My particular concerns are:
Exeter Airport has long been concerned about a proposed quarry at Straitgate, which would be 6k from Exeter Airport, 90 seconds flying time from the airport, and directly under the flight path at a point where planes are flying at a height 200 metres.
A quarry inevitably creates a void which fills with water and attracts birds. Landing and take-off are the most dangerous aspects of flying. It would be totally unacceptable to create such a hazard in such a location.
The number of passengers and flights using Exeter Airport is projected to increase substantially in the next few years. More flights would result in greater danger for even more people.
Processing at Straitgate, of aggregate won at Straitgate, would be totally unacceptable on visual impact, and noise and dust and other environmental grounds, and on water-related issues. I believe that the company acknowledges this The company states:
Subject to planning consent, it is therefore proposed that mineral processing from Straitgate Farm would take place initially at Blackhill Quarry for a period of approximately 4-5 years until the end of 2021.
The scoping document does not include proposals for processing at Straitgate, and it would therefore be necessary for any aggregates won at Straitgate to be processed elsewhere. The company intention appears to be for any aggregates won at Straitgate to be processed at Blackhill Quarry where there is processing plant.
However Blackhill Quarry is situated in area that is subject to many important landscape and habitat designations: it is within the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and it is bordered by a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), a Special Protection Area (SPA), and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is home to rare and threatened species nationally such as the Dartford Warbler and Nightjar, and it is home to a European scarce species – the Southern Damselfly.
The site is underlain by the Budleigh Salterton Pebble Bed Formation which the Environment Agency classifies as a major aquifer. There are local concerns about disturbance of the Budleigh Brook having flooding consequences.
The scoping paper fails to address these very important issues. The scoping document does not address serious concerns such as the transportation of soil from Straitgate, which has been a dairy farm for hundreds of years, and where it is assumed that the soil would be very nitrate rich, and thus pose a very serious threat of contamination at Blackhill.
INCREASED WATER RUN OFF AND FLOODING
There is a history of serious flooding to the west of the River Otter. In October 2008 there was a major flood event in the Otter Valley. There are 4 streams which originate from Straitgate Farm, and all of them caused very serious and very substantial flood damage in October 2008.
* A watercourse which flows south under the Exeter Road in the vicinity of Pitfield Farm, then swings east crossing Toadpit Lane, then continues in an easterly direction to the north of West Hill Road, crosses West Hill Road to the east of Foxenholes, and then runs to the north of Salston Ride on its way to the River Otter. In October 2008 this watercourse caused severe damage at Toadpit Lane, Foxenholes, and Salston Ride.
* The Thorne Farm Stream which flooded something like 50 properties on the Thorne Farm estate, with many cars destroyed and many people having such extensive property damage that they were forced to leave their homes and not return for six months.
* A watercourse which flows downhill in an easterly direction and crosses Cadhay Lane passing to the north of Cadhay House. After the October 2008 event, the owner of Cadhay House had to completely rebuild his entrance road which had been completely destroyed.
* A watercourse flowing downhill and eastwards to Coombelake where it joins the River Tale. This watercourse caused substantial property damage in October 2008.
In addition to these major concerns, I also have concerns about the following issues which must be properly addressed.
WATER TABLE DISTURBANCE
The proposal is for no mining below the water table. However the water table is variable, with considerable difference of water levels at different times of the year.
The scoping document does not deal adequately with the possible disturbance of the water table, and the possible contamination resulting from incidents such as diesel spills.
A large number of properties in the vicinity of, and to the east of, Straitgate obtain their drinking water from sources originating from Straitgate. It is imperative that in the event of mineral extraction at Straitgate taking place, there should be an absolute certainty that an ample supply of good quality drinking would be maintained.
Cadhay Bog is ancient woodland, possibly even wildwood which may date back to the ice-age. There is a rapidly diminishing and very limited amount of ancient woodland in the UK. Cadhay Bog is dependent on a regular steady flow of water throughout the year. There is concern that extraction of minerals from Straitgate would result in periods when the flow of water is excessive, and also periods when the flow of water would dry up. If water flow to Cadhay Bog were to cease (even temporarily) the important and nationally scarce ancient woodland would be seriously damaged.
I am also concerned about the traffic implications of the proposal. The probable 100 vehicle movements a day for 4 or 5 years along local roads which are inadequate for the projected purpose are a great worry. I request that there be a comprehensive traffic survey of the proposals.
I also support the comments made by Ottery Town Council in relation to West Hill, below.
The EIA should assess the impact on the village of West Hill. This village comprises 850 dwellings and is one of the largest villages in East Devon. Despite being only a very short distance from the proposed site it has not been mentioned in paragraph 2.3 “the surrounding area”. West Hill must be fully considered in relation to each and every aspect of potential impact; in particular we comment on:
Noise assessments should be carried out from points within West Hill, in addition to those currently proposed.
In relation to the impact on highways full account must be taken of the impact on the B3180 which runs through the village of West Hill, including collection of baseline traffic data. There is particular concern in relation to the sharp bend and narrowing of the B3180 at Tipton Cross.
STRAITGATE FARM – HERITAGE ASSET
Full consideration should be given to the impact on Straitgate Farm which is grade 2 listed. The key recent judgement of Barnwell Manor emphasized the importance of the effect on a setting of a heritage asset. As a change in the surroundings of Straitgate Farm would be permanent there would be significant permanent damage to the setting which cannot for instance be mitigated by planting screening trees.
BLACKHILL – NATURA 2000
In order to allow the continued processing of material at Blackhill Quarry until 2021 (which is envisaged by this proposed application in relation to Straitgate) there will need to be a separate application in relation to Blackhill. In light of the Natura 2000 status of Blackhill it is highly questionable whether a consent will be granted for the continued processing at Blackhill. Any application for Blackhill should therefore be considered at this stage, as operations at Straitgate are dependent on it receiving consent.
Photograph: View of Ottery and East Hill, from Straitgate Farm.