Monday, 1 August 2016

Modifications Consultation

Consultation on the proposed modifications to the draft Minerals Plan starts today.

Information can be found here. As DCC makes clear, the consultation relates only to the proposed modifications, not to the wider content of the Plan. Here are the proposed modifications in relation to Straitgate - regarding Preferred Area designation, estimated resource, site access and depth of working above the maximum water table.

Why has DCC put a line through the 1m to protect drinking water supplies?

It was always inconsistent to say there were 1.2 million tonnes of resource at Straitgate if a 1m stand-off was to be maintained above the highest level of the water table. It was a point we raised at the Examination hearings 24-27 May, and in subsequent correspondence to the Inspector of 29 May. The Inspector wrote to us on 31 May, and said:
I agree that there is a potential anomaly in the wording of the Plan. I shall be asking the County Council if they intend to address this point when the main modifications are formally published for consultation.
On the same day, the Inspector passed this message to the Council:
To my mind the best solution might be to omit the words “with an unsaturated zone of at least 1m maintained across the site” from the “Water” section of Table C.4. Please ask the County Council to consider making this small amendment when they publish the main modifications for consultation.
The Council dutifully modified the 'offending' passage:
The development of this site will only involve dry working, above the maximum winter (wet) level of groundwater with an unsaturated zone of at least 1m maintained across the site. The depth of working above this level will be determined through monitoring and analysis of historic data, in agreement with the Environment Agency. MM58 Table C.4
The Inspector has since said:
The Inspector's suggestion was intended to reflect the on-going uncertainty about what could be an acceptable way of working the site. An unsaturated zone of 1m may or may not feature in the final solution. However, it could be seen as inappropriate for Table C.4 to commit to a definite method of working when potentially acceptable alternatives have not been determined. The important points are that (a) only dry working would be acceptable; and (b) the depth of working (the final, acceptable solution) would be decided in agreement with the Environment Agency. These points are addressed in the proposed modification.
Which may be the case. But the changes are obviously at odds with the comments received from the Environment Agency of 3 June, who, in response to DCC’s email to them of 16 May, were quite certain that they did not want any change to the wording:
We welcome your decision not to make any alteration to the current wording to accommodate Aggregate Industries’ revised statement explaining their proposal to work below the winter water table during summer months and reinstate levels to 1m above winter water table with overburden prior to winter… Your authority will be aware that we consider this site to be sensitive in relation to risks to controlled waters… We are therefore still waiting for a robust assessment of the risks that would result from this modification to the operation… It is for this reason that we concur with your recommendation to retain the current wording within the Minerals Plan in relation to the working depth...
Anyone with any comments to make on this issue, or any of the other changes in the Plan, has until 23 September 2016 to respond.