• Objection to DCC’s minerals plan which proposes Straitgate Farm as a site for a 100 acre quarry

    6th November 2015 | News | Claire
  • Sand and gravel sites consultation responses – 2012

    In the Ottery area there have been almost 400 objections to a quarry at Straitgate Farm – largely on environmental and traffic issues.

    – Environmental issues include that there is an aquifer – major underground watercourse, feeding 100 people’s water supplies and ancient woodland at Cadhay Bog, possibly dating back to the ice age. Aggregate Industries (AI) states that they won’t quarry down as far as the water table, however, water table levels are uncertain – they rise and fall depending on rainfall.

    – Up to 200 lorry movements a day would take place between Straitgate Farm and Blackhill Quarry, if the development was approved. This is considerably more AI related heavy goods traffic than currently travels the B3180 and there would a serious adverse impact on people living along the B3180 and travellers who already get stuck behind the existing quarry traffic. There are particular concerns about more articulated lorries crossing the junction at the Halfway House.

    It is very important to note that there has been one death in the past five years at Tipton Cross on the B3180. Par 32 of the national planning policy framework (nppf) states that where the transport impacts are severe, an application can be refused. I would argue that up to 200 articulated lorries a day travelling along this narrow road and the Halfway House junction, along with its accident history, can be described as severe.

    – AI stated that it would be unpleasant for neighbours and environmentally damaging to build a processing kit at Straitgate… however, why has AI criteria not applied its own criteria to the pebblebed heaths – an internationally designated site in an AONB?

    – Just 1.2m tonnes of sand and gravel able to be extracted. This estimate has been reduced and reduced over the months, as AI realise that less and less sand and gravel can be extracted from Straitgate, if the company is to comply with environmental requirements.

    – Straitgate farmland is among best and most versatile agricultural land – 3a- Par 112 of the nppf states that local authorities should take into account the economic benefits of best and most versatile agricultural land.

    DCC has required AI, in line with national and international planning/environmental policies, to finish processing at Blackhill Quarry in 2012 but this has already been extended with no EIA. Now DCC requires AI to finish at Blackhill by Dec 2016, in line with adopted minerals plan and national and international policy.

    AI’s environmental statement plays down the harm that continued processing at Blackhill would cause, but East Devon pebblebed heaths designated as special area of conservation and special protection area. This BREACHES EU Habitats Regulations and could threaten important and threatened species, such as Dartford Warbler, southern damselfly and nightjar.

    Natural England took view that there was nitrate pollution arising from traffic in 2012, adversely impacting on species of interest up to 200m from the road and that early restoration and completion of operations at Blackhill would be beneficial for the special area of conservation.
    BUT the environmental statement in current planning app downplays this and claims that there would be no likely significant effect on the conservation interests of the special area of conservation.

    AONB – processing
    Blackhill Quarry is in a location designated an area outstanding natural beauty (aonb). Par 117 of nppf states that development should only take place in an aonb if it is in the public interest AND there are exceptional circumstances.

    Despite further information submitted with AI’s planning application, it cannot demonstrate this.

    The nppf requires a seven year landbank – DCC currently has enough reserves for almost 14 YEARS.

    With just over 8m tonnes in reserve, the demand for sand and gravel has declined steadily over many years with the introduction of the landfill and aggregates taxes, which means far more recycling than before. There is NO NEED to quarry at Straitgate Farm.

    Hillhead, Uffculme
    AI argues that an existing quarry at Hillhead is unsuitable for further quarrying due to the high proportion of sand versus gravel. But the adopted minerals plan, the emerging minerals plan and local aggregate assessments make no distinction on this whatsoever, so cannot test the accuracy of this statement, NOR should be it be given any weight in planning terms, as it is not written into policy.
    Trees and hedgerows

    – Dozens of veteran, possibly ancient deciduous trees are set to be felled to accommodate the quarry at Straitgate Farm. Over one mile of ancient hedgerow is set to be lost, 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.

    (I have also submitted additional comments on further information on planning applications by Aggegrate Industries).
    Deadline for comments on the minerals plan is Monday 16 November…………………..