Monday, 11 August 2014

AI makes plans to process at Rockbeare

Local people may have noticed that Aggregate industries' Charcon blockworks at Rockbeare closed this year, and the site remains unused. The suspicion was obviously that this site was being earmarked to process any material won from Straitgate. Now, someone from within AI has confirmed that this is indeed the case.

Whether the company has given up hope of continuing at Blackhill beyond 2016 or whether this is Plan B, remains to be seen. What it does indicate is that AI is not wholly confident of winning the extension.

And rightly so. It was absurd for AI to ever think it could maintain a processing plant in the middle of Woodbury Common AONB, SPA, SAC without a permitted, working and adjoining quarry. Quarrying there finished long ago, following an EU directive, and while it was granted short term permissions to process material from Venn Ottery and Marshbroadmoor, Straitgate could be for another 10 years.

The situation is not dissimilar from a recent planning appeal in Staffordshire, where an inspector ruled that a workshop - that the appellants wished to retain to process stone from other quarries - should be removed, "since its presence was wholly dependent upon the quarrying use, [and] once that ceased it was necessary for the building to be removed in order to protect the green belt”:
The development was by definition inappropriate, the inspector concluded. It reduced the openness of the area and also detracted from the rural character of the locality. While government policy supported economic development in rural areas, there was no need to process stone brought in from other quarries in the green belt… Alternative premises on an industrial estate could be sourced, he determined.
Of course, AI may find securing planning permission to process at Rockbeare not straightforward either. The Highways Agency may have something to say about 100 or more HGV movements a day travelling to and from Straitgate around possibly both Daisymount A30 roundabouts. And AI would still need to convince Exeter Airport and the CAA that having settlement ponds directly below a flightpath would not increase the risk of birdstrike and compromise airport safeguarding; it was 1947, after all, that permission was last granted to work and process at Rockbeare - air traffic and airport safeguarding regulations have both increased dramatically since then.

And on that point, let’s remind ourselves again what one of the ponds at Blackhill Quarry - nicknamed by AI staff as ‘Seagull Pond’ - looked like a couple of years ago: