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NYMNPA Potash Public Meeting – Helmsley [Part 1]
It is not often that the Labour Party get a round of applause, but Diana Jeuda managed to get one on the Labour Party’s behalf at last night’s Public Consultation meeting, held in Helmsley, by the North Yorkshire Moors National Park Authority, regarding the York Potash Planning Application.
I certainly did not agree with everything she said, but she had a lot to say; much in favour of the promised jobs that the proposed mine would create. I say ‘promised’ jobs, because the presentation explaining the ’weighting‘ value (to York Potash’s declaration that 434 jobs at the mine increasing to 706 by 2024) could not be assessed because “there were no details to back up the promises of jobs nor the training and job opportunities, there was no details of the current local workforce available, so without these details there was not the information needed for a weighting to be given”.
And so Diana Jeuda gave out a ‘telling off, because documents she had downloaded from the NYMNPA website had given her and the Whitby Labour Party the information they needed to form an opinion to support the project. So why could they not weight this!?
This was no Vicar of Dibley meeting:
But, it is perhaps best to go back to the Dibley beginning; Rob Bailey was Chair, Chris France and Mark Hill were present, on behalf of the NYMNPA, and a representative from AMEC was there for the technical bit. Chris France set out the framework of the duties and responsibilities of the Authority under PINS rules, explaining that all Members of the Park Authority were also members of the Planning Committee.
The processing and de-watering and hydration plant and portside facility in Teesside would be dealt with by a separate Authority, most likely the NPI. There was to be a Committee site-visit to the proposed mine-head on May 3rd, and decision-making Planning Committee meeting on 21st May, which was most likely to be held at Raven Hall at 1.30pm – “near where the action is” – and for public attendance.
The Secretary of State could be called in at any time to take over the Planning Decision at the request of a third party. That third party could be a member of the public, local group or authority. A written letter to the Secretary of State would trigger that request, and the decision process could then take up to 6 months.
One wondered if this was a ‘please do so’ suggestion, rather than a statement.
Chris France then said he could only state the facts known at the moment, and that much more information was needed. Starting with the visual impact: a slide-show giving various angles of how the site was proposed to look, the site would be 205m above sea level, offering 100 years of polyhalite extraction, with a 3 to 4 year construction process. The main building would be 2,397sq.m., with a height of 13m, with the sunken mine-shaft facility described as “huge great big sunken chambers”. For this there would be 600,000 cubic meters of excavated spoil.
Within this area would be a crushing chamber, crushing the polyhalite to 2 mm grains, ready to be mixed in brine to be transported via the pipeline. The buildings would be covering these procedures, of “extensive subterranean works”.
There would be a relatively small car park and heliport. The shaft-spoil of 600,000 cubic meters would be forming bunds around the site, over 40hs; the visual impact will be changed substantially.
A question was asked if there was a limit on how high the bunds would be and would the buildings be visible from roadside. We were told that the bunds would be up to 10 meters high, and Chris France said he did not know what that would look like.
There would also be a support building of 3,000sq.m. These buildings would be constructed using rocks excavated from the shaft construction using a cage system. “One of the frustrations was that a lot of information about what was to be beneath the buildings was not available”.
The shafts would need some back-filling to be secure, and “there would be substantial earth works on and around the site, with blending and crushing equipment underground.”
With reference to the wider Public Consultation, Chris France said that most of the letters in support of the Project were from shareholders, following a letter sent out by York Potash. The weighting of objections against letters of support would be based on the significance of planning matters only. It was not a case of a show of hands.
With reference to the holding objections, these were mainly focused on what was happening underground particularly with regards to hydrology, the underground water system and drainage that fed into the River Esk … “ a very very sensitive landscape below the surface where we get our water supplies” providing water to both Whitby and Scarborough.
Chris France confirmed that York Potash “did not consider the MoD” (with its initial application documents 4th Feb, I presume). “There was a meeting with the MoD, York Potash and the Park Authority yesterday (18th)”.
The MoD’s main concerns were about the vibration blasts affecting “the most sensitive radars in the world”, that were put there “because of the seismic safe area” (Fylingdales).
