I am a great believer in the fruits of modern technology. I also assent to the belief that, where possible, large infrastructure projects should encompass, wherever reasonable, attempts to limit their impact upon the unspoilt nature of our countryside.
I also believe that T’Internet (Computers, silicon technology, chips, server and connectivity) is possibly the second most important invention in modern history, the first being the invention of the printed word. I mention this opinion because, during my tattered memory searches, dredging forgotten facts from my school days and Merchant Navy life when still a young man brought, through ‘Google’ search, a definitive position of a time when I swam in 25,000 feet deep water in the Pacific Ocean, whilst our ship was drifting whilst we were waiting for the swells to die down so we could berth at Ocean Island, to load guano. That same guano, one of the richest and purest forms of fertiliser, has also resulted in the near desolation of both Ocean and Nauru Islands, as the phosphate workings have, over the last ninety years, have denuded the entire island landscape of any possibility of living as the native population used to do. A book, whose title was recovered after a search lasting approximately three clicks on a trackpad, named ‘A Pattern of Islands’, which I read in my late schooldays; was the story of a trainee early Twentieth-Century British Colonial Administrator, in his twenty-five years on the Islands.
However, I digress: back we go to modern technology, but not leaving fertiliser. Trial bores and other techniques discover a huge deposit of potash under the North Yorkshire moors. The company involved in the search made the usual planning applications, as it was a huge project to dig a huge and very deep shaft to gain access to the potash seams, and then transfer the product some thirty miles to a new dock on the river Tees. Now the usual method of transporting this type of material is by a series of conveyor belts across the country. These belts being surface mounted, all the company would have to do would be to survey and choose the best route, to avoid the necessity for bridges, short tunnels etc. and the landowners and farmers could be compensated for the trouble felt during the construction period and the nuisance of having a large industrial transport scheme across their lands. The cost? My own estimate, for a run of approximately thirty-odd kilometres, would be about £40 million pounds.
But, ‘hey oop’, as the average liberal, environmentally alert & conservation-minded Yorkshireman might state, ‘You can’t run your conveyor routes there: thats all inside the North York Moors National Park! It would be a permanent huge scar upon an area of natural beauty, and it cannot be allowed!’
So the Potash Mine company, being dead clever, said ‘Oh, forsooth, and Nay; Lad’. We shall tunnel from the minehead all the way to the dock in Teesside, and you won’t even see it. True, we’ll have to dig four sites to allow the tunnel boring machines to be set in place, as well as the huge cranes building the actual minehead plant, but once its up and running, we’ll be planting trees to disguise the site, and you won’t see anything! The actual cost of a tunnel boring machine, weighing in at 1,800 tonnes and measuring 220 metres long, costs over £200 millions each, but we don’t mind buying four, because we love the environment!’
So, Sirius Mining got their Planning Application approved, and the liberals were unhappy, but mollified because they won’t see the conveyor belts, because they’re all enclosed in that tunnel. So the views across the North York Moors National Park will be unsullied, and as we head South, all we’ll see is the grass, and the sheep, and the .sweeping grandeur of the Moors ……….