Wednesday, 29 July 2015

DCC asks AI for additional information - quite a lot of additional information...

Following a review of consultation responses, DCC, as the Mineral Planning Authority, has issued Aggregate Industries with a request for additional information and clarification in respect of the Straitgate application; a request in respect of the Blackhill application will follow in due course.

It’s a long list, and it will be interesting to see how AI responds to a number of points, particularly:

On highways 2
Cross sections across the site to confirm that the full depth of the excavations would not be lower than the A30... Reason: To safeguard the stability of the Strategic Road network
On the water environment - levels of working 13
The applicant should demonstrate the methodology which will be used on site to ensure no working within the 1m standoff for the highest measured point of the groundwater in the Budleigh Salterton Pebblebeds - given the acknowledged variations across the site and the concern that there has been no piezometer installed at the centre of the site to monitor ground water levels at that location.
On surface water management 17
The surface water management is inextricably connected to Flood Risk Management/Airport safeguarding and the need to maintain and recharge watercourses. This issue is so important in terms of the likely significant impacts of the proposal the MPA would wish to ensure that a SWM scheme can be designed to meet all of the requirements identified in advance of the determination of this application.
On airport safeguarding 45
Need for clarification – there seems to be a significant potential conflict between the restoration proposals as set out in the wildlife sections of the report and the CAA safeguarding advice. This needs to be resolved before the MPA will be able to assess the likely mitigation measures and restoration proposals.
On alternatives 55
The MPA would also request that the applicant explain in detail the reason for their change of mind about the availability of Rockbeare Quarry for processing given the content of the letter from AI to DCC dated 14 May 2014 (AI Ref: CT/7812/DMP) – “Location for Processing” which states clearly that Beggars Roost has capacity for the silt produced and that Areas D and K would be used for stockpiling and Pond J for water.
On alternatives - reducing transport 56
The applicant should submit a statement explaining how the proposed development and the proposed location of the processing would contribute to the requirements of NPPF... Plans and decisions should ensure developments that generate significant movement are located where the need to travel will be minimised and the use of sustainable transport modes can be maximised...
On need 57
...the document should set out in policy terms the “exceptional circumstances” the applicant considers that exist [for Blackhill Quarry] to provide for the proposed processing solution for Straitgate Quarry.
On demonstration of resource 59
The applicant is requested to provide a simple, but evidenced assessment of the resource available at that location. The assessment should provide the MPA with the calculations of mineral asset when leaving 1m above the water table set against that of working to the level of the water table and also with and without the estimated asset from the working of the overburden. Reason: To ensure confidence that the figures given in the application documentation as a saleable resource are as correct and clear as possible given that they are being used to justify the environmental consequences of the proposal.

Natural England responds on Straitgate

Natural England's response with respect to the Straitgate application can be found here; the Blackhill response should follow later this week. 

To highlight just a few paragraphs from the response - on soils:
Although we are generally satisfied that the best and most versatile (BMV) land should be capable of being reclaimed without loss of quality, the submitted soil handling, restoration and aftercare proposals do not meet the requirements for sustainable minerals development, set out in the National Planning Policy Framework and current Minerals Planning Practice Guidance. Please refer to our detailed comments in Annex 1 of this letter.
Additionally to note, as the site is BMV, the same area of BMV land should be restored. If there is no topsoil in an area it cannot be returned to grade 3a. Rather, the restoration should aim to return all areas to 3a and if an area of reduced fertility is desired then this should be achieved by reducing nutrient levels over time, if analysis of the soil shows that this is possible.
and on protected species:
We have not assessed this application and associated documents in detail for impacts on protected species, however, we would wish to bring to your attention that the Great Crested Newt survey (ES Chapter 8 – ecology) has not been completed for all the identified ponds and further information will be required in line with our standing advice (see link below).
We are also aware that tree and hedgerow planting proposed as mitigation for both landscape purposes and replacement habitat for the dormouse population may not yet be in place in the quantity identified throughout the documentation supporting this application, including in ES Chapter 13 – Summary of effects and mitigation. Your Authority will need to be satisfied that the mitigation plan proposed by the Applicant is deliverable in the quantity and to the quality required and within the appropriate timescales to provide the necessary replacement habitat.
Natural England has published Standing Advice on protected species. You should apply our Standing Advice to this application as it is a material consideration in the determination of applications in the same way as any individual response received from Natural England following consultation.

