Monday, 2 July 2012

AI wanted housing for Foxenhole Quarry

Restoration plans may have included beaches, boathouses and landing stages in the 60s, or woodland clearings with picnic areas and footpaths with educational boards today, but the reality is often very different, as the residents of Uffculme will know, with quarried "brownfield" sites turning into landfill, composting and blockwork operations. In the 1967 planning application for Straitgate, ECC Quarries (now Aggregate Industries) promised to restore half of the land back to agriculture, and claimed this would be of a "higher agricultural quality" than before. At Foxenhole, just 1000m south east of Straitgate, local farmers will attest that the outcome was in fact the reverse. This land was quarried until the mid 90s, and the once productive farmland has now been lost. This did not bother Aggregate Industries however, who had more profitable uses in mind. In 2010 they took an unusually keen interest in how our community should be shaped, and made a number of submissions to the East Devon LDF Core Strategy Preferred Approach Consultation. They mentioned Foxenhole some 14 times: "Growth ensures that rural communities are more socially mixed and can help make productive use of surplus land (such as land at Foxenhole in West Hill)", "West Hill and particularly land at Foxenhole, stands strongly against the test for being a suitable location for tourism related accommodation", " is considered that West Hill, and in particular land at Foxenhole, provides a sustainable and appropriate location for affordable housing outside the settlement boundary", "...the land at Foxenhole represents a strong opportunity for further growth in the village and it could come forward within the first 5 year period", etc. 

As it turned out, Aggregate Industries sold the 15ha (38 acres) of land they owned last month, having faced highway constraints with the site. Given that residential building land in the South West with outline planning permission was averaging about £1.5m/ha (VOA Property Market Report 2010) you can see what had piqued their interest. Restoration doesn't generate a profit, selling a hole for development or landfill does. When Aggregate Industries propose a restoration scheme for Straitgate, will anybody believe it?