Ronez jobs under threat if Chouet quarry approval fails

JOBS and key apprenticeship roles at Ronez are at risk if the States fails to support plans to build a new quarry at Chouet headland, the stone supplier and the Unite union have warned.

Ronez Quarry, Les Vardes, Vale. (29839328)
Ronez Quarry, Les Vardes, Vale. (29839328)

Early next month the States is due to debate a proposal from the Environment & Infrastructure Committee to restart quarrying at the Vale headland when stone extraction at Les Vardes is exhausted.

The proposed site, in the fields adjacent to the Mont Cuet tip, is jointly owned by Ronez and the States of Guernsey.

The current quarry at Les Vardes has 18 months before it is exhausted.

Ronez Guernsey’s director and general manager, Steve Roussel, confirmed that 14 jobs would be lost if plans for the new quarry were not approved.

Four of the firm’s current staff would be kept on and redeployed.

Unite, which has several members working at Ronez, has also urged the States to support the proposal which it said would preserve jobs and reduce environmental impact.

Without local quarrying, it is claimed that construction costs and carbon emissions would rise as aggregate would have to be imported.

‘Les Vardes quarry has a longstanding and loyal workforce with many Unite members having worked at Ronez for more than two decades,’ said Unite regional officer Gareth Lowe.

‘The quarry staff are highly trained with many specialist skills that would not be easily transferable to other industries.

‘Ronez also offers much needed quarrying apprenticeships for Guernsey’s young people. If the States do not support the new development at Chouet headland, these jobs and opportunities will be put at serious risk.’

Mr Roussel said the timeline for being up and running at Chouet was up against the Les Vardes closure.

‘It is getting quite urgent now and a decision needs to be made early about the Chouet site because there is a lot to be done before the site will be ready,’ he said.

‘If the States approves the use of the site, the planners then adopt a development framework and lodge a planning application – all before we can make a significant investment in the new quarry.

‘We may need to ease production at Les Vardes and import some material to take up the slack while waiting for the planning process to finish.

‘Optimistically we could be operating by the back end of 2022 but still wouldn’t be producing significant quantities until 2023.’

Mr Roussel he understood concerns from islanders about the environment and the visual impact of the new quarry.

‘The coastal walking path around the headland and the car park will be retained and we will be doing all we can to mitigate the impact of the quarry.

‘We have made our position clear to Environment and Infrastructure in our representation in the policy letter and most of the committee seem to back the proposal.’

Les Vardes' future

RONEZ’S Steve Roussel explained that there is four more years of aggregate available at Les Vardes quarry but it was buried under the processing plant.

If work can start quickly at Chouet, a smaller processing plant will be hidden from view and 80% of processing the stone could happen at Les Vardes.

Once enough stone had been dug out of the Chouet site, the Les Vardes plant could be moved and Ronez could dig out the stone available at Les Vardes.

Les Vardes quarry has the asphalt required for mending Guernsey’s roads.

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