Other consultation responses

We have commented on the consultation responses from the Environment Agency, Highways England and Natural England. Here are a few snippets from some of the other responses:

The proposal has been examined from an Aerodrome Safeguarding aspect and does not appear to conflict with safeguarding criteria providing that the following conditions are imposed and adhered to.
2. There are no new trees planted on ground higher than the 135m AOD contour as over time these will grow and cause a potential penetration of the Obstacle limitation surface.

4. Any new Sustainable Urban Drainage Scheme(SUDS) will be required to follow the guidance in the attached Airport Operators Association Advice note 6 entitled Potential Bird Hazards from SUDS.
[AI planted 4,000m2 of tress in 2014 above 135m AOD. AI proposes that 23% of the excavated site be set aside for infiltration ponds during the excavations, potentially up to 6.2 ha, with restoration to "seasonally wet grassland". The CAA says "a wet meadow would attract feeding ducks and nesting waders, and should be avoided" and "Ponds or wetlands are the SUDS options most likely to attract objections if proposed within the 13km aerodrome safeguarding circle."]

The CHA is currently examining its highway records for the five year period proceeding the Venn Ottery extraction, on the road between Venn Ottery Quarry and Blackhill Quarry, and the period since extraction started to see if there is a correlation between damage to the highway and the traffic related to extraction. It will make these findings public when completed. If the CHA can find evidence of specific damage to the highway as a result of the existing quarrying activities, then it is likely that it would require further mitigating measures to prevent this sort of damage in the future.
The County Highway Authority believes [the] application is lacking in detailed information and requests that the matters above are fully explored prior to any determination of the application...
[The 'matters above' include how HGVs would interact with a County Cycle Route, a request for more comprehensive safety data, mitigation proposals for HGVs interacting with peak holiday traffic, and further explanation of the percentage increase in HGV movements along the B3180 "preferably in plain English".]

The outline surface water strategy within the FRA is broadly acceptable although no detail is provided on the detailed surface water strategy for the site. This strategy should identify location of the infiltration features and how these fit into the site and the proposed phasing of the site. This should include detailed design regarding their size, details whether infiltration is permitted at the proposed locations and where targeted at areas where infiltration is required to support the spring lines of the existing watercourses (as commented by the Environment Agency), together with details of exceedance pathways. Due to the nature of the flood risk downstream, betterment should be achieved...
As you will know we commented on the application for Venn Ottery quarry back in 2010 and expressed concerns about the perpetuation of quarry processing at this site beyond the life of the on-site workings to 2016. By doing so we expressed the view that this would serve to maintain the visual and audible impact of the workings and associated activity on the AONB and the surrounding special environment and postpone the site restoration. This application appears to be continuing this process and realising our concerns further.
Given the agricultural use of Straitgate Farm and the nature of the soils and subsoils, it is likely to have a history of substantial fertiliser application, from which some of the nutrients are likely to have been retained. This is likely to render those substrates inappropriate capping material for any land being restored to a nature conservation afteruse, and we recommend that it is explicitly exempted from such a use.

Monday, 27 July 2015

"MP43 Proposals for mineral development will not be permitted...

...where the generation of heavy goods vehicle movements could not be satisfactorily accommodated on the existing local highway network".

Aggregate Industries would have us all believe that:
the proposed B3180 is considered to be suitable as the recommended route for the transport of material from Straitgate Farm to Blackhill Quarry 4.2.1.
But the absurdity of that statement is clear from the video above.

