Sunday, 19 May 2013

Would tourists still catch the bus to Ottery St Mary?

© Denis Chick
Maybe not, if a report this week is anything to go by. An independent study prepared for the National Park Authority, with respect to proposals for a new potash mine in the North York Moors, claims £41 million would be cut in direct tourist expenditure there each year as a result.

How would an Aggregate Industries quarry at Straitgate Farm impact the economy of Ottery St Mary?

As the head of planning at the North York Moors National Park Authority, said: “People might say ‘there’s two big mines in that area, it’s just not a place I want to go to anymore’.” In the same way, people might say "There's that huge quarry right at the entrance to the Otter Valley on the road into Ottery. It was such a beautiful area, but it's just not the same now - we'll go somewhere else."

If it was just Straitgate, Ottery might bounce back. But in time, having exhausted Straitgate, AI has already confirmed that it would be looking to exploit further mineral rights held nearby. There has been quarrying at Blackhill on Woodbury Common since before the 1930s, but it's due to end in 2016. If AI were to secure a foothold at Straitgate, it could be here for generations too: Ottery St Mary - once famous as the birthplace of Samuel Taylor Coleridge - now an AI base for sand and gravel quarrying, associated works and inert landfill operations? Doesn't sound helpful to Ottery's tourist economy.

Could a quarry help Ottery's prospects? Well, let's see -

Come off at Daisymount, direction Ottery. Pass AI's quarry on your left. Would that help Ottery?
A crater on the landscape damaging views from East Hill Strips AONB. Would that help Ottery?
HGV quarry traffic. Would that help Ottery?
Removing groundwater storage on a hill above a town prone to flooding. Would that help Ottery?
Risking water sources to private supplies and medieval fishponds at Cadhay. Would that help Ottery?
Industrial development in the quarry void. Would that help Ottery?

As the British Geological Survey Planning for Minerals Guide admits:
..the use of this land for aggregates production can physically displace or negatively effect existing or alternative economic activities such as tourism or agriculture that may be more economically sustainable and beneficial to the community in the longer term.
Aggregate Industries' gain would be Ottery St Mary's loss.