NEW FIGURES SHOW CEMEX’S CASE WAS ALWAYS FOUNDED ON SAND

Cemex Hyndford sign

Cemex’s case for extending Hyndford Quarry into the New Lanark World Heritage Buffer Zone by the Falls of Clyde relied on the alleged deficiency in sand and gravel supplies.

On this basis, had South Lanarkshire’s planning policies been respected, the application should never been given the time of day.

The South Lanarkshire Minerals Plan states that Cemex needed to demonstrate that there existed “an over-riding need for the minerals to serve markets of national importance.”

Cemex did not even attempt to do this.

The Mexican multinational was happy to agree that Hyndford’s market “is [only] of regional significance.” [1]

Instead it pointed to a minor deficiency in the 10 year land bank of permitted minerals supplies to serve all markets.

The local authority was happy to go along with this, and approved the application in December 2013.

Much was made of the increasing levels of output from Hyndford Quarry at the Hearing that followed the Scottish Government’s decision to call in the application.

South Lanarkshire Council’s 2014 minerals survey, based on unaudited figures supplied by the operators,  showed output at Hyndford Quarry rising from 465,000 tonnes in 2013 [2] to 500,000 in 2014 [3]. The local authority predicted that output would rise further to 550,000 tonnes in 2015 [4].

Fortunately, the Scottish Government did not accept this assessment, arguing in its “notice of intention” to reject the main part of the application, that the landbank “is only marginally short.” [5]

A little over a year on from the Hearing, Cemex’s case looks even more absurd.

New figures obtained from the council’s 2015 survey show that, contrary to its forecasts, output had crashed by almost 100,000 tonnes to 405,000 tonnes [6] – a fall of almost 20 per cent, and a whopping 26 per cent below that which was forecast.

The lack of any agreed methodology with which to forecast the adequacy of mineral supplies, or to assess whether particular markets are being served, is a severe deficiency in the planning process.

Yet the inability of planning authorities to forecast output from one year to the next with any degree of accuracy is not the only problem.

As Professor Geoffrey Boulton observed in his Expert Witness Statement, assessing whether markets that cut across local authority boundaries are being served adequately on the basis of output from a single local authority “can be very misleading.” [7]

As events have shown, in place of current practice, planners might as well lick their fingers and stick them in the air, and then write down the first number that comes into their heads.

It’s evident that Scotland needs a more robust system of assessing the adequacy of minerals supplies.

Meanwhile, we may safely conclude that Cemex’s case for extending its quarry really was founded on sand.

Mark Stephens

Notes

[1] Cemex (2014) CEMEX Review Of Background Document on Demand and Supply, CEM.29 (submitted to Hearing NOD-SLS-001)

[2] South Lanarkshire Council (2014) Background Document on Demand and Supply. South Lanarkshire Aggregate Landbank, Table 3.3 (submitted to Hearing NOD-SLS-001)

[3] South Lanarkshire Council (2014) Background Document on Demand and Supply. South Lanarkshire Aggregate Landbank. August 2014 Update, p. 2 (submitted to Hearing NOD-SLS-001)

[4] ibid., p. 4

[5] Notice of Intention from L Murray, Directorate for Local Government and Communities, Scottish Government, to Mark Kelly, Cemex UK, 26 June 2015, ref NOD-SLS-001

[6] South Lanarkshire Minerals/ Waste Operators Survey 2015

[7] Geoffrey Boulton (2014) Witness Statement, New Lanark and Falls of Clyde Working Group, NOD-SLS-001, July, para. 6

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