The discussions concerned Straitgate, Rockbeare, Marshbroadmoor, Venn Ottery and Blackhill quarries.  The area is being looked at as a whole, as restoration would make up an important part of any agreement.

AI is still aiming to submit a planning application later this year, subject to persuading the Environment Agency and other statutory bodies that its proposals are acceptable. However, with a smaller recoverable resource, AI and its Swiss paymasters will no doubt need to assess the financial viability of any scheme.

Devon County Council has informed us that AI’s final campaign at Marshbroadmoor is scheduled to start this month. Approximately 45,000 tonnes of aggregate remain; once this has been removed the site will be restored. Work at Venn Ottery will temporarily cease while the Marshbroadmoor site is being worked.

Aggregate Industries has requested a meeting with Devon County Council to discuss the future of Straitgate Farm. Four members of the Council’s planning team will meet with three representatives from AI, including its South West Area Director, next week. No consultants, geologists or hydrogeologists will be involved.

AI is likely to outline a proposal to quarry an even further reduced area of Straitgate. Consultants have so far been unable to produce a workable and robust scheme for the current proposed boundary with working below the water table, that would not negatively impact groundwater. They will, however, continue to collect groundwater data in and around the site – a process that started some 18 months ago – in the hope of devising a scheme where more of the deposit could be recovered.

With less material immediately available, AI will no doubt push yet again for an extension at Blackhill Quarry more than 7 miles away to process the as-dug material – beyond the time when permission expires at the end of 2016.

No quarrying is undertaken at Blackhill any more; since 2009 it has functioned as a sand and gravel processing works – blighting Woodbury Common, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Special Area of Conservation and Special Protection Area.  It is one of the few areas of the country that is protected by EU legislation – the Habitats Regulations.

In the meantime, the results of the Straitgate archaeological geophysical survey have been assessed. It has been recommended that a number of trenches are dug across the site. The exact number will be dependent on the area AI proposes to quarry.

See more on Aggegrate Industries plans for Straitgate Farm here – http://www.straitgateactiongroup.blogspot.co.uk/

Photograph thanks to Straitgate Action Group: A line of veteran oaks at Straitgate Farm.