Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Things that came out of AI's exhibition

No display boards showed 'Phase 2' at Aggregate Industries' public exhibition, and all talk of Phase 2 will now, following DCC's Scoping Opinion, be dropped from the company's Environmental Statement and planning application. But Phase 2, quarrying below the water table, is - as far as AI is concerned - still very much on the table, a spokesman confirmed, despite the implications for private water supplies, ancient woodland, mediaeval fishponds and birdstrike. Local people looking at AI’s restoration plans (for Phase 1) must remember that the colourful posters are, as yet, just that - colourful posters. It is not yet the company’s aim or intention.

Processing on Woodbury Common and transporting as-dug material along the B3180 will now form part of the planning application to quarry Straitgate Farm. All the East Devon Pebblebed Heath’s nature conservation designations will now come into play when assessing AI’s application for Straitgate.

Submission of AI’s planning application is expected at the end of March or beginning of April, despite all the matters raised in the scoping exercise. SLR is of the view that the matter could take 8 months or so to determine, which indicates that many of the issues with statutory consultees will still be unresolved when the planning application is submitted. In contrast, the NPPF and DCC encourage applicants to 'front-load' applications, "the more issues that can be resolved at pre-application stage, the greater the benefits".

AI is confident enough to say that Cadhay's ponds won’t be affected by its proposal; it is still not confident enough to say that drinking water supplies to 100 people won’t be harmed. This is despite AI finally pledging to maintain a one metre depth of unsaturated resource above the water table's winter level - something we have said should happen numerous times before.

Rockbeare has physical constraints that may preclude it from being an alternative location to Blackhill, for processing Straitgate (or any other site's) material - see blog below.

A meeting was held at DCC last week to consider Straitgate's inclusion in Devon's Minerals Plan. Personnel from DCC, AI, AMEC, SLR, Natural England and the Environment Agency were present. AMEC was still unable to convince the EA that there would not be unacceptable harm to the water environment. Until such time as it can, Straitgate Farm will not be put in the Minerals Plan. If Straitgate is not put in the Plan, DCC will look to allocate other local resources (ie. S1-S10). However, AI’s comments on Rockbeare should influence that decision, because, without viable local processing locations, the allocation of such sites could be argued to be unsound. In any case, AI has indicated on many occasions that if it does not win Straitgate, it will look to return to Hillhead and surrounding area.

AI came out with a potential Plan B for transport - see blog below. Plainly matters of air pollution and climate change are not shaping AI’s thinking, at all.