Chucking rocks on troubled waters
Swansea tidal lagoon, Issue 1440
WHILE CEO Mark Shorrock awaits a final decision on his plan to hold back the tide at Swansea – and have his Tidal Lagoon Power firm capture its power to generate electricity – trouble is brewing across the water in Cornwall.
An independent review commissioned by the government was largely supportive of the Swansea scheme – despite its needing billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to generate some of the most expensive electricity ever seen (see Old Sparky, Eye 1437). But Shorrock, whose firm says it places “a reverence for nature at the heart of what we do”, has been making waves of his own with villagers in St Keverne, Cornwall, and various businesses on the Lizard Peninsula. This is in his role as CEO of Shire Oak Quarries, which plans to extract millions of tonnes of rock from the local Dean Quarry with which Shorrock hopes to build his lagoon off the Welsh coast.
The disused quarry sits in both an area of outstanding natural beauty and in a site of special scientific interest. The South West Coast Path runs along its border and the neighbouring coastline is so valued for its reef habitat and harbour porpoises it has been designated a marine conservation zone.
A jetty and breakwater
From this setting, Shire Oak Quarries wants to blast out 1.5m tonnes of rock a year. With neat circularity, Shorrock hopes to sell this rock to himself in his guise as boss of Tidal Lagoon Power. The rock could be shifted night and day via barges, which will require the building of a jetty and a 500-metre breakwater. If he is not allowed to shift it by sea, Shorrock told villagers at a highly charged meeting in 2015, he’ll take it out through St Keverne in lorries – at a rate of 200 per day.
Some at the meeting were disconcerted to note that Shorrock was backed by Adrian Lea, of environmental consultancy Wardell Armstrong. Until 2013, Lea was manager of the natural resources planning team at Cornwall council. And some questioned the methodology of surveys undertaken by Shire Oaks on the impact of a breakwater and jetty. A teenager caused some hilarity when he asked how long the company’s survey had taken. When told it had taken two days, the young man noted that his own GCSE practical had taken three.
Noise and pollution from the quarry will affect homeowners in local hamlets and in St Keverne. Others affected include local fishermen, diving companies and the area’s big earner, tourism. Neighbouring companies will also be adversely impacted – not least the quarry’s immediate neighbour, Roskilly’s farm, which herds Jersey cows and produces organic ice cream. The Cornish Sea Salt Company is another nearby success story which prides itself on the clean local environment.
A campaign group, CADS (Cornwall Against Dean Super-Quarry), took Cornwall council to a second judicial review earlier this year for not taking enforcement action against Shire Oak Quarries when it put up a security fence without permission. The fence enabled the company to perform a test blast and renew its licence. However, the company applied for retrospective planning permission and the judge ruled against the campaigners’ judicial review.
CADS has vowed to continue its battle against the quarry and wants a full environmental impact assessment before the breakwater and jetty are given planning permission. What was that again about “a reverence for nature” at the heart of all that Shorrock does?
More top stories in the latest issue:
George Osborne’s open contempt for Acoba, which advises on private jobs for ex-ministers, may finally force changes on the lame approvals watchdog.
Given his job with asset manager BlackRock, how often will the new editor of the Standard be recusing himself from influencing his paper’s City coverage?
Philip Hammond’s decision to put NIC rises in the spring budget went against advice from dismayed civil servants who wanted him to wait until autumn.
ANOTHER FINE MESS
Fresh from its Oscar-night triumph, accountancy firm PWC wrangles with UK regulators over how much it should be fined for its useless auditing.
Why in private, Nato top brass in Brussels are sick to death of Turkey’s antics under President Erdogan.