• Significant irreversible harm could be caused by quarry

    24th May 2012 | News | Claire
  • The environmental impact of quarrying on top of a major acquifer appears to be the main source of the EA’s concerns.

    Devon County Council is proposing to include land at Straitgate Farm in its minerals plan as a site for quarrying. 

    Aggregate Industries owns the land and the minerals rights.

    In a letter to Devon County Council officer, Andy Hill, Marcus Salmon, planning liaison technical specialist, states:

    “The number of private water supplies suggests to me that this would be a difficult site to take forward.  Similarly, if this area is shown to be a significant part of the catchment for the water features near Cadhay, its deliverability as a viable site would seem unlikely.”

    On the risk of harm to biodiversity, Mr Salmon explains:  “In terms of Impact on County Wildlife Sites (CWS) or non-statutory nature reserves (section 15) we disagree with this being High/Medium risk of harm on this indicator for Cadhay Bog and Cadhay Wood CWSs, as there will be irreversible and permanent loss of valued asset’s function.  Therefore this should be assessed as High (Red).  Loss of or damage to CWS where it cannot be mitigated or replaced is not supported by the National Planning Policy Framework.  We consider that this impact is unacceptable.”

    On the issue of the loss of ancient woodland the letter states:  “We disagree with the statement (in section 18 – Impact on Biodiversity Action Plan [BAP] priority habitats) that these sites are at a significant distance from the site. 

    “As is stated in section 15 ‘Cadhay Wood is located 130m E of the site and consists of Ancient and mixed semi-natural woodland. Cadhay Bog is located 290m E of the site and consists of Ancient semi-natural and mixed woodland. Both of these sites are fed by streams originating within the site. Cadhay Bog is particularly reliant on this water source to sustain its wetland habitats. Dewatering of these areas would have significant irreversible negative impacts on the sites.”

    “Loss of or damage to bio-diversity action plan species priority habitat where it cannot be mitigated or replaced is not supported by the planning process.  We consider this impact is unacceptable.
    “In terms of potential to lead to loss or damage of ancient woodland (19), again, as functionality of these ancient woodlands will be negatively and irreversibly impacted these impacts should be assessed as High risk.  We consider this impact is unacceptable.”

    “We consider there is likely to be significant harm to biodiversity and water by exploiting this site.”

    “The proposed potential mitigation measures do not mitigate for the negative impacts on water dependent habitats and sites. We suggest that this should be assessed as High Risk (Red).  These impacts on the water environment are unacceptable. “

    On the flood-risk:  “We are concerned about the quarry proposals at this site, in particular groundworks, causing widespread soil compaction and (water) run-off.

    “We can provide three reports to your Authority which show a widespread soil compaction and run-off problem in this catchment which contributed to the flooding of Ottery St Mary during 2008.  There is a general lack of awareness about how widespread the problem of soil compaction is and how this increases run-off.”

    This letter confirms many people’s suspicions that quarrying at Straitgate would have devastating environmental impacts.

    And given that there is no NEED to quarry here, it makes it all the more unreasonable for Devon County Council to continue to refuse to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment at this stage. 

    Officers claim that it is not necessary to carry out this study until a planning application is submitted.  Of course by this stage, the likelihood of preventing such a quarry would be almost impossible.

    I trust that this means that Straitgate will now be deleted from the minerals plan. 

    Any other outcome would be gravely irresponsible.

    A decision on Straitgate will be made by councillors on Devon County Council’s Development Management Committee in the autumn, following a recommendation from officers.

    Photograph:  A view of land at Straitgate Farm, from East Hill.