Thursday, 26 November 2015

Natural England has another "Objection/Further information required" for Blackhill

Further to Natural England's response in July, the agency has now responded to Aggregate Industries' Regulation 22 response, and has again expressed concern about the importation of nitrate-rich material from Straitgate Farm into Blackhill, and the effects it could have on the SAC/SPA:


Further to the Regulation 22 request for additional information, Natural England remains concerned about the potential importing of nutrients as a result of processing material from Straitgate farm at Blackhill quarry. Paragraph 2.12 of the Regulation 22 response for Blackhill quarry suggests that it is unlikely that any nutrients added to the surface as part of dairy management practices at Straitgate farm would infiltrate through the top 1m of slowly permeable soil to accumulate in the overburden. However, this appears to be based upon an assessment of the soil structure without any appreciation of the soils current nutrient status. Indeed the applicant acknowledges at para 5.3 of the Regulation 22 response for the Straitgate farm application that the PH and nutrient status of the existing soils at Straitgate farm is unknown. Without appropriate soil analysis the applicant can only surmise as to the nutrient load of the overburden that it is proposing to process at Blackhill quarry and use to complete the approved restoration scheme at Blackhill. The applicant should therefore be asked to provide evidence of the nutrient status of the soil including the overburden so the likelihood of any effect on the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths can be properly assessed.
And despite AI's plethora of Regulation 22 arguments, Natural England warns that 'exceptional circumstances' for continuing at Blackhill have still not been demonstrated:
We consider that, taking into account para 115 and 116 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), ‘exceptional need’ for this development within the AONB has still not been justified in the documents provided. The justification appears to be based on the economic benefits to the Applicant of not moving heavy processing equipment that has been installed at Blackhill. The delayed restoration of this site for another 5 years extends the significant adverse impact on the scenic quality and tranquillity of the area.