Monday, 3 August 2015

Natural England issues an "Objection/Further information required" for Blackhill

Natural England has expressed concern about the importation of nitrate-rich material into Blackhill, with the effects it could have on the SAC/SPA, and has issued an "objection/further information required":

The potential impacts of importing nitrate rich materials into the environment of Blackhill Quarry to be processed, and the impact on the potential restoration and biodiversity of that site from such movements of material should be assessed 8.0
Other respondents to Aggregate Industries’ Scoping Request raised the matter too, but despite all this, AI chose to completely ignore the issue in its voluminous Environmental Statement. It’s not surprising therefore that Natural England now has this to say:
The proposal to add the silt washed from the ‘as dug’ quarried material from Straitgate into the lagoons at Blackhill requires further detailed investigation and analysis. The designated heathland communities surrounding Blackhill quarry are nutrient poor and an increase in available nitrogen as it leaches from the lagoons could result in a change in the vegetation composition of parts of the site and affect the composition of any regeneration that may happen as the quarry site is restored. We advise that there may be an increase in nitrogen and other soil nutrients due to the land at Straitgate being farmed as a dairy enterprise.
The substrate of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths is a complex mix of pebbles and various sizes of sands and gravels. Such areas are often free draining. Therefore water and any nutrients absorbed in it are likely to be able to move readily through it and into the many minor watercourses that cross the site. The nutrients can then be taken up by the surrounding vegetation. An increase in the nutrients may lead to a decline in those plants that require a nutrient poor environment and result in a change in the vegetation mosaic of the dry heath. Ultimately the watercourses flow into the wet heath and valley mires at the bottom of the valleys and therefore these are also at risk from of the vegetation mosaic changes as a result of the potential increased availability of nutrients. This impact on the wet and dry heathland vegetation could also have an effect on key SAC and SPA species. These potential effects need to be properly assessed and evaluated.
Furthermore, on Protected Landscapes, Natural England says:
We believe the [Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment] has not been adequately undertaken and there is a potential for a continuing significant impact on the purposes of the designation of East Devon AONB. We therefore require further information to be provided.
The adverse impacts of the stockpiles have not been taken into account and do not feature in the LVIA viewpoints, which mis-represents the actual situation.
We consider that taking into account para 115 and 116 of the [NPPF], ‘exceptional need’ for this development within the AONB has not been established in the documents provided. The delayed restoration of this site for another 5 years extends the significant adverse impact on the scenic quality and tranquillity of the area.