Tungsten West plc, the company responsible for bringing the Hemerdon mine back into operation, has reduced the number of HGV movements it will be asking for as part of a variation to its current planning permission.
In direct response to public views, Tungsten West has said it will no longer be applying for a maximum of 300 HGV exports per day to support its growing aggregates business, but will reduce numbers to a maximum of 200 exports per day in its latest planning application to allay public concern.
A temporary increase in transport movements was granted in July 2021 to allow the company to develop its aggregates business – allowing for up to a maximum of 150 HGV exports per day from the mine site. Following successful entry into the local market, Tungsten West is seeking to permanently increase transport limits.
Before submitting its planning application, Tungsten West carried out a week-long public consultation in March 2022 to understand the views of local people through two in-person events at Sparkwell and Plympton and an on-line survey.
The consultation outlined the original plans to make the temporary arrangements of 150 HGV exports per day permanent for two years, before increasing exports by 50 per day in subsequent years to reach 200 per day in 2024, 250 per day in 2025 and 300 per day in 2026.
The plans also suggested keeping current export time restrictions in place which limit Aggregates West (the subsidiary company) to transporting from the site from Monday to Friday between 7am and 7pm and on Saturdays between 8am and 2pm, with no distribution on Sundays.
Vehicle movements follow a designated route, agreed in liaison with surrounding authorities, for both inbound and outbound journeys. Starting at the mine the route follows the B3417 to West Park Hill, onto Newnham Road, then Strode Road and turning left onto Glen Road, before taking Sandy Road to head up to Deep Lane junction before dispersing across the highways network.
The consultation attracted significant interest from surrounding communities – approximately 400 people attended the events, resulting in 396 completed on-line surveys.
It asked people to highlight their top three concerns with the plans, which included the route of the HGVs (70.6%), traffic flow and congestion (63.6%) and road safety (48.3%).
James McFarlane, MD of Tungsten West who attended the consultation events, explains: “We’d like to thank all those who took part in our consultation for sharing their views and in light of the feedback we’ve received from people living in the surrounding areas and elected officials representing their wards, we’ve reduced the number of exports by 100 per day in our planning application.”
Tungsten West has also committed to limiting weekend working – halving the number of working Saturdays from every week to two Saturdays per month. The company will also implement time restrictions, which mean vehicles distributing Aggregates West products can only transport to and from the site from Monday to Friday between 6am and 6pm and on designated Saturdays between 8am and 2pm, with no distribution on Sundays.
Road widening along specific sections of the B3417 (where the road is too narrow to accommodate vehicles passing in opposite directions) is also proposed as part of the plans.
Ross Facey, Managing Director of Aggregates West, said: “It is still our mission to develop a significant and sustainable secondary aggregates business but we’ve listened to people living locally about how we can do that with the least amount of disruption. We believe our revised planning application addresses the main issues raised by the community, largely through the reduction in traffic volumes.”
Aggregates West has entered into an agreement with GRS Roadstone, the UK’s leading construction materials provider, to market and transport the secondary aggregates generated at the mine, which produce just 25% of the carbon footprint of primary aggregates. They use telematics to monitor and audit driver performance and behaviour, and regularly serviced, covered vehicles designed to reduce dust and noise.
Tungsten West has worked with master planning consultants Brookbanks to prepare the planning application and they have carried out assessments of the impact of the increased activity on air/dust, landscape and visual impact, ecology, hydrology and hydrogeology, transport, noise and vibration.
Mr McFarlane summed up by saying: “We want to be a good neighbour and we will work with people in the surrounding communities to make sure we do all we can to minimise the impact of the mine on their daily lives. We want to become an integral part of the community and we know it will take time to build trust – we are absolutely prepared to put in the effort. Hopefully this proves to our neighbours that we are prepared to listen and act on what they tell us.”
The Hemerdon Mine has the third largest tungsten resource in the world, a critical material needed for the net-carbon zero agenda and manufacture of progressive technologies, including automotives, electronics, medical equipment, manufacturing and defence.
Tungsten West’s revised planning application is being submitted to Devon County Council this week and will be available for public comment shortly, following verification, as part of the statutory planning process.
30 June 2022