The clip, taken from the position indicated below on 22 July at 15.09 and kindly sent to us, is yet more evidence demonstrating that AI’s 44-tonne HGVs cannot be satisfactorily accommodated on the B3180. The person who captured the film said:
The van that backed up was not an HGV and yet they still could not pass. Even with a reasonable distance of back up it was a very close squeeze and obviously traffic behind the van had to reverse as well. The Common road is full of bends. So, had there been traffic approaching on a bend they would have - and for all we know were - forced to brake suddenly as there was a queue of reversing traffic.
MP43 is one of the policies in the Devon Minerals Local Plan. This document will provide the planning policy framework for assessing whether permission should be granted for AI to continue operating along the B3180 beyond 2016, trucking as-dug sand and gravel 8.2 miles from Straitgate Farm to Blackhill for 5 years - a proposal that would bring 140,000 HGV movements, like the one above.

So, AI's resource figures are nonsense, but what about its 'need' figures?

To justify the need for Straitgate Farm, Aggregate Industries’ planning application managed to identify "an ongoing need for 0.8 million tonnes per year to meet current, established demand5.33, based on sand and gravel data for Devon for the years 2001 to 2009.

For reasons known only to AI and its consultants SLR, the company excluded data for 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, but might, if pressed, point to the recent recession, and say it’s only reasonable to exclude those unhelpful years. And AI might have had a point, if it hadn’t given evidence to the Competition Commission in 2012, saying:
2.5 In AI’s view, the current market situation represents a permanent step change in market conditions. There is no realistic prospect of demand returning to levels seen pre-2008. Moreover, the long-run drivers of demand have changed: 
(a) steel, glass and timber, for example, are increasingly used as a replacement for rmx;
(b) improvements in the design of buildings and houses, as well as better concrete specification, have also significantly reduced the demand for aggregates and concrete; and
(c) demand for secondary and recycled aggregates and sustainable products has increased.
Which begs the question, if 'there is no realistic prospect of demand returning to levels seen pre-2008', why did AI see fit to base the need for Straitgate Farm largely on pre-2008 figures?

In the real world, Devon has 8.53Mt of permitted sand and gravel reserves; 0.49Mt of sand and gravel was produced in the county in 2013 - not 0.8Mt; the average for the last 5 years was 0.47Mt - not 0.8Mt; the average over the last 10 years was 0.62Mt - not 0.8Mt.

Plainly, therefore, 0.8 million tonnes is neither current nor established.


1. In case people have forgotten what Aggregate Industries said about Venn Ottery Quarry back in 2010:
We shall be putting back a lot more than we're taking away.

Local people will watch with interest to see how AI might manage that. In the meantime, when a sand and gravel quarry extension was recently recommended for approval in Gloucestershire:
Officers acknowledged that there appeared to be a lack of progressive restoration in the existing site and a condition was recommended to prevent the commencement of a new phase of extraction until the preceding one was infilled.
No guesses for which company was responsible for this 'lack of progressive restoration'.

2. In case there's any doubt, AI's Blackhill application is not to process some unique material of national significance; the sand and gravel could be processed at any industrial setting, not one located in an AONB and next to an SAC/SPA/SSSI. The NPPF says:
Great weight should be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty in National Parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty which have the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty. Planning permission should be refused for major developments in these designated areas except in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated they are in the public interest.
A number of recent planning cases have been identified that exemplify this: here, here, here and here. Here are two more:

The use of land within the New Forest national park in Hampshire for the processing of up to 20,000 tonnes of waste would be inconsistent with the cultural heritage of the area, an inspector concluded.
Given the uniqueness of the product, the authority concluded that there were exceptional circumstances to allow the quarry in the national park.
3. In case the significance of higher quality agricultural land, and the proper investigation of alternatives, has been overlooked, a recent appeal for a solar farm found that:
an inspector placed significant weight on the loss of up to 15ha of grade 3a agricultural land... In the absence of a rigorous and convincing process to demonstrate that the use of higher-quality land was necessary, he concluded that the scheme's benefits did not outweigh this loss, even for a temporary period.
4. In case the matter of birdstrike has slipped from the radar, here's some recent news from Twitter; we have referred to RAF Fairford before:
Thomas Cook flight headed for Egypt diverted back to Manchester after 'bird strike'

