Friday, 21 November 2014

‘Straitgate’s not enough’ - AI wants more of our local area

Minerals planning in Devon has taken a new, bizarre and disturbing twist. No decisions have yet been made, but, according to DCC, ‘Straitgate may not be enough on its own’ - other areas around Ottery St Mary, West Hill and beyond may have to be earmarked as well.

And no, the sites at Penslade near Uffculme are not being ruled out either. In actual fact, if both Straitgate and Penslade are designated as Preferred Sites, that would cover any shortfall of sand and gravel for the Minerals Plan period to 2031 many times over, even if reserves at Houndaller near Hillhead are ignored. There should be no need to identify any further sites. So what’s going on?

First of all, Aggregate Industries obviously has little interest in Penslade - unless permission is refused for Straitgate. Secondly, Straitgate has a smaller available resource of sand and gravel than either AI or DCC had hoped - arguably not enough by itself to cover the expected shortfall in the Plan. AI clearly wants to be at Straitgate, but also wants to stay in the area once the Farm is exhausted. To facilitate this, DCC is considering making further provision in the Minerals Plan for this area. What DCC is now talking about, in addition to making Straitgate a Preferred Site, is identifying a more extensive 'Area of Search', in other words identifying the next areas for AI to quarry. BGS defines an 'Area of Search' as:
...broader areas where knowledge of mineral resources may be less certain than in Preferred Areas, but within which planning permissions could be granted to meet any shortfall in supply if suitable applications are made.
What area might it cover? It’s not known yet, but the best indication is this map, where the yellow indicates the extent of the Budleigh Salterton Pebble Beds, the sand and gravel that AI wants.

So much for DCC's idea 'that supply should be maintained from the northern and southern areas’. Nevertheless, most of this is no more than we have said before, that once AI gets a foothold in Straitgate it will move on to other farmland around Ottery St Mary, West Hill and beyond - quarrying here for generations to come; it already owns the mineral rights. What has changed is it now looks like DCC is working in tandem with AI to make it happen - opening the door for this Swiss multinational to wreck large parts of the Otter Valley. Huge areas are at risk; sites S1-S10 that had previously been excluded will now be looked at again. This is no longer just about Straitgate.