Extract from Devon County Council's Consultation document
Devon County Council is proposing to make the area identified on the above map at Straitgate Farm a Preferred Site for sand and gravel quarrying in its new Minerals Plan which will run until 2031. Click here for the full document. Aggregate Industries owns Straitgate Farm, currently a productive dairy farm of 150 acres with about 120 cows, and in 2012 claimed that in the 86 acres highlighted there were 3.6 million tonnes of sand and gravel, which at current rates of demand would be extracted over approximately 10 years. Aggregate Industries indicated that it wished to start site preparation in 2015 and quarrying in 2016. In 2015, Aggregate Industries lodged a Scoping Request with Devon County Council for an initial 1.2 million tonnes, to be extracted over 4-5 years. It intends to transport the as-dug material 8.2 miles across Woodbury Common for processing at Blackhill Quarry. At the end of 2013, Devon already had sand and gravel reserves with planning permission of 8.53 million tonnes. The last figures supplied by mineral operators showed that during 2013 they produced 0.49 million tonnes. With the increasing use of secondary and recycled aggregate, this annual production of sand and gravel in Devon has been in decline for over 20 years.
The threat of quarrying at Straitgate Farm has been around for some time. Click on any of the images to read the documents. The first paragraph of the first page gives a little background history of the Straitgate Farm site. We first became involved in March 2000 at the time that DCC were calling for comments on their Minerals Local Plan, and many residents around the Straitgate Farm site made objections. A meeting was held at Cadhay in November 2001 in readiness for the Public Inquiry in 2002.
Representations were made at the Public Inquiry, when a number of local people and councillors spoke before the Inspector calling for the removal of the Mineral Consultation Area (MCA) designation for the site. Aggregate Industries were at the same time calling for the site to be made a Preferred Area.
With hindsight we might have avoided quoting Dr Seuss, but it seemed relevant at the time! In 2002 the Public Inspector's report was published, and no changes were advised with relation to the Straitgate site. It was to remain an MCA, but DCC were advised to "identify the extent of the Rockbeare Mineral Working Area". Council policy was that MCAs were based on sites for which there is extant planning permission for mineral development. Straitgate was being linked to Rockbeare, in order to justify its inclusion in the Minerals Plan.
In 2003, in response to another DCC consultation, we and local residents made objections calling for Straitgate's MCA designation to be withdrawn since there was no link with Rockbeare.
After much toing and froing the Council agreed and Straitgate, and all reference to it, was removed from the Plan.
Aggregate Industries' representation to DCC.
Another consultation, but this time we agreed with the Council.
An addendum anticipating any objection from Aggregate Industries.
The Devon Minerals Plan was finally adopted in June 2004, with no reference to Straitgate Farm.
However, in November 2010 the issue of quarrying at Straitgate arose again, and representations were made to OSMTC.
A meeting was held by the West Hill Residents' Association, where we presented alongside DCC and Aggregate Industries.
Representations to EDDC, and again to OSMTC.
The well attended OSM Town Council Meeting at the Football Club
Quotes and correspondence
"5.1.4 For as long as adequate sand and gravel reserves (i.e. a minimum of seven years’ supply) continue to be present at the existing quarries, there are no grounds to allow their further extension or new quarries." DCC Minerals Core Strategy Options Consultation Paper February 2011
"To ensure aviation safety it is suggested that no ponds or body of water be allowed as part of this development." Exeter Airport Safeguarding Operations email reply to DCC 9 March 2012
"If an objection is raised, the application is normally rejected, but the applicant may appeal and this can result in a lengthy and expensive public enquiry. The aviation industry, be it the airport itself, the MOD or CAA, has never lost a public enquiry regarding an objection if an unacceptable birdstrike risk has been predicted from a development." Birdstrike Avoidance Team, "Nature Reserves and Aerodromes"
"Major liability issues can encourage effective bird control. It is reported that one airport authority reached a $5.3 million pre-trial settlement with one airline after an