Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Where do we stand 6 months on from starting this blog?

For those who have recently found this site, as well as regular readers, here's an update of where things currently stand, a recap of what's happened over the last 6 months, and a summary of some of the main issues that have been covered in the blog so far.

View looking over Straitgate Farm towards Sidmouth Gap and AONB
- An update:

Six months on, Aggregate Industries (AI) has still not told Devon County Council (DCC) how it proposes to overcome the significant challenges raised during the consultation that ended in May. AI does still intend, however, to apply for planning permission to quarry Straitgate Farm, but not now before early 2014, due to the environmental reports and surveys that must be completed beforehand. This month AI expects to drill boreholes on the site and to start monitoring groundwater levels; at least 12 months of data is required. At the same time, AI plans to dig out a number of test pits, and deliver several hundred tonnes of sand and gravel to Blackhill Quarry for grading analysis. At the end of testing, the pits are to be refilled with material from the site and returned to their original state. An archaeologist will be on site when the pits are dug. AI plans to advise local residents of this activity next week. Elsewhere, AI did not finish extraction at Marshbroadmoor in August as planned, finding more material than anticipated. Local residents can therefore look forward to another 'campaign' next summer. For the record, AI is aware of the housing proposals to the west of Ottery St Mary towards Straitgate.

A team from the Environment Agency (EA) have in the meantime been assessing groundwater supplies and biodiversity in the area. They have visited a number of properties, including Cadhay, and also the County Wildlife Sites of Cadhay Bog and Cadhay Wood.

DCC will shortly be publishing a draft local aggregate assessment for comment, which will propose a different method of calculating the 10 year production average and consequently the size of the County's landbank in years, giving more weighting to the recent low figures. No decision is expected from DCC on Straitgate until next year.

- A brief recap of what's happened over the last 6 months:

The EA and Natural England (NE) warn of significant harm (11/5,21/5), 384 objections to Straitgate (14/5), DCC delays decision on Straitgate to 2013 and considers whether there may be 'showstoppers' (6/6), Consultation report (13/6), DCC's Sustainability Appraisal (SA) - negative impact on flight safety considered only "minor" (26/6), DCC's newsletter (4/7), Ottery floods again (11/7), Dave Black - conflict of interest? (18/7) and his reply (15/8), 2011 production and reserve figures (21/7), EA and NE respond to the SA report (26/7), and SA audit inconsistencies (6/9).

- A quarry at Straitgate Farm would cause significant impacts on the local area, and a number of these have been discussed since the blog's beginning:

The threat of birdstrikes on Exeter Airport (27/5,2/6,26/6,15/8,28/8,20/10), the impact on flooding (4/7,11/7), on ancient woodland (24/6), on farmland (14/7), on local roads (15/6,5/7), on Woodbury Common (12/9), on private water supplies (6/9), on health (9/8,18/10), on jobs (29/10), on the landscape (29/5,24/9), on sustainability (21/7), on history (1/8), the question of viability (31/8), of restoration (2/7,24/9,30/9,11/10,29/10), of forecasts and demand (7/7,21/7, 29/10), of climate change (24/6), of competition (18/7), of political donations (25/7), and that the people of Ottery St Mary and West Hill have been through all this before (27/6,4/7,7/7,14/7).

Further matters will be covered in due course.