Visit to Kesgrave Quarry
Following a planning application by Cemex, reference No: C97/1501, to extend their operating hours at Kesgrave Quarry, many local residents objected. The application was also rejected by SCDC and Suffolk County Council. Prior to the rejection, however, an invitation was made to local residents, by Cemex, to visit Kesgrave Quarry and view the operations and informally discuss issues that we had. Cemex subsequently withdrew their application but still honoured their offer of a site visit.
Seven local residents attended the site on 17th October 2011 and were shown round. Attached are photographs that were taken of the various aspects, operations and locations at the site and a brief commentary of observations is given below.
At approximately 10.30am we met at the site office and were given site safety instructions by the site manager (Nigel) and provided with high visibility safety wear etc.
We were taken on the tour by the Site Planning Officer (Christine) and commenced by walking to the West boundary. We were told that the general plan was to contract the area of operation within the site, returning the unused areas to natural habitat. This included areas to the East and West of Cemex operations. The East side was not specifically spoken about although is largely unused. To the West, however, closest to Pine Hills, is an area currently used for stockpiling material brought on to site. That location will cease to be used for the purpose. The stock piles currently there will be used up and stocks recreated closer to the batching area in the middle of the site. (Comment - this should mean less loader lorry activity in that area and less lorry headlights sweeping the site). The area would then be left (presumably with minimal intervention) to assume a condition similar to that observed adjacent to Pine Hills boundary fencing where the washing pools still are but the area is unused.
We then proceeded in a clockwise direction and walked along the north part of the site within the operational area, passing the council methane burn-off installation, which was idle (though operational) at the time, and on to the recycling stockpile area located more centrally. This is an imposing area where the heaps of material are kept quite distinct from each other and in an orderly fashion. One heap was of recovered old road surface material including old tar associated with road making and another heap was of building rubble, e.g. brick, slabs, solid concrete footing lumps and the occasional lump of probably unwanted iron. There were also heaps of processed rubble where the concrete and brick had been crushed to the size of an apple or less. These heaps were approximately the size of a large bungalow or two and presumably, the finer material, destined for the asphalt coating plant.
Before moving on to the crusher, that was visible further away in the South West corner of the site, a constructive discussion was had with the site planner with regard to the noise associated with the crushing activity and the deep rumble noise that this produced. Consideration was given to repositioning the crusher closer to the stock pile heaps with a view to utilising the heaps themselves as acoustic baffles and deflectors as the piles were created. Discussion also included the possibility of erecting purpose made acoustic baffles around the crusher while it was operating to suppress the sound. We were openly and honestly told that it would be highly unlikely that money would be spent on such a screen; "I can tell you now it won't happen," she said.
Recycling material using the crusher is not, we were told, a continuous ongoing operation. It only occurred when the crushed stock pile needed replenishing after being used up by the asphalt operation. The crusher might then be run for a couple of days. The site planning officer acknowledged that consideration could be given as to what days and what time of day might be chosen for the crushing activity, e.g. avoid activity at weekends.
We then moved on to view the crusher close up, a 'Turbo Chieftain 1400' with 'Power Screen'. This consisted of a loading hopper, i.e. the Power Screen with a very coarse filter, of almost railway line like proportions that restricted the size of material entering the crusher beneath. Following crushing the material was graded out onto three conveyor arms. The entire machinery was transportable on track laying wheels, like a tank. However, it appeared that the assembly was not moved but permanently positioned next to, what appeared to be, a concrete wall that may have been old building foundations or similar.
In operation the hopper would be fed by loader lorry and the three conveyor arms would discharge crushed and graded spoil into three heaps that, presumably, would be gathered up by a loader lorry and taken, either directly to the asphalt plant, but more likely to the pile of post processed material that we had just seen. One of the photographs taken was of a noise level diagram that indicated the noise levels emitted during operation. There was a significant amount of large concrete lumps at the foot of the hopper that were too large to pass through the screen. How they were dealt was open to speculation.
The Ready Mix Plant
We continued along the southern edge of the site heading towards the staff office where we first met. We passed the Ready Mix area that was not working at the time. This showed a conveyor that fed sand to a silo, the conveyor presumably being fed from a loader lorry driven up a ramp although this was not clear. Following mixing it would discharge from above directly into a ready mix lorry.
The Asphalt Plant
The asphalt plant is a large green structure, central to the site and located in front of the site offices. The general rumbling noise from this was evident throughout the time of our visit. Unfortunately the site manager that had said he would discuss its operation when we returned was not available. We could merely look from a distance; we were not allowed to go close. Thus the following is an observed but uninformed view of how the asphalt is made.
When the plant is viewed from the front, i.e. from the site office, multi-bay silos were to the right where presumably the different types and grades of materials were tipped from loader lorries. The material type and quantity would be selectively discharged onto a conveyor that ran the length of, and beneath the silos to feed the material into a large, inclined from horizontal, mixing drum. A diesel engine drove the drum round. A flame was evident at the end of the drum which, presumably, provided the heat necessary for the process. The site planner said that the tank to the right of the drum, located in front of the silos, contained light oil that was used to both power the diesel engine and to coat the asphalt as part of the making process.
When the process was finished the drum would be discharged (somehow) onto a vertical moving conveyor and into a large high up hopper to the left of the installation. Beneath this hopper a lorry was positioned ready for the hopper to discharge the hot asphalt into it. Subsequent lorries would be similarly position to take more asphalt.
The lorry reversing 'squawk', the bane of many residents, was observed emanating from the loader lorries while we were there and our objections were voiced to the site planner. She said that she would contact their noise investigation person to see what the legal requirement was and whether the level of volume could be reduced.
Smell from asphalt plant
For the duration of the visit, approximately 1 and half hrs there was a general pervading smell of diesel around the site where-ever we went (note: the day was sunny and not particularly windy so the smell tended to linger within the low aspect of the site). There was no smoke or fumes visibly coming from the tall chimney that formed part of the asphalt plant but the site planning officer confirmed that the smell was from the chimney. Concerns were expressed to her about this matter and it was suggested to her that perhaps checks could be carried out on the fumes emitted from the chimney.
Future of Kesgrave Quarry
The planning officer was directly asked whether a further planning application would be made in the future to extend the hours of operation. She said that since the application had been turned down by both the SCDC and Suffolk County Council that they had decided not to make any further applications. When pushed further to comment on the possible level of site activity when there is an upturn in the economic situation and an increase in the demand for asphalt, she again said that the site would not wish to extended hours of operation and that it may eventually be closed as a viable location for present activities. She confirmed that much of the plant, specifically the asphalt plant, is old and that new components have been used to update and repair it but was unclear as to how long this would go on for. Should the current activities at the site cease it was speculated, by the group, that building may occur at the location. The planning officer said that what ever happened in the future, any building work could not be any closer than 250 metres to the refuse dump that the County Council had completed to the North-East of the site.
We were told that if we have any concerns or complaints in the future about anything to call the site manager, Nigel, Telephone No. 01473 620333 and they will note the problem and try to rectify it.
The visit was constructive and informative and was carried out in a very friendly and co-operative manner. All present were grateful for the opportunity to see the site in operation. We expressed our thanks and departed.
Photographs of site visit. Link to Gallery