Devon County Council wants to include around 80 acres at Straitgate Farm, between Ottery and West Hill, in its minerals plan for quarrying, but Natural England and the Environment Agency have expressed concerns because of an important underground watercourse which would be disturbed by the quarry and could damage ancient woodland at Cadhay Bog and Cadhay Wood.

Digging up aggregates for concrete and roads from greenfield sites is both unsustainable and environmentally damaging.

In fact, the company who recently won the contract to use china clay waste from Cornwall as aggregates for construction in the South-East, S. Walsh, is convinced that there is “no need to dig holes in the countryside” because there are “billions of tonnes of waste that can be used as aggregates”.

Devon and Cornwall have hundreds of millions of tonnes of unused china clay waste, which can be used in place of sand and gravel and other primary aggregates. China clay waste has already been used in major London construction projects.

S. Walsh, along with others, is currently lobbying government to escalate the aggregates levy on primary aggregates, so that, just as the landfill tax has reduced the need for landfill, an aggregates levy escalator would do the same for quarries, by increasing the use of secondary and recycled aggregates.

We can support this lobbying for a more sustainable future by writing to the government. To promote the use of sustainable building materials, we should ask that the government progressively increases the aggregates levy on primary aggregates – to better reflect the environmental cost of their extraction and to encourage the use of alternative sustainable materials – whilst ensuring china clay waste, and other waste materials that can be used as aggregates, are exempt from the levy.

To support the campaign by Straitgate Action Group, I have submitted a question for the next full Devon County Council meeting on Thursday 15 May. 

The question is:  “Does the chairman of the development management committee consider that sufficient use is made of secondary aggregates in Devon? Would he indicate what measures Devon County Council has been taking to maximise sustainable use of mineral resources?”

A decision on whether Straitgate Farm will be included within Devon County Council’s minerals plan, is expected to be made this summer. But has so far, been beset by delays.

More details can be found at http://straitgateactiongroup.blogspot.co.uk/p/what-to-do.html

Photograph:  The view of how large a quarry at Straitgate Farm would be.