverage.

AI's initial proposals for Straitgate were presented in a number of concept maps, computer models and cross sections. AI is only at the early stages of its investigations, but local people voiced their concerns, particularly about water. AI's Head of Geological Services admitted that, in his view, it was unlikely that permission would be extended at Blackhill beyond 2016, and that processing plant would more likely be moved to Rockbeare, where there are adequate water supplies and silt voids. Whilst the concept maps did show site access at the western point of the site, he thought it extremely unlikely this would transpire, recognising the more suitable location on the north side onto the old A30, if land access could be secured. He confirmed that the eastern half of the Straitgate site has been removed from AI's resource book, retrieval being uneconomic with the sand and gravel largely underwater and also covered by a thick seam of sandstone. AI has promised to supply further maps, images, drawings and information, which, permission forthcoming, will be posted here in due course.

Overall there's a lot at stake for AI, but the same could be said for the people of Ottery St Mary and West Hill - decades of quarrying here and in the surrounding area.