Dean Quarry


Between the 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 reef.

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 Committee ( a statutory adviser to the government on the protection of natural resources and conservation.

Dean Quarry jewell anemone the lake sea fan

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 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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