Thursday, 26 January 2012

Political involvement - is there something fishy going on in Whitby ?

From the very begining in January 2011, our member of Parliament "Robert Goodwill MP" seemed to come out strongly in favour of this project, even though we knew virtualy nothing about it, we had no idea what would be involved, no idea of the size or scale of any development or where the site(s) would be.

We did know that any proposed site would likely be inside the National Park, and we therefore knew that detailed proposals, when they are eventualy announced, would be highly controversial and will have a major impact.

This is what Mr Goodwill said in 2011

"This is absolutely brilliant news as this investment could create one of Scarborough’s largest employers. “We have been saying there will be private sector jobs that come and replace some of the losses in the state sector and this could see that happening in Scarborough with thousands of jobs."

It seems to me that Mr Goodwill always appears to overlook the fact that he is member of Parliament for Whitby aswell as Scarborough, and the fact that the proposed development will actualy be in the Whitby area and not in the vicinity of Scarborough compounds my thoughts.

Government grants BEFORE planning permission is granted - is this not slightly odd ?

I am not a legal expert but I feel something does not make sense here, the company behind the proposed potash mine applied to the Regional Growth Fund for a grant towards a global centre of applied inovation in geosciences, to be built at its potash mine development somewhere near Whitby; The application for government money was successful and Sirius Minerals were awarded £2.8 million even though no permission has been given for the project to go ahead.

If a planning application by Sirius Minerals is refused by the National Park, it will then most likely go to a public enquirey which will be overseen by government planning inspectors who are employed by the Department for Communities & Local Government, headed by Eric Pickles - the government department which awarded Sirius Minerals the £2.8 million grant is the Department for Business.

New director appointed to Sirius Minerals

On the 18th January 2011 Sirius Minerals announced the appointment of John Hutton ( the Lord John Hutton of Furness ) as a director of the company, Lord Hutton was minister in charge of the Department for Business, and allthough Lord Hutton appears not to have any kind of background in geology or mining, he has qualifications in law, he headed the governments Commission into public sector pension reforms, much to the dismay of former Labour colleagues.

In June 2010 Lord Hutton was appointed to the board of American company Hyperion Nuclear Generation, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments stipulated that he should not lobby his former department for 12 months.

Monday, 23 January 2012

2012 - year of celebration

This year sees two notable events in Britain, the diamond jubilee of her majesty The Queen, and of course the olympic games, but for us here in this corner of North Yorkshire there is another anniversary and another reason to celebrate, it was 60 years ago in 1952 that the North York Moors national park was created.

The North York Moors became a national park through the "National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949", and as such is guided by the two main principles which guide all national parks in England and Wales:

  1. to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area, and
  2. to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the park's special qualities by the public.
The national park makes every attempt to strike a fine balance between preserving the natural beauty and cultural heritage with supporting  the two main industries in the park, agriculture and tourism, the park authority supports and encourages small industry, businesses and small scale house building to rent for local people, important in trying to keep villages and communities alive.

Any large scale planning proposal of a commercial or industrial nature which involves operations on a large scale, is automaticly in direct confrontation with the principles of the national park, the whole idea of national parks in England and Wales is to keep major development out.

The question has to be asked - if we allow large scale mineral extraction or any other major industries, then why bother with the national park in the first place, and for those of us who were born and bred into this area, would we like the area to be just like everywhere else, with no protection for our countryside, a free-for-all in planning, building and development.

On the southern edge of the national park close to Thornton le Dale there is another major planning application, this time for the extraction and process of gas from underneath the moors, quite rightly the plan was turned down and therefore the plan is currently the subject of a Public Inquiriy.

If the gas plans are accepted, it would involve building a huge gas processing plant on the outskirts of Thornton le Dale, one of the most popular and picturesque villages around the national park, at what point will tourists and visitors begin to perceive the North York Moors as NOT been an unspoilt area of natural beauty if we simply allow one intrusion after another.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

What we know so far about the new proposals

What we know so far about the new proposals - not a lot actualy

A company called "York Potash" which bought up significant mineral rights from land owners accross the North York Moors, sold out to Sirius  Minerals for £25 million in January of 2011.

The company announced that it intended to submit a planning application for the construction of a potash mine sometime during 2012.

"Sirius is undertaking the research into a "slurry" pipeline between a potential minehead and production facility." -- this extract taken from the Sirius website appears to suggest that there will be a mine and a processing plant, two seperate complexes.

North York Moors National Park - will deal with any planning application which falls within the parks boundrys.

North Yorkshire County Council - will deal with any planning application concerning mining or mineral extraction, providing that the proposal is not within the National Park.

Scarborough Borough Council - will deal with any planning application providing (a) it is not concerned with mineral extraction and / or mining and (b) the proposal is outside the National Park.

The National Park will be consulted by both SBC and NYCC if any proposal is close to the boundry of the National Park, and vica versa.

At this early stage it is acknowledged that millions of tonnes of mined product will need to be transported, Sirius Minerals seem to have made two indications, firstly that the prefered method of transportation would be rail, and possibly to Tees Dock which we must assume means via the Esk Valley Railway, but more recently it has been suggested that a pipeline be laid from the mine ( site yet to be announced ) all the way to Teesside.

The people of Whitby must wait to see precisely what proposals Sirius will come up with, the leading questions regarding the transportation of potash will be - where exactly will the potash be processed ready for transportation, how close to any proposed process plant are existing rail lines.

1978 Whitby Potash proposals

In 1977 /1978 a company called Whitby Potash submitted a planning application to extract potash from the moors around Whitby, and for a processing plant / refinery to be built on the edge of Whitby at broomfield farm off  Stainsacre lane.

The planning application was refused by the North York Moors National Park and Whitby Potash then appealed to the secretary of state for the environment, this resulted in a public enquiriy which eventualy ruled in favour of the National Park and against Whitby Potash.

The proposed processing plant at land off Stainsacre lane would have comprised of the following (dimensions and details provided by Whitby Potash to government inspectors at the inquiriy). >

Loading tower - 135 feet high - ground area 3,600 sq ft
Process building - 100 feet high -  ground area 22,000 sq ft
Administration block - 12 storeys high - 135 ft x 43 ft
Storage building - 85 ft high - ground area 116,800 sq ft
Laborotory - Staff Block - 3 sub stations - 1 pump house

The total area of the refinery / process site was to be 85 acres
The proposed chimney was to have been 265 feet high

The highest point of Whitby Abbey is 85 feet