Since July 2014 I have been writing to the Health & Safety Executive to express the concerns of many people here in Buckfastleigh that Gilpin Demolition, the current site operator at Whitecleave Quarry, are not competent to quarry. The Directors of the company have in the past stated publicly that they have no experience of quarrying. One director said as such as part of their evidence in front of the Planning Inspector at the Planning Appeal; the Managing Director stated he has no experience of quarrying at a public meeting in Buckfastleigh.
Under the Quarries Act 1999 a company operating a quarrying operation must provide evidence of their competence to quarry. This isn’t just the site manager or quarry staff. The Directors of the company must also provide evidence of their competence. Because the activities are under their direction and control.
In addition regular inspection of quarry walls need to be undertaken to evaluate risk. Geotechnical expertise is required – not demolition expertise. These are not the same things.
The previous operator hired a local firm to manually scale the walls to inspect them because some of the quarry walls in Whitecleave Quarry are about 200 feet high. There’s no way to visually inspect such high quarry faces without scaling them. But the community suspect this hasn’t been done since Gilpin Demolition have taken over.
The operator of a quarry must keep records of regular inspections of the quarry walls and rock faces to evaluate risks. I asked the Health & Safety Executive if these records are in order. The reply I received was that they were not going to look into this any further as in the HM Quarries Inspector’s view the site operator is competent. I would have to ask Gilpin for their inspection records.
So now what’s happened? Yes. A serious and substantial rock fall. This rock fall surely points to the site operator not assessessing the geotechnical risks and the site is unsafe.
The Health & Safety Executive are under the impression that not much quarrying is taking place, and their inspector said he didn’t see much evidence of quarrying going on. Yet Devon County’s Monitoring Officer thinks there is and people in the town are subjected to high levels of disturbing noise from Gilpin’s hydraulic hammer and shovel pecking away at the rock and the noise from loading HGVs with goodness knows what. Seems the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.
Here’s a photo where you’ll see a sort of v-shape where rock has slid from the face and top edge. If you look closely there is more rock ready to come away.
Competent to quarry?