Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A disappointing year

It’s been a disappointing year for those who care about the future of this area;

for those that care that Devon County Council is conspiring with a Swiss multinational cement conglomerate to seal the fate of Ottery St Mary and the surrounding area for generations to come;

for those that care that, despite a multitude of material planning constraints, the Aggregate Industries machine continues to move relentlessly towards the gates of its first target, Straitgate Farm.

Here are a few things we posted over the course of 2014:

AI is already marking out its quarry

Exeter Airport’s response on birdstrike fails to consider the complete picture
Hedgerows provide a natural flood defence
AI plans to grub up almost two miles of ancient hedgerows at Straitgate
Spot the difference - 49 acre lake vs. ephemeral pond?
Devon Minerals Plan delayed again
Devon sand and gravel production for 2013, down on 2012

AI's answer for the dormice - an 'escape route'

2015 is likely to be a year when more help will be needed; AI is likely to be submitting its planning application, and DCC is likely to be consulting on, and formally submitting, its long-delayed Minerals Plan. Please spread the word to all those who may be able to assist in any way they can.

It is at least pleasing that readership of this blog and Twitter continues to grow. To all who read this, friend or foe, we wish you a Happy Christmas and Peaceful New Year.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Latest musings from Aggregate Industries’ trade body

MPA wonders why we need Minerals Plans at all

The Mineral Products Association continues to complain of inertia in the planning system, and claims that "unless the situation changes, at some point in the near future the options for maintaining a steady and adequate supply of aggregates could become seriously limited". Mineral planning applications apparently remain low, and the MPA thinks that "the lack of completed mineral development frameworks has had a significant contributory effect". And yet, the MPA also tells us that "the greater proportion of new permissions granted since 2006 were for sites that were not allocated in mineral plans" and "around 90% of all mineral applications are successful". The MPA says:
That speaks volumes about the health of the plan-led system and is worrying as it weakens an already difficult situation, since those who engage with the plan-led system are paying twice for gathering data and putting sites into the system, only to see other sites getting permission at lower cost. Either we have a plan led system, or we don’t - some are beginning to wonder why we need plans at all.

Next time you buy a 25kg bag of cement from B&Q (currently £5.90, 5 or more for £4.15 each), spare a thought, the MPA would say, for the cost pressures the industry is under - particularly carbon-related costs. The MPA claims the UK cement industry is being unfairly treated, but this is the same industry that for every 25kg bag puts around 25kg of CO2 into the atmosphere, the same industry that is responsible for somewhere between 5-10% of all man-made CO2 emissions. The UK cement industry has pledged to reduce its CO2, yet its emissions in 2013 were up on 2012; the words climate change appeared nowhere in the MPA's press release.

The MPA has yet again called on the Government to reduce the regulatory burdens its members face. It estimates that "environmental and planning-based regulatory costs are set to increase from £324 million in 2013 to £641 million pa in 2020". Is this overly burdensome, as the MPA argues, for a sector turning over £9 billion annually, or just an indication of the scale of the industry’s environmental impact?

The MPA has called on the Government to freeze the Aggregates Levy for 2015/16 and "following the conclusion of current legal processes, that there is a review process to assess the role and appropriate level for the Levy going forward". It also calls for "the introduction of an Aggregates Levy Community Fund to be considered at a lower cost than the previous Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, with more of a community and biodiversity focus".

Monday, 1 December 2014

More Straitgate history comes to light

We know that Straitgate has been farmed for thousands of years - in Neolithic, Iron Age and Roman times. Now more history has come to light, in the form of a number of legal documents from the 16th and 17th century; one contains an extensive list of covenants relating to Straitgate Farm - known around the time as StreateyateStreatyeate or Streatyeat.

The documents, dating from before the English Civil War, add yet more 'historical colour' to what is at stake, and what stands to be lost. They paint a picture of a Devon farm almost 400 years ago, of the farmland that Aggregate Industries - with the help its Swiss paymasters and your county council - is now plotting to destroy for good.

We hope to post transcripts in due course.