Monday, 20 July 2015

AI is overstating the saleable resource by at least 500,000 tonnes

By combining Aggregate Industries' geological map with AMEC’s maximum groundwater map, the available resource at Straitgate Farm has now been recalculated to a higher degree of certainty, confirming our earlier estimate. Here’s the data - others are welcome to verify the figures:

AI claims it has a total potential resource of "almost 1.66 million tonnes" 3.8 at Straitgate Farm, having apparently already factored in the 1 metre maintained above the water table to satisfy the Environment Agency. DCC is about to go out to public consultation, saying:
Policy M12 therefore provides for the supply of sand and gravel at Straitgate Farm… This site has an estimated resource of 1.66 million tonnes (comprising 1.2 million tonnes of proven resource and an estimated 0.46 million tonnes of saleable overburden) 5.4.9
But these numbers are a nonsense. As the data above shows, there’s little more than 850k tonnes of saleable resource available, before losses for face angles, and any additional standoff from the A30 and listed buildings. If, and it is an if, 200k tonnes could be worked from the overburden, then AI looks to be overstating the total available resource by at least half a million tonnes, and possibly much much more.

This shortfall is a huge deal. It’s one thing overstating the number of trees planted, overstating the problems with nearby processing, overstating the compliance with planning policy, understating the impact of the proposal; it’s another matter if we can’t even trust AI's resource figures - the very thing this is supposed to be about.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

And now, what about all that "workable overburden"?

We’ve established that the '1.2 million tonnes' is not 1.2 million at all, but what of the '460,000 tonnes' of saleable resource that Aggregate Industries claims can be rescued from the overburden?
There is anticipated to be further saleable mineral in the overburden ("workable over-burden") which would increase the total potential reserve to almost 1.66 million tonnes 3.8
AI seems very sure of this anticipated resource - not 400k, not 500k, but 460k. Let’s put that number into context: 460k saleable would equate to about 575k gross, or about 1.18 metres of the average 2.28 metres of soil and overburden measured across the site.

Contrast this with what AI’s Head of Geological Services told us two years ago, for the larger area being proposed at that time:
At Venn Ottery we have found it possible to drip-feed some of the more sandy lower parts of the overburden into the gravels to more sustainably work the deposit. It may be possible to do something similar at Straitgate but this can only be quantified on a month by month basis in a working scenario as it can depend as much on the weather as the skill of the excavator driver whether blending is possible. It is therefore not a tonnage I can quote in a formal Competent Person Report, however I would anticipate nominal tonnages and if pushed to guess would say approx, 200,000 saleable tonnes... [our emphases]
AI’s application is playing fast and loose with the numbers. The planning authority, statutory consultees and local people all have a right to be told exactly what’s being proposed, particularly if the available resource - the resource that if extracted would result in so much harm - could depend on the weather.

With careful planning…

Wow, what a lovely vision of quarrying Aggregate Industries presents in this tweet; the one where the magnifying glass looking for protected great crested newts is larger than the excavators...

In reality? 8/10 of the local ponds weren’t even looked at.

Monday, 13 July 2015

If 1.2 million tonnes seemed a small 'benefit' for so much harm, what about 875,000?

Aggregate Industries' application for Straitgate talks about the extraction area containing "in the order of 1.2Mt of saleable sand and gravel" with further saleable mineral "anticipated" in the overburden 3.8; "the proposed ‘dry working option’ would avoid the need to excavate below the groundwater table" 3.37

After the Environment Agency confirmed that "Aggregate Industries have proposed to stop quarrying a metre above the water-table", a revised resource figure would have been expected, but a company spokesperson has claimed that this metre had already been factored in to its calculations and therefore it still has 1.2 million tonnes.

Whatever you believe, nowhere in AI’s application did it talk about leaving 1m of sand and gravel to safeguard groundwater. And AI would surely have broadcast the matter of charitably forsaking 500k tonnes gross, 400k saleable, to protect water supplies for people and ancient woodland; after all, it found space to talk about cutting back its own trees to mitigate 1.2 million HGV miles! Besides, if AI had factored in leaving 1m above the water table, it’s a mystery why statements like this were made:
Mineral extraction to the high groundwater level surface contoured from maximum groundwater levels from all data would be dry for the vast majority of time 4.2
Fortunately, because we have the 1990 borehole data on which AI’s resource calculations are based, and because "an area of uniform shallow simple geology [covers] the western part of the site" 4.1, it’s relatively easy to estimate the available resource.

