Manacle Rocks and a Hard Place
Living in Cornwall is a privilege. I live
here not as a birthright, but because of a way of life shaped by nature's
beauty and I have an expectation that others will have the same integrity
for guardianship of the landscape, ensuring that this beauty is kept
safe for the generations in the future and I find it quite shocking that
these habitats, health and livelihoods are under genuine threat by the
proposed industrialisation of protected, designated sites in the name
of innovation and profit.
I've wouldn't usually write a second installment
on the same topic but since my previous article regarding
the re-opening of Dean Quarry, in St. Keverne, events have moved on,
tipping the balance slightly in favour of Shire Oak Energy. This company,
whose CEO is Mark Shorrock, intend to excavate 1.5 million tonnes of
rock a year by re-opening the disused Dean quarry and shipping the rock
in huge, 9,000 tonne barges to Swansea, where the rock will be used to
construct a breakwater to form a tidal lagoon,, which will produce 'green'
energy through a subsidiary company, Tidal Lagoon Power.
Mr. and Mrs. Shorrock's business empire is
very much a family affair. Mark Shorrock is Tidal Lagoon Power's CEO
and sole shareholder and his holding company is Shire Oak Energy. Shire
Oak Energy has a commercial arrangement to sell his heavily subsidised
electricity to a firm called Good Energy which will sell it on to the
public; Good Energy's CEO is Mr. Shorrock's wife. According to Christopher
Booker, in a Sunday Telegraph article, as a 'reward' for hiring Shire
Oak to find 'renewable' sites, and arranging their finance, her firm
has promised commission of up to £3m to her husband's company.
On the face of it, we should be jumping
up and down with joy at the prospect of an initiative developing ideas
for 'low carbon' electricity and that's what all political parties are
promising. It's not that simple if the end doesn't justify the means.
There's a £1 billion question- is it ethically right to risk wiping out
the newly created Manacles Maritime Conservation Zone, an Area of Outstanding
Natural Beauty, a SSSI and erode a struggling rural economy ? A billion
pounds is the cost to build a six mile, u-shaped stone breakwater, lassoing
a vast area of Swansea Bay. where 16 giant turbines with 7 metre blades
will use the energy from the ebb and flow of the tides. To the villagers
of St. Keverne, the analogous 'cost' won't show up in a bank account,
but will be felt as a Cornish landscape and its indigenous and migrating
wildlife are bankrupted by the fall-out from incessant blasting that
will be felt physically and financially from the village out to the Manacle
There's a two stage pre-requisite for
Shire Oak to begin blasting and transporting the rock to Wales: first,
is planning consent for on-site buildings, followed by permission for
a 600 meter breakwater and two jetties. .St. Keverne Parish Council rejected
the planning application for buildings that would enable the quarry to
become operational and referred it to the West Sub Area Planning Committee
of Cornwall County Council where the vote was passed in favour of 7 to
6; but there was a glimmer of brighter news in that an amendment to limit
the numbers of lorries to the volume of when the quarry was previously
functional in 2008. Shire Oak had warned that they would transport the
rock by road in 200 lorries rumbling through the village each week. however,
there's been a U -turn on that threat as Kurt Larson, MD is reported
as saying, "A road option is not a viable option, end of story".
It's critical to Shire Oak that the second
application has the 'green light' and I assume it's the nature of the
beast to fight it with all the guns in their arsenal. St. Keverne isn't
giving up without a fight... there's a silver bullet of surging support
for a local lobby group, Community
Against Dean Super-quarry, who is working tirelessly to stop the
super-quarry from becoming a reality.
The tidal lagoon project is backed by
serious financial investors, lead by the giant Prudential insurance company
and, worryingly, has the support of influential lobby groups such as
Friends of the Earth, WWF and RSPB. That support is counterbalanced in
St. Keverne as the location from which the rock is to be extracted has
AONB and SSSI status. More importantly, the Manacle Reef has been designated
a Marine Conservation Zone, this project is led by the Joint Nature Conservation
a statutory adviser to the government on the protection of natural resources
This is the time to test the 'teeth' of
the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 under which MCZs were created
and whose mandate is to protect designated habitats from the threat of
death, injury and destruction - if you happen to have bats in your belfry,
it's a CRIMINAL offence to interfere in any way; it must be equally 'criminal'
to upset the marine life of the Manacle reef's valuable habitat, rich
with life and species bearing such delightful names as pink sea fan,
cup oral candy striped flatworm and jewel anemones.
Thanks to 'POLDARK' Cornwall is 'hot'...
in this work of fiction an ambitious character attempts to trample on
the lives of a small rural community. Fiction is often inspired by fact
- the plain and simple truth is that the infrastructure of rural life
is based around a sustainability directed by time and tides of the seasons.
If Shire Oak has its way, the consequences could be too great to contemplate;
alternatively, Mark Shorrock could walk away from St. Keverne - his green
credentials and kudos intact. There's a mood of determination and cohesion
bubbling away in the community and I truly believe that the tide can
be turned by common sense and the understanding that some things are
more important than profit.
NB. Thanks to Mark Webster www.photec.co.uk for
use of the photos. These beautiful images above were taken on a marine
survey on 26/4/2015 around Maen Land Reef on the Manacles MCZ.
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