Thursday, 17 October 2013

Which part of the EA's response last year on SPZs did AI not understand?

A plethora of documents on the subject of Straitgate and Devon's Minerals Plan have now been written by various parties, but the significance of one paragraph has seemingly been overlooked.

Earlier this year, the Environment Agency imposed SPZs - source protection zones - at Straitgate to protect peoples' drinking water. At the time, AI and its consultants were investigating the locality, and the significance of the SPZs was brushed to one side. Perhaps it was because AI belittled the SPZs' importance. Perhaps it was because consultants had rubbished how the SPZs had been calculated.

Whatever the reason, DCC has made it crystal clear on numerous occasions that Straitgate cannot be relied upon as a Preferred Site in Devon's new Minerals Plan if the EA doesn't consider the site to be viable or deliverable. It's an obvious pre-condition if DCC's Plan is to be found sound.

The EA has since rebutted the accusation that the SPZ calculations were incorrect. But it is the EA's earlier consultation response, written in April 2012, that needs to be re-read in the light of the new SPZs. At this time the EA said:
When our groundwater team map the Source Protection Zones (SPZs) for all of the private water supplies in this area I expect that [Straitgate] will be an important part of their catchment areas… if this area is shown to be a significant part of the catchment for the water features near Cadhay, its deliverability as a viable site would seem unlikely.
Well, the SPZs have been mapped, and they DO show that the area forms a "significant part of the catchment for the water features near Cadhay". It MUST therefore follow, as far as the EA is concerned, that Straitgate's "deliverability as a viable site would seem unlikely".

Parties may argue about what probability is construed by the phrase "seem unlikely". What is beyond doubt is that a planning inspector would make a finding of unsoundness on any council plan relying on a site with an EA label "deliverability as a viable site would seem unlikely" stamped across it.

AI must work with a county's Minerals Plan, not against it. If Straitgate is not in Devon's Plan it will mean the county does not want the site quarried. If it's any easier for AI to understand in picture form, here's the SPZ again. It's the green line, the line within which AI thinks it can dig below the water table.

Environment Agency