By combining AI’s geological map and AMEC’s groundwater map, with surface elevations (brown contours) overlaying maximum groundwater levels (blue contours), and taking a series of differences at 55 equally-spaced points across the site, the average depth over maximum groundwater was calculated to be 5.53m. Subtract from this, 2.28m (the average depth of topsoil/overburden - AI's figure) and 1m (the depth above the water table to be maintained), multiply the result across the 25.6ha (256,000m2 - AI's figure), and, assuming a density of 1.9 tonnes/m3 and 20% waste (AI's figures), we are left with about 875,000 tonnes, before any of the unproven "workable overburden".

The map of the combined contours is below; here’s the calculation:
(5.53-2.28-1.0)m x 256,000m2 x 1.9tonnes/m3 x 80% = 875,000 tonnes (saleable) 
Even assuming a margin of error of +/- 0.5m on each of the 55 differences, the resource figure falls in the range of +/-195k tonnes, or 680-1070k; i.e. still short of AI's '1.2 million'.

And of course, there won’t be 25.6ha by the time face angles, proper standoffs from the A30 - see Highways England’s response - and listed buildings are factored in; an area of 23ha, for example, could yield less than 800k tonnes. Bear in mind too, this submission in 2012 to the Competition Commission by Wardell Armstrong, ‘one of the largest teams of Chartered Minerals Surveyors in the UK’:
... no aggregates operator would consider (for example) trying to develop a sand and gravel deposit of less than one million tonnes. We have clients who have sites which have been turned down on this basis.
In 2012, DCC went to public consultation with an incorrect resource figure of 3.6 million tonnes for Straitgate Farm. This week, DCC's DMC committee will be asked to endorse the Pre-submission Draft of the new Devon Minerals Plan, before the start of a 12 week public consultation. This plan seeks to identify Straitgate Farm as a "specific site" for the future supply of sand and gravel, because there is "1.2 million tonnes of proven resource"; yet again, that so-called 'proven' figure looks incorrect before consultation even starts.

Given the ever declining and consistently overestimated resource, it’s time for AI to show exactly how it has calculated the recoverable resource at Straitgate, and exactly what assumptions have been made, so that we all know exactly what the damage to an East Devon farm and a site of European importance to nature is all for.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Clarification from the EA

Local people relying on the Straitgate aquifer for their drinking water will have read that AI’s planning application proposes to quarry down to the maximum winter water table level, not 1m above which has been typical at other nearby sites. AMEC's Hydrogeological Assessment says:
Mineral extraction to the high groundwater level surface contoured from maximum groundwater levels from all data would be dry for the vast majority of time... 4.2
Whilst the Environment Agency’s response to the application recommended that "a Section 106 agreement is put in place prior to the commencement of the works [requiring] the 'making good' of any derogation to an agreed list of water supplies by the provision of alternative supplies", the agency made no reference to AI maintaining 1m of unsaturated material to safeguard supplies.

We have since asked the EA for clarification, and have been advised that:
Aggregate Industries have proposed to stop quarrying a metre above the water-table. We expect DCC to make this a condition of any permission that is granted.
In which case, AI should now tell us the size of resource left at Straitgate - the size of the 'benefit' that should be weighed against the proposal's considerable harm. According to AI, the site contained "in the order of 1.2Mt of saleable sand and gravel" 3.8 with mineral extraction to the high groundwater level; a 1m depth of sand and gravel across a 25.6ha extraction area equates to about 0.5 million tonnes.

What would be 'exceptional circumstances'?

