A battle is brewing over the potential expansion of a quarry in St. Peter’s Valley.
The recently published short-term 'bridging' Island Plan supports the extension of La Gigoulande Quarry into a field on its southern perimeter, which could lead to the extinguishment of a country lane.
The 21-vergée field, which is currently farmed and in the green zone, was bought by Granite Products, which operates the quarry, at the end of 2019 for £1.65m.
Although the company has not applied to expand into ‘Field MY966’, the principle has now been approved in the latest Island Plan, which is the Government’s planning blueprint from next year until 2025, if the States approve it after a period of consultation.
If the extension went ahead, a lane that forms the border between St. Mary and and St. Peter, Rue Bechervaise, could be extinguished.
Pictured: 'Save Rue Bechervaise' posters encouraged people to attend a Island Plan presentation at St. Mary’s Parish Hall.
Residents have vowed to “fight tooth and nail” to stop the expansion. They have also criticised the process, saying that such a significant development should not have been "buried" in the Island Plan.
Manuela Milsom lives in a nearby lane and overlooks the field in question.
“This is not a case of nimbyism, as we happily bought our house about ten years ago, knowing that the quarry was already there. We are always slightly concerned when the explosions go off every week, and the whole house jumps, but it has become part of life here.
“But following the publication of the draft Island Plan, we are now in a completely different situation.
“I am very concerned about the potential destruction of this stunning lane. It is a beautiful oak-lined road that is part of the fabric of life around here. It is not heavily used by traffic and is very popular with walkers and cyclists, and part of the cycle network. Regular users have become friends and it’s the only lane that I’m happy to let the dog off the lead."
Pictured: The field in question is the one immediately below the red marker.
She continued: “Two years ago, it was announced that the field had been sold for an extortionate amount of money, which woke us up to the fact that something was happening. It then went quiet during the pandemic but then, two weeks ago, someone asked if I’d seen the new Island Plan."
“I read it and the accompanying mineral, waste and water report, written by consultants which fed into the plan. I was astonished that something so significant was buried in there and had suddenly become part of official planning policy.
“It's all been so speedy that, at the very least, the brakes need to be applied, and there needs to be a proper process of scrutiny. There are inconsistencies too: the population assumptions set out in the consultants’ report are not the same as those in the Island Plan.
“The way this expansion has been justified is simply not robust enough. It all seems to have been done under cover and there appears to be a bigger agenda which we’re not being told about.
“This is not just a local issue but an island-wide one because an important question is, where does this all end? If the quarry is allowed to expand, it will have a disastrous impact on the immediate neighbours but what about the next expansion, or the one after that?”
Another neighbour, Martin Fernando, said he would fight “tooth and nail” against the expansion.
“The field is 127m away from my house. Already, when they blast, my whole house shakes and there are cracks and other signs of damage; how close can they get before there is major subsidence?
“The noise and dust are already a joke. Imagine all that activity on my doorstep and those living around me? With the earlier field purchase, it seems like a deal has already been done but I’m not going to give up easily and neither will my neighbours.”
Giving political support to the residents, Deputy Kirsten Morel, whose own parish of St. Lawrence borders close to the field, said he could see no reason why this issue had been added to the three-year Island Plan, which has been abridged from its usual ten-year span due to the pandemic.
One little mentioned but important change in the island plan is the extension of Gigoulande quarry in St Peter/ St Mary with the loss of Rue Bechervaise and field MY966. pic.twitter.com/Jc6s0KW1wW— Kirsten Morel (@KirstenJersey) May 15, 2021
Pictured: Deputy Kirsten Morel is asking for the issue of the quarry to be removed from the bridging Island Plan.
“This is all far too premature,” he said. “The consultant’s report was published very late in the process and there has been no proper scrutiny of it. We also need far more analysis of the sustainability of the construction industry and any future population policy.
“To me, it makes no sense to squeeze such an important issue into the bridging Island Plan. The Environment Minister has already said that there would have to be a full planning inquiry if Granite Products applied to quarry in the field. Why, all of a sudden, is planning supporting its change of use?
“There are too many questions which residents living in the area have the right to have answered.”
According to the consultant’s report, the field has the potential to yield four million tonnes of rock, sufficient for 30 years production at the current extraction rate. It adds that it could be quarried separately, so retaining the road, but this would result in a smaller amount of yield than if the existing quarry expanded south through the lane.
Without it, the quarry, which opened in 1946, has eight years of ‘extractable winnable reserves’ left within its current footprint. Part of the site already has planning permission to become the island's primary inert waste dump when the La Collette reclamation site fills up.
Pictured: La Gigoulande quarry in St Peter’s Valley currently has eight years left of extractable reserves without any expansion.
Jersey Water has previously said that La Gigoulande Quarry would be a suitable site for a reservoir but this is not supported in the latest Island Plan.
As well as support the site’s expansion and waste storage, the Island Plan also supports it recycling waste for aggregate production, including the production of building sand after the closure of sand and gravel quarry in St. Ouen’s Bay in 2024.
However, that closure is being resisted by the quarry's owner.
Environment Minister John Young denied that any deal had been done over the purchase of the field but added that he didn't know if any advice from officers had been sought by the purchaser beforehand.
"With eight years left at La Gigoulande, and limited resources at the island's other quarries, we need a planning framework that balances competing interests, which includes residents as well as the ongoing need for resources," he said.
"Not safeguarding resources has major implications for our ports if we have to import them.
"But it is entirely proper that the residents and anyone with concerns express their views. This is why the process exists. Their opinions will form part of a report that will feed into the planning inquiry by the independent inspector.
"I welcome their input but, as the Minister, I am right at the end of the system and I have to keep out of the process as I will be handling any appeals."
A spokesman for Granite Products said: “La Gigoulande Quarry is an important source of local construction materials for homes, schools, hospitals and all other built development on Jersey.
"The quarry has been operating in phases since 1946 and today meets about half the Island’s demand for aggregates, building blocks and concrete. Besides producing newly quarried materials, we also recycle construction materials to produce secondary aggregates. Any inert materials that cannot be recycled are used in the planned restoration of older quarry phases.
"With the long term in mind, we acquired extra land 18 months ago so that we had the opportunity to continue to meet Jersey’s needs for many years to come.
"Any proposal would be rightly scrutinised as part of the planning process, which will include consultation with local residents and the public.”
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