Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Has DCC properly assessed the impact of quarrying on the historic environment?

Not according to "Heritage in local plans: how to create a sound plan under the NPPF" released last week by English Heritage.

Quarrying at Straitgate Farm would not only impact the Grade II listed Devon longhouse and its setting, but also the source of water for the mediaeval fish ponds that are of central importance to the gardens at Cadhay, the Grade I listed Tudor manor house. A pre-historic track also runs through Straitgate, and a number of archaeological finds were made in the area during the construction of the A30.

Water from Straitgate at Cadhay

The historic environment did not concern DCC in the Site Appraisal of S7 (Straitgate), with the impact on Cadhay rated "Medium/Low", and bizarrely even the impact on Straitgate, of removing the agricultural setting of a 16th century farmhouse, only rated "Medium". The Sustainability Appraisal also failed to appreciate these assets, assessing only a "Minor negative impact" on the historic environment of quarrying S7.

English Heritage however say "The NPPF expects heritage assets to be conserved and enhanced for generations to come."

English Heritage advise "Sound local plans will be based on adequate up-to-date evidence about the historic environment." "This is not just an exercise in listing known sites, but of understanding their value to society (their significance), how they and the area have developed through history, their physical conservation status and needs, the contribution of their settings, scope for enhancement and their potential to contribute to the delivery of other sustainable development objectives." 

We now know that DCC's Sustainability Appraisal did not inform, as it should have, the earlier Site Appraisals, but English Heritage are clear that "The evidence base will also be of relevance to the Sustainability Appraisal which accompanies the Local Plan, helping to populate the baseline data and informing the appraisal process itself." "Where the evidence base is weak, local planning authorities may find it useful to commission research from appropriately qualified and competent experts to supplement existing information." 

English Heritage consider that "One of the core dimensions of sustainable development is the protection and enhancement of the historic environment." DCC must not be blinkered in its pursuit for a Preferred Site for sand and gravel quarrying - the County's historic assets need to be taken seriously.