Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Devon’s new Minerals Plan could blight thousands of homes across the county

After years in the making, years of waiting while Aggregate Industries assessed the viability of quarrying Straitgate Farm, Devon’s new Minerals Plan is finally out for consultation in pre-submission form. After various consultations dating back to 2007, the public can now see just how many of their views have been ignored. Now people are being asked to respond again:
Devon County Council wishes to encourage as many people as possible to respond to this Minerals Plan to ensure that, when adopted, it represents the views of Devon’s communities and businesses.
In commenting on the Pre-submission Consultation Devon Minerals Plan, you are entitled to make representations on whether the Plan is (a) legally compliant and (b) sound.
DCC claims that:
Examples exist in Devon of quarries enhancing wildlife and public access, both during and, in particular, following their closure and restoration, and we need to build on this good practice so that quarries offset their adverse effects through positive impacts.
DCC doesn’t say where or how many examples; this photograph is of Houndaller at Hillhead, which has a large proportion of Devon’s permitted sand and gravel reserves.

Apart from specific site designations, one of the most controversial parts of the new Plan must surely be DCC’s intention to safeguard huge swathes of minerals across the county:
Taking account of national policy and guidance, a more comprehensive approach to mineral safeguarding has been developed that aims to protect the full extent of Devon’s economic mineral resources, together with associated tipping capacity and the infrastructure required for the processing and sustainable transportation of those minerals. 3.3.4 
DCC assures local people that:
The inclusion of land within a Mineral Safeguarding Area [MSA] carries no presumption that mineral development would be acceptable or that planning permission would be forthcoming for extraction of the underlying mineral resource. 3.3.8 
but proposes that:
Mineral Consultation Areas [MCA] in the DCC Plan Area cover the MSA and for mineral resources, an additional buffer zone as set out in Table 5.3 Minerals Topic Paper 2 7.0.2
For mineral resources, Mineral Consultation Areas are drawn wider than the relevant Mineral Safeguarding Area (at a diameter indicated in Table 3.1) to ensure consideration not only of development directly overlying the resource, but also development that may indirectly constrain future mineral working by introducing new uses that are sensitive to noise, dust and other impacts of mineral working. B.2
Despite local people and communities raising concerns of blight in previous workshops and consultations, thousands of homes in Devon will therefore, if this Plan is found to be sound, find themselves within a MCA. Such a designation would be revealed on a Local Authority Search. Any homeowner within such an area, particularly with open land nearby - even if there is little likelihood of the resource ever being worked, may well find themselves blighted by this broad-brush safeguarding approach; just a whiff of a house being near to a future quarrying site would be enough to put many house buyers off. Across the county, millions of pounds in total could be wiped off the value of Devon’s homes - a consequence of the Council putting the minerals industry first again.

To see if your home would be within a MCA, here’s a link to the Council’s interactive map.