The owner of a sand quarry in St. Ouen’s Bay has said he is relieved that the Environment Minister has changed his position and will support more extraction at the site.
However, Jason Simon said he would wait until he had seen what conditions would be attached to his permit before commenting further.
Deputy John Young had wanted the quarry to close at the end of its current permit and proposed this in the draft short-term 'Bridging Island Plan', which will form the basis of all planning decisions until 2025.
However, independent inspectors who reviewed the plan late last year have recommended that the quarry should be allowed to continue.
To add complexity to the issue, Mr Simon suspended operations at the quarry in September when he had dug all the sand available under his current permit from the Government.
The permit ran up until the end of 2023 but high demand for construction sand had accelerated the rate of extraction.
Pictured: The proposed quarry expansion is the brown area between the lake and Route du Port.
The sudden closure forced the building industry to begin importations of sand, which is an integral ingredient of concrete.
Deputy Young had said the quarry was in a sensitive environmental area and should be restored to a natural state.
However, describing the triangle of land, which is to the north of current lake, the inspectors said: “It is a small area in the context of the existing quarry and is even less significant in the wider expanse of the landscape at St Ouen’s Bay.
“It is an obvious part of the quarry and is not an untouched virgin dune landscape. We consider the minister should review this decision to enable remaining sand reserves to be removed over the next decade, as a more sustainable option than importation of sand from now on, even if reserves within the existing site might only last ten years.”
The inspectors also argued that it would be inconsistent for the minister to support the safeguarding a field next to La Gigoulande Quarry in St. Peter’s Valley for quarrying and not allow Mr Simon to dig for more sand.
Pictured: Quarrying in St. Ouen’s Bay was suspended in September.
In his response to the inspectors’ report, Deputy Young said: “I am minded to change my position in relation to this matter and to bring an amendment which seeks to enable further limited sand extraction at Simon Sand, subject to a full environmental impact assessment as an integral part of any planning application.
“This would need to address all relevant issues, including a contaminated land assessment and the hydrogeological implications of any further extraction, along with the restoration of the site.
He continued: “Any further extraction will, however, be limited to the extent of the minerals safeguarded area already set out in the plan and will be conditional on the provision of appropriate environmental mitigation measures and the agreement and commencement of a phased restoration plan for the remainder of the site, to be secured through a planning obligation agreement.”
Responding to Deputy Young’s change of position, Mr Simon said: “Simon Sand & Gravel Limited welcomes the UK inspectors decision and is relieved that the Minister has chosen to act upon those recommendations. We now await the detail contained within the Ministers proposed amendments to the Bridging Island Plan, which will allow sand quarrying to continue, before making any further comment.”
It is understood that all staff at the quarry have been made redundant since it closed on 1 September. Since then, there have been five shipments of building sand to Jersey, totalling 10,000 tonnes.
It is estimated that there is 600,000 tonnes of extractable sand left in the quarry, which, on recent trends, would provide 10 years’ worth of material. However, that is dependent on demand, as well as supply.
This is because other sources have already been proposed, including recycling sand from building waste. This is now possible following private investment in a state-of-the-art recycling plant at La Collette.
Ronez is also developing methods to create building sand from crushed rock.
Pictured: There have been five shipments of sand since the quarry closed in September (Credit: Mark Pulley).
Currently, Jersey has no dedicated aggregates berth to import sand. This was proposed in a previous ‘masterplan’ for the Harbour but Ports of Jersey chose not to pursue it.
However, it is understood that the principal stevedoring company at the Harbour has made some improvements to easy offloading since shipments began in September.
Ports told the planning inspectors last month said that the Harbour would be put under pressure and major changes would be needed to increase capacity if the island was forced to import more construction materials in future rather than producing them on-island.
The National Trust, which campaigned for the quarry to close, citing its position in the Coastal National Park and arguing that Jersey was the last place remaining in Europe to quarry duneland sand, said it was reviewing the inspectors’ report.
Politicians will debate the short-term Island Plan – which has been cut from a 10-year span to three because of the pandemic – in March.
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