The announcement of the quarry’s closure – following renewed pressure last year from the National Trust for Jersey for government to implement environmental policy set out in previous Island Plans – forced speedy action this week to find alternative supplies of sand for the construction industry.
Yesterday 2,000 tonnes were being offloaded at the New North Quay to safeguard supplies but the likely financial impact of the new arrangements is yet to be quantified.
Mike Osborne, managing director of Ronez – one of the companies involved in the importation – described arrangements made at short notice this week as ‘great progress’ which would ensure the continuation of supplies to the building industry, but added that imported sand came at a far greater cost.
‘It is a well-known inevitability that imported aggregate is more expensive than locally won material. Whilst we are negotiating the details of certain costs, and the longer-term scale of the importation strategy still contains some uncertainties, it would be unwise to disclose specific numbers based on this first cargo of sand,’ Mr Osborne said.
As the first shipment of imported sand was being offloaded, Jason Simon, managing director of Simon Sand, confirmed that the quarry gates in St Ouen would close for the last time today, with seven employees facing redundancy.
Although Environment Minister John Young stated last year that permission would not be given for the quarry to operate beyond 2023 – following a five-year extension of its permit in 2018 – the immediate threat of closure emerged last month when Mr Simon announced that excavation permitted under the current planning permit had been exhausted and that further supplies of sand could be obtained only ‘with the support and agreement of the government’.
However, he confirmed yesterday that he would not be making a further planning application and said he had ‘no option’ but to close down.
‘I’ve got staff that need to find employment and the government is not going to change its mind,’ he said.
‘I’ve been working here since 1989 and since then I have spent most of my time making sure we can continue digging sand.
‘I feel devastated to be the one who isn’t carrying on.’
Mr Simon added that although a triangle of land on the site could provide further supplies of sand, this would entail excavating land which had previously been designated grassland.
He described the requirement to secure further planning permission to do this as ‘another excuse not to let quarrying carry on’.
He described suggestions that he had provided only days’ notice of the issue as ‘rubbish’. Mr Simon said that he had emailed the Environment Minister on 9 April and made officers aware again in June.
In response to the exhaustion of locally quarried sand, Ronez said they had worked with Channel Seaways and Granite Products to source the new supply of sand and arrange the shipping charter.
Mr Osborne praised AA Langlois for organising the logistics of the offloading and distribution of the sand, which he said would not have been possible without the support of Solent Stevedores and Ports of Jersey.
Matt Thomas, chief executive of Ports of Jersey, said that importing sand would not prove a problem for the harbours.
‘From a planning perspective, the Environment Minister has said that the Island would become an importer of sand from 2023 onwards.
‘We have had that in the back of our minds and our plans for the Harbour have been absolutely to ensure that we’ve got the capacity to accommodate the importation of the sand. We’ve got no concerns that we will be able to do that,’ he said.
‘If that timeline of the end of 2023 is brought forward, we can accelerate up, we’ll deal with it and we’ll do it as efficiently as we possibly can.’