• Devon County Councillors vote to include Straitgate Farm in minerals plan as a quarry

    27th January 2016 | News | Claire
  • Also a landowner who controls the access is opposed to any quarrying at Straitgate Farm.

    The minerals plan states that 1.2m tonnes is proposed to be quarried at Straitgate Farm. This is a figure supplied by the proposed quarry operator, Aggregate Industries.  However, this amount has recently been found to include off limits aggregate that if quarried could compromise the aquifer. This was uncovered thanks to work by Straitgate Action Group, which brought the issue to the attention of the Environment Agency and Devon County Council.

    Aggregate Industries has now admitted that they intend to quarry right down to the water table, breaching the strict limitations imposed by the Environment Agency and Devon County Council, both of which have required a 1m buffer between the watercourse and any quarrying taking place.

    Importantly, the Environment Agency has not sanctioned this revelation, but has asked for more information.

    I emphasised that this was a fundamental issue – and although the chairman asked that no specific sites should be discussed – I argued that that the plan could be found unsound if it wasn’t deliverable or contained incorrect information.

    A lack of a viable processing site, as well as the landowner access opposition means that the allocation of Straitgate in the minerals plan may not be deliverable, which is a planning requirement.

    Some members of the committee asked pertinent questions based on what I had said, however, others dismissed it.

    An officer suggested that the planning inspector would sort out all these issues. He did admit, however, that Straitgate Farm was the only proposal where there were discrepancies over the amount of sand and gravel to be extracted and where there was a key landowner opposing the proposal. He said that there were other access options.

    In the end the vote was five votes in favour and two against.  I wasn’t allowed to come back at the end to address some of the comments made during the debate, unfortunately, which was frustrating as I was going to point out that approving the minerals plan for inspection means that quarrying down to the water table had been implicitly approved, given that the 1.2m tonne figure in the plan meant including quarrying sand and gravel that should be off limits. 

    A planning inspector is set to examine Devon County Council’s minerals plan in a public hearing later this year, possibly in the summer.

    This is not the end!  I will be making representations at this hearing.

    The planning applications for quarrying and processing, which have hit all sorts of problems, will also still need to be determined. It is so far on hold while Devon County Council planning officers seek yet more information.

    Here is the link to the webcast – http://www.devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/195909 

    It is item number 5 and speakers can be seen and clicked on, if you go to to the agenda item.

    To keep up to date with the proposed quarry at Straitgate Farm, sign up to Straitgate Action Group here – http://straitgateactiongroup.blogspot.co.uk/