Marine Conservation Zone in Cornwall under threat from Super Quarry

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Once again, industry seems to be flying in the face of conservation and the concerns of local people. Two companies, Shire Oak Energy and Shire Oak Quarries are trying to open a dormant quarry (Dean Quarry) which is situated on the beautiful Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall. The environments in which we live throughout the world are continually being destroyed in the name of short term profit and thoughtless greed. Once again the wishes of a local parish council seem to be  being over ruled by County Council. Why are large companies allowed to over rule the wishes of local people and why is the time and money used in setting up protected areas wasted so easily? As we progress into the 21st century I always hope we can learn from past mistakes and protect precious environments that make our own living spaces so special. So often I am proved entirely wrong.

If you would like to help stop this destructive development then get involved and let your voice be heard.

I contacted Jo from Porthkerris Divers who operate in the area to ask her about the project. This is her reply:

The story so far….

Director (and majority share holder) of Shire Oak Energy and Shire Oak Quarries, Mark Shorrock, is also director (and shareholder) of several companies linked to the Quarry (Tidal Lagoon Power, Dean Quarry Mineral Rights, Tidal Lagoon Swansea etc). They propose to excavate 1.5 million tonnes in the first year alone, although figures are forever changing. Previous quarrying at its maximum was no more than 200,000 tonnes a year. The quarry has been dormant since 2008. The stone is to be used to build the proposed tidal lagoon in Swansea and possibly others, should permission be granted to build them, ironically in the name of “green energy” (“energy which is produced in a way that PROTECTS our natural environment”)!!

The company, Shire Oak Quarries has already submitted a land based planning application (security fencing, explosives store, buildings etc.). Although it was turned down by the Local Parish Council, it was approved by Cornwall Council.

The next step is that the company Shire Oak Energy are soon going to submit an application to build a 535m long 50m wide breakwater and jetties within the Manacles Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) which borders the old quarry, so that they can load 10,000 tonne barges 24/7.

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Many people and organisations have huge concerns about this project and particularly the breakwater and jetties within the actual MCZ. The quarry is only a few hundred meters from houses and the local primary school in the village of St Keverne. We have been told by Mark Shorrock – in a public meeting on 30th January in front of a village hall packed with worried locals – that if he didn’t get the permission for his breakwater and jetties that he would drive all the stone out through the village in lorries, past the primary school, houses, popular tourist attractions etc. For the amount of stone that they are wanting to extract a year, that would mean several hundred lorries a week.

The Manacles MCZ, where they want to build the breakwater, is renowned for its fast flowing tidal currents and clear waters, supporting an amazing range of marine life – jewel anemones, sea fans, mearl beds, plumose anemones, spiny lobster, etc. It is a perfect, protected breeding ground for many types of fish. The manacles MCZ is also an important area for marine mammals and the internationally protected basking shark, which are highly sensitive to noise. How will blasting, loading of the 10,000 tonne barges 24 hours a day etc. affect them? What effect will the breakwater have on currents and sediment transport processes? What effects will the day-to-day operations have on redistribution of sediments? The proposal is to bring in several 10,000 ton barges per week, which will have to be moved by tug boats. We would question how the propeller action of the tugs will interact with tidal and wave action to redistribute the sediment around the manacles MCZ.

The Manacles is also an extremely treacherous shipping area (hence the large number of shipwrecks in the area). Navigating the inner manacles with 2 tugs guiding a 10,000 tonne barge laden with rock armour several times a week, is surely an accident waiting to happen.

And talking of Ship wecks, the position of the actual breakwater is right on the site of a famous shipwreck called “The John”, which went down in 1855 with a loss of 194 lives (There is a whole website dedicated to it which you can find here). Not far from the breakwater also lies the famous shipwrecks ‘The Mohegan’, The ‘Andola’ and ‘The Spiridian Vagliano’ and the war ship ‘The Primrose’.

It is essential that the few areas of relatively pristine marine habitat we have left remain properly protected. Many conservation organisations and leading academics are already very concerned about the government’s failure to deliver the full network of MCZs that were recommended by the scientific community. The Manacles MCZ is one of only 27, out of 120 proposed. Luckily there are now calls for more to be designated… but it is important that we are able to also protect the ones already in place; otherwise, what is the point?

The proposed development of a breakwater and general up-scaling of operations at Dean quarry is therefore not only the first real test of what it means to be a MCZ, but will also be under intense scrutiny from conservation groups and the marine science community. The manacles MCZ looks set to serve as an important test case. This is the first major challenge to a MCZ and could set a precedent for the others.

Cuckoo wrasse male & sea fans etc, Manacles 1

So many people are very concerned about the proposed development and how it could negatively affect lives and livelihoods, health, safety, the environment, the AONB, SW coast path etc etc, but unfortunately a lot of people are not aware of the impacts on life under the sea. Now would be a great time to raise awareness of this particular issue, so that when this next application is made, people will have a better understanding of what is at stake.

The first stages of the plans have been covered by the following publications:

Daily Telegraph:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/energy/11412996/Cornish-villagers-fear-devastation-over-quarry-for-green-energy-scheme.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/11547082/Will-Welsh-eels-scupper-the-craziest-green-project-ever.html

Daily Mail:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-3041005/CHRISTOPHER-BOOKER-1-billion-lagoon-Britain-s-pottiest-green-scheme.html#comments

Others:

https://www.google.co.uk/?gws_rd=ssl#q=dean+quarry&tbm=nws

For more information, visit www.cads2015.com, or find the ‘Community Against Dean Superquarry’ on Facebook. For Marine Management Organisation plan documents, downloadfrom: https://marinelicensing.marinemanagement.org.uk/mmo/fox

Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is the Conservation editor and also the Underwater Videography Editor for Scubaverse.com. Jeff is an award winning TV wildlife and underwater cameraman and film maker. With over 10,000 dives to his credit he has dived in many different environments around the world.

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