Chirs France also reported that concerns included the “innovative nature of the project” followed by a “we know what state the national economy is in at the moment”.
In making a determination of “the largest planning application the Park has ever received”, the same rules would apply as for, say, a porch – these being Section 38 (6) 2004 of the Development Plan. Looking wider, they were legally bound to make a decision within the remits of that Plan.
Under the Local Development Framework 2008 Core Policy E: Minerals and the Major Development Test of NPPF Para 116 of the National Planning Framework , Chris France stated that the application should be refused. “Not a very good start”.
But looking further at “exceptional circumstances”, even though the Park already has a Potash Mine Para 144 + 143 + Annex 2, “has caused much tension, the application is very complex, whilst interesting and challenging.”
Mark Hill then took over the presentation, for a 15-minute slot – ‘Minerals’; apportioning weighting to “several thousand sheets of information”, the first issue was; why not outside of the National Park?
A slide showing faults in the area of Cloughton showed many faults to the South; howeve,r none to the North. The Mining Inspectorate recommends that no mine shaft be built within 100m of fault lines. The Park Authority were still asking York Potash why the mine-shaft could not be placed outside of the National Park Area in Cloughton.
With regard to sustainability there were some key issues;
Mark Hill said they were still trying to get to grips with the issue of ‘need’. The economic figures given by Sirius were a big consideration – “but how does it sit in context? There were no details to give weight to that issue”.
With regard to Boulby, York Potash are claiming they are mining a different product. But both were about Potassium. “Are these additional jobs at the expense of wiping out other jobs?”
The impact on Tourism issue had been very down-played. York Potash do not feel that it will have a significant impact, but the Park Authority see Tourism as being a big issue. It is a public recreational park, not an industrial park. Tourism brings in over £10M(?) annually to the local economy. The project will “have quite a modest impact”. Further, Mark Hill expressed concerns over issues regarding the environment and ecology, hydrology, noise and vibration. “They are not just building a house, 3 years of construction could put off repeat visitors.” That said, “Five years of pain for 95 years of gain had to be considered.”
A full Environmental Impact Assessment will look at the overall project including the pipeline.
With regards to jobs, 434 at the mine, 706 by 2024, Mark Hill said, “With no details to back up these promises of training and opportunities, and no knowledge of the local workforce how will this be achieved in order to give a weighting?”
NB: The YPA Foundation was not part of the application.
Whilst housing developments in Scalby and Cloughton could benefit from well-paid employees, how would this impact on other housing areas? Again, no details. The Mineral Rights Payments said to be worth up to £1billion to the local economy, again had to be looked at. Much of this could go abroad, but the benefits of taxation were mentioned and again no details.
To sum up, Mark Hill said there were three main issues:
Mark Hill asked, “Do the economic and social benefits outweigh the harmful environmental impact? We do not need traffic congestion, particularly on Blue Bank. There is a lack of transport proposals, and construction traffic-movement is not provided for. The construction of accommodation for 300 units at Whitby Business Park is not detailed. The pipeline, a significant project in itself, is expected to operate for over 100 years but the guarantee is only for 35 years. Will it need replacing in whole or localised repairs?”
Mark Hill added, “We have made requests for further information on; below ground structures; hydrology; construction plan; geological information; vibration impacts for the MoD., and we have been asking for this information for nearly two years”.
With regard to the MoD, the two shafts need explosions to construct, and, with tunnel heights of up to 20m, there may be long-term subsidence.
Mark Hill summed up: ”We are legally required to carry out a ‘vigorous assessment’.” To include A Potash Market Study – is there a need?; a Second Purpose Study – the impacts; and with the help of AMEC, who are carrying out the EIA an assessment, on need over environment.
We also have to ask “Do exceptional circumstances exist? Is it in the Public Interest? This is a difficult decision to make. That decision is based on the best information we can get.”
This meeting at Helmsley was the last Public Consultation meeting where the public were encouraged to ask questions; there would be a thirty minute presentation before taking questions from the floor.
PART 2 – The Q & A session – to follow tomorrow.