The NPPF makes it clear that:
Great weight should be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty in National Parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which have the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty. 115 Planning permission should be refused for major developments in these designated areas except in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated they are in the public interest. 116
Last week, the North York Moors Park Authority backed plans for a "£1.7bn potash mine after locals were wooed with promises of more than 1,000 jobs". The Chief Executive of the NYMNPA said:
I appreciate that there will be many disappointed by today's decision but Members felt that the long term benefits for the local, regional and national economy were transformational. This truly exceptional nature plus the measures proposed by the company to mitigate harm and deliver widespread environmental benefits to the Park over a long period of time tipped the balance in favour of approval.
Whatever your view on the mine, compare and contrast it with the truly unexceptional nature of AI’s application to process material at Blackhill, in an AONB.

Blackhill is also bordered by an SPA, an EU designated Special Protection Area, through which AI's 44-tonne HGVs would have to travel.

Kent County Council recently permitted the importation and deposition of clay, chalk, sand and gravel from tunnelling projects in the London area to a former clay workings, part of which is designated an SPA.

The application 'would benefit the breeding and over wintering bird population', 'would assist in meeting the conservation aspirations of the SPA' and 'the need to transport materials by road was avoided and this was consistent with the principles of sustainable development'.

Again, compare and contrast this with AI’s Blackhill application, the potential to harm the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths SPA, the unsustainable million mile HGV haulage scheme, and the benefit to no-one but a Swiss multinational.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Do records indicate dormice or not?

Aggregate Industries’ applications are riddled with inconsistencies. After the great crested newts debacle, it seems SLR had problems with dormice too, another European Protected Species. SLR writes:
Devon Biodiversity Records Centre (DBRC) was contacted in 2011 for archive dormouse records within 2 km of the proposal site, as part of a full ecological desk study... In order to augment this distribution information, publically [sic] available ecological assessment reports from nearby proposed and consented developments were also reviewed during the period between 2000 and 2012 2.1.
Despite all this, "The desk study did not return any records of dormouse within 2km of the site boundary" 3.1 which isn’t all that surprising because dormice are rare, to the point that the species is on the edge of extinction. However, SLR mysteriously asserts in the 'Executive Summary' to the document:
Records indicate that the dormice at Straitgate Farm site are probably part of a large and wide ranging population which extends to the south and east.
Which begs the question, do records indicate or do records not indicate dormice extending beyond the site? Dormice are unlikely to be crossing the busy B3174 to the south of the site. In fact, with roads bounding all sides of the site, the population at Straitgate may not be well connected to a large and wide ranging population; SLR simply has no idea where dormice extend to, or in what numbers.

In 2013, out of 100 survey tubes, SLR ecologists found 25 dormouse nests and eight dormice at Straitgate Farm. AI’s proposal seeks to remove over 2km of hedgerows across the site. In 2008, the UK reported on the implementation of the Habitats Directive for the dormouse. It stated that "the continued loss of hedgerows, particularly species rich ones, is a real problem" and declared that the Overall Assessment of the species was "Unfavourable – Bad and deteriorating. The species is in serious danger of becoming extinct (at least locally)".

In mitigation, AI claims 568m of new hedgerow was planted in 2014, and 2,007m will be planted as part of the restoration scheme, which in total is substantially short of the 5,748m of new hedgerow that Defra suggests should be planted to offset the expected loss. AI contends that such shortfall "must be placed in the context of creating [14,547m2] of new woodland and tree belt habitat" 8.261-8.263.

But as we know, the 10,547m2 has not been planted and the 4,000m2 was planted in the wrong place; in any case, woodland planting does not adequately compensate for the loss of hedgerows and the support they provide to bats and dormice.

Why is all this so important? In the group's submission, Charlie Hopkins makes it clear that:
The ES acknowledges that EPS Licences will be required from Natural England (8.218 and 8.222) in respect of bats and dormice. One of the derogation tests for the grant of a licence is that there be “no satisfactory alternative” (to the destruction/disturbance of habitats of EPS). The ES fails to address the derogation tests, and draws no conclusions as to the likelihood of the tests being satisfied. It is clear that an alternative site where EPS were absent or would not suffer habitat loss or disturbance would be preferable to Straitgate Farm. No such comparison of alternatives has been undertaken by the applicants.

Devon Minerals Plan: Pre-submission Draft

DMC meeting will be held at County Hall at 2pm on Wednesday 15 July to endorse the Pre-submission Draft of the new Devon Minerals Plan, before the start of a 12 week public consultation. 

At this meeting, an officer will no doubt provide a summary of the work undertaken for the new plan and the results of previous consultations, and, although the public will not be permitted to speak, Cllr Wright and Cllr Channon are expected to address members of the committee. Local people with an interest are encouraged to attend, particularly because:
5.4.9 Policy M12 therefore provides for the supply of sand and gravel at Straitgate Farm, near Ottery St Mary, subject to extraction being limited to dry working above the maximum water table to avoid potentially adverse impacts on private water supplies and water-sensitive habitats.

1968 revisited

A reminder of some of the statements that came out of the public inquiry in 1968, following the first application to quarry Straitgate Farm, which are as pertinent today as they were then:
The county surveyor raises no objection to the proposals in principle, but on planning grounds the scenic B3180 is envisaged as being unsuitable for industrial traffic… 232
The existing Blackhill quarry workings are a disfigurement, making a prominent scar when seen from vantage points across the open land... 259 The National Parks Commission
The quarry represents an ugly feature in the panoramic view from the most popular part of the commons area, at Woodbury Castle… 283 Exmouth Urban District Council
Once it is admitted that the damage caused by the proposed development is likely to be substantial, permission should only be granted if the need cannot be met elsewhere, where less damage would be caused… 351 Devon River Authority
The Minister is anxious to safeguard such valuable agricultural land so far as possible and I am directed to advise that in his opinion there is the strongest possible objection to the proposed development on agricultural grounds. 359 Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food

A MAFF representative said "The quality of the land is such that in a rapidly expanding urban society its retention is more than ever necessary to maintain production from a fast contracting acreage", and that the application affecting this farm gave every indication of being only the "thin edge of the wedge". Express & Echo, 18 July 1968.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Has Highways 'thrown a curve ball'?

Highways England, with responsibility for the Strategic Road Network and the A30, has responded to Aggregate Industries' planning application to quarry Straitgate Farm by saying:
The Environment Statement... states that the quarry would be excavated no deeper than the maximum groundwater level... The cross sections A-A and B-B indicate that the full depth of the quarry excavation would not be lower than the A30 carriageway. However, Highways England would like to see further cross sections to ensure that this is the case throughout the site. Depending on what these additional cross sections indicate, a review by a Geotechnical Engineer may be required.
In view of the above Highways England recommends that application DCC/3774/2015 not be determined for a period of 6 months to allow the applicant time to submit the additional information needed to enable us to fully understand the impact on the SRN.
And the level of Straitgate Farm in relation to the A30?

Revised landbank

The last figures published by DCC showed that Devon had sand and gravel reserves of 8.535 million tonnes, which included a small reserve on the Somerset side of the Devon/Somerset border. DCC’s Minerals Officer has now advised that:
I’ve just heard from Somerset County Council that they now regard the planning permission for this reserve to have lapsed. The reserve in Somerset should therefore no longer be included, and the correct sand and gravel reserve figure (at the end of 2013) is 8.135 million tonnes. We’ll be using this amended figure for the purposes of the emerging Minerals Plan.
In other words, Devon still has 10 years more than the 7 required.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Group responses to AI’s planning applications

An objection has now been submitted by Charlie Hopkins, MA (Oxon) PG Dip Law Solicitor (non-practising) Planning & Environmental Consultant, on behalf of Straitgate Action Group, to DCC in relation to Aggregate Industries’ planning applications:
Whilst the primary focus of this objection has been on planning policy issues, further detailed objections have been submitted addressing other matters beyond the scope of this objection. This document should be read in that context and in conjunction with those other objections.
A further objection from members of the group addressing these other matters can be found here.

An objection from West Hill Residents Association can be found here, and responses from various statutory consultees can be found at the end of the planning application documents here.

We know of many other people who have submitted substantive objections. We have been encouraged by these, and also to see Hugo Swire MP voicing his concerns again.

The formal consultation period finished yesterday. For those, however, still finding out about these damaging, unsustainable and controversial planning applications, DCC should consider any comments up until the date of determination.