• Wait for evidence over quarry, insist councillors

    6th June 2012 | News | Claire
  • I viewed on the live webcast Cllrs Paul Diviani (also leader of East Devon District Council), Eileen Wragg and Jim Knight (all East Devon councillors) all speaking of a need for more aggregates, despite available evidence not supporting this.

    And despite a consultation response from the Environment Agency setting out a large number of significant concerns, largely relating to the probable loss of ancient woodland, biodiversity, damage to the water table and the loss of water supplies to 100 residents.

    The councillors spoke following Cllr Roger Giles’s address to the meeting.  He made a compelling case against the quarry based on the significant concerns of the Environment Agency, which in its consultation response, has described the proposal to include Straitgate Farm in the minerals plan as ‘unacceptable’ in a number of places. 

    Cllr Giles also told the committee that Ottery St Mary Town Council, the local district councillors and hundreds of residents were all opposed to the project – an unprecedented level of agreement.

    After Cllr Giles left the room (he has a prejudicial interest as a result of his campaigning against the plan), Cllr Paul Diviani told the meeting that ‘communications’ had be clearer to avoid ‘some people running around making wild assertions as to what’s happening.’

    He added that the committee must look at the ‘big picture, not the little picture’ and ensure the public knew that they are nowhere near making a decision until such time as the ‘evidence was in place.’

    Cllr Diviani also said that if there was a current lack of need for aggregates, it was ‘a blip’ and the committee must plan for the long-term.

    He then made a number of remarks about NIMBYs (not in my backyard)

    Cllr Eileen Wragg told the committee that West Hill residents would not want a quarry anyway.  She said there would be a need and the emerging local plans would give the construction industry a boom and this was something to be welcomed.

    Cllr Wragg added that quarries usually become accepted by the community as part of the local employment, there will always be opposition and councillors would never keep everyone happy.  There was a need for perspective, and councillors could expect ‘brick bats’; she said.

    Cllr Jim Knight said that he agreed with Eileen.  If the committee turned down the proposal for Straitgate Farm to be included in the minerals plan, they would have to pick another site and start all over again..  They must continue with the route taken so far and move forward, he said.

    Cllr Chris Clarence simply stated that he would take on board the responses and come up with an informed decision.

    Councillors then agreed to ‘note’ the report, as recommended on the agenda. 

    After viewing the webcast, I wondered what it might take for these councillors to be persuaded that quarrying at Straitgate was a bad idea.  Clearly devastating environmental harm, as outlined by the Environment Agency, cuts no ice with some members.

    Given that the best reason for quarrying at Straitgate minerals officer, Andy Hill could come up with, was:  “To spread the impact,” it would seem that they are a little light on evidence.

    A decision was due to be made in the autumn but it is no longer clear whether this is still the case.

    Photograph:  Campaigner, Basil Herbert, presenting to the Development Management Committee in April.

    Postscript:  Thursday 7 June.  I missed the first part of this agenda item but I understand that planning officer, Stewart Redding, was clearly concerned about the environmental impact of quarrying at Straitgate.  He also questioned the need for sand and gravel in this area, given the decreasing demand for it.  So it appears that things may be more promising than I first thought. 

    Councillors will make the final decision on quarrying at Straitgate, following a recommendation from officers.  This now looks as though it will be delayed until after Easter 2013.