• Objection to a 100 acre quarry at Straitgate Farm on the edge of Ottery

    31st March 2017 | News | Claire
  • Firstly, can I please highlight the excellent response to the planning application consultation from Ottery St Mary Town Council and Mark and Monica Mortimer, who have provided extremely well informed and detailed reasons why the planning application should be refused.

    I object on the following grounds:

    Lack of justification

    Par 145 of the nppf states that councils must hold only a seven year sand and gravel landbank. 

    The production of sand and gravel in Devon has fallen consistently for more than 20 years because of the use of secondary aggregates and recycled aggregates. The introduction of the Aggregates Tax and the Landfill Tax has reduced the need for virgin aggregates. The Landfill Tax in particular has resulted in material which previously was landfilled, such as highways planings and construction waste, being used as aggregate and thus reduced the need for primary aggregates. Different building techniques has also reduced the need for sand and gravel.

    The Minerals Plan has identified sufficient reserves of sand and gravel near Uffculme to meet the Devon Minerals Plan requirement. It makes no sense – and would be extremely damaging – to create an additional quarry, when the need for sand and gravel can be met from the existing quarry.


    The access from Birdcage Lane onto to the B3174 (Barrack Road) means that 40 tonne lorries will be turning right across the traffic onto a fast road and travelling slowly up to the hill to Daisymount

    Major underground watercourse
    Aggregate Industries now state that they will not quarry as far down as the water table. Although it should be noted that this was most certainly the original plan put forward in 2012 as a proposal for the emerging minerals plan.

    Aggregate Industries tests have found that to quarry into a major aquifer would be unacceptably environmentally damaging, as this aquifer concerned feeds ancient woodland (very rare wildwood perhaps dating back to the ice-age) at Cadhay Bog, in particular and also Cadhay Wood.  The NPPF sets out protection for ancient woodland.
    The revised plan to quarry less deeply, should still be of serious concern because the water table height varies and so the possibility of irreparably damaging the aquifer (recognised as vital by the Environment Agency as a major underground watercourse) remains a significant worry.

    Trees and hedgerows
    Dozens of veteran, possibly ancient deciduous trees are set to be felled to accommodate the quarry at Straitgate Farm.  Over 2000m of ancient hedgerow is set to be lost (deemed as important under the Hedgerow Regulations 1997, resulting in a significant loss of habitat.  Paragraph 118 of the nppf states that planning permission should be refused for development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland and the loss of aged or veteran trees, found outside ancient woodland.  An EU protected species, dormice, have been found in hedgerows all over the farm.

    Up to 172 lorry movements a day would take place between Straitgate Farm and Uffculme during 5-7 week campaigns, 2-3 times a year over 10—12 years.  This is a 46 mile round trip and not in line with sustainability requirements in the NPPF.
    It is doubtful that the applicants can deliver the promised and necessary road widening of Toadpit Lane (sometimes called Birdcage Lane) between the site entrance and the B3174.  According to the planning application this is dependent on acquisition of land from a third party. An earlier proposal included the use of third party land – and the landowner was unwilling to allow his land to be used.

    Four watercourses originate from Straitgate. In October 2008 a severe storm resulted in all of these watercourses causing substantial flood damage respectively at:
    * Foxenholes, West Hill, and Salston Barton and Salston Ride, Ottery St Mary;
    * the Thorne Farm estate, Ottery St. Mary; * Cadhay;
    * and Taleford/Coombelake.

    There could be interference with the water table might well exacerbate flood risk for these areas.

    I am concerned to read in the Flood Risk Assessment document with the planning application in paragraph “Fluvial flooding from the River Otter was the main cause of the flooding at Ottery St Mary in 2008”.

    This statement is completely wrong. There was no flooding in Ottery from the River Otter in 2008. There was substantial flooding in Ottery in October 2008, but it was not from the River Otter – see paragraph 3.3 above.

    This wholly erroneous statement casts considerable doubt on the accuracy of the whole document, and gives no reassurance whatsoever about the numerous flooding and other water concerns.

    Public rights of way
    Pedestrians and cyclists do not appear to have been properly provided for. There are many walkers and cyclists who use Birdcage Lane and Toadpit Lane; there are two public rights of way which immediately adjoin the B3174 and Toadpit Lane crossroads. The applicants have offered a permissive footpath within the site running south – north. This will not be of use for many walkers, and as a permissive path could be removed at any time. If a footpath is to be provided, it should be a public right of way – which would exist in perpetuity.

    Any quarry at Straitgate Farm could result in reduced water supply downstream, and causing considerable damage.  More than 100 people are dependent on drinking water emanating from Straitgate; there is a real concern that the supply of drinking water might be polluted or curtailed;
    Cadhay House is a Grade 1 Listed house east of (and downhill from) Straitgate. Cadhay is a very important element of the crucially important tourism industry on which Ottery is dependent. Cadhay residents and visitors and its tea rooms are dependent on the water supply from Straitgate.  Cadhay has magnificent medieaval fish ponds, which are dependent on water from Straitgate;

    Aviation safety
    Exeter Airport has long raised concerns about the danger of birdstrike, resulting from birds gathering at the quarry ponds.  This is an issue which must be given very serious consideration.

    Economic impact
    Stratigate Farm is currently a successful and working dairy and beef farm – and has been for probably centuries. Ripping up 100 acres of prime agricultural land for quarrying could mean that a farm business, perhaps many centuries old, could be destroyed, which would be bound to have a negative impact on the local economy with the ceasing of local trading with suppliers and buyers.

    Listed building
    Straitgate Farm is a grade II listed building. A quarry would have a significant adverse impact on the setting of the farmhouse, which would be left standing on an isolated plinth, if the application is approved. Par 134 of the nppf states that where a proposed development would lead to substantial harm or total loss of significance of a heritage asset, consent should be REFUSED unless it can be demonstrated that the development is in the public interest.

    Agricultural land
    Straitgate Farm is on grade 3a land, which is classed as best and most versatile agricultural land in the nppf.  Par 112 of the nppf states that local authorities should take into account the economic benefits of best and most versatile agricultural land.  Where such development is deemed to be necessary, authorities should seek to use poorer quality land.  The economic benefits of farmland remaining as it is, is clearly necessary for the future of Straitgate Farm.

    Visual intrusion
    A 100 acre quarry at Straitgate Farm would be clearly viewed from East Hill – an area of outstanding natural beauty.  It would therefore, cause damage to the setting and character of Ottery St Mary.
    There are overwhelming reasons to refuse this application. I trust that it will be.

    To keep up-to-date with the news relating to the planning application for a quarry at Straitgate Farm, visit – http://straitgateactiongroup.blogspot.co.uk/