There was a steady flow of interested (and probably concerned) people to see AI`s proposals for a sand and gravel quarry at Straitgate Farm to the west of Ottery.
I have vigorously opposed this unecessary and damaging proposal in the past. I have had a number of concerns over issues such as increased flood risk in Ottery, Salston, Cadhay and Coombelake; threat to ancient woodland at Cadhay Bog; threat to water supplies for more than 100 people, who get their drinking water from sources fed from Straitgate Farm; and landscape and noise and dust problems.
My particular interest in attending the exhibition was to study the latest AI transport proposals. There have been so many failed attempts to meet highways safety requirements, it is difficult to keep track of all the proposals. Another fundamental flaw in AI proposals was a plan to go over land owned by a local farmer, who – understandably – would not give consent.
Initially AI wanted to come direct out on to Exeter Road (by far the busiest road into Ottery) from Straitgate Farm entrance.
Plan B was to use the west corner at Daisymount
Plan C was to get from the north point onto Birdcage Lane, and then on to the old A.30.
Plan D was to exit the quarry on to Exeter Road via Little Straitgate
So what is plan E? The AI intention is to access Toadpit Lane (sometimes erroneously referred to as Birdcage Lane) north of Exeter Road.
I must say that I was distinctly unimpressed by the proposals, and by the way that they were explained by the AI traffic consultant. The plan is to approximately double the width of Toadpit Lane for about 100 yards north of the junction with Exeter Road.
I asked the AI traffic consultant what consideration had been given to the needs of pedestrians or cyclists. It was quite clear from what I saw and heard that the answer was “none whatsoever”.
The plan is for this part of Toadpit Lane to be doubled to allow incoming and outgoing lorries to pass each other; the traffic levels are to go from perhaps six cars and the occasional tractor a day at the moment, to a maximum of 200 lorries a day if the quarry goes ahead – yet the AI traffic counsultant did not consider it was necessary to provide a pavement or make any other provision for those on foot! Pedestrians would just have to take their chance amongst the lorries.
When I asked the AI man about the effect on people using the public rights of way in the immediate vicinity – he was not even aware that there were any! There are in fact two that connect to the Toadpit Lane/Exeter Road junction.
Assuming that lorries negotiate Toadpit Lane successfully, there is then the prospect of a succession of slow moving heavily laden lorries turning right across the heavy flow of traffic speeding down the hill towards Ottery. The lorries would then trundle up the hill towards Daisymount with traffic coming up behind.
To my mind the proposals are not sensible, and nowhere near safe.
All parties have accepted that processing of material quarried at Straitgate could not be processed on site. The AI proposal is that all the material would be taken to Uffculme for processing – a round trip of 46 miles; that is not in accordance with Government planning guidance on sustainability.
The workable resource of sand and gravel at Straitgate is less than a million tonnes. That may sound a lot, but in the minerals industry it is a very small amount of mineral, with relatively low value. I cannot for the life of me begin to comprehend why AI are contemplating spending so much time and money, and creating such damage to the local environment, for so little financial reward.
The AI sand and gravel resource near Uffculme is something like 12 times that at Straitgate. It makes no sense at all to open a new quarry at Straitgate to send sand and gravel to Uffculme.
I await the planning application – which AI have said they will submit around the middle of December – with great trepidation.
Another report on the AI exhibition can be seen on the Straitgate Action Group website – http://straitgateactiongroup.blogspot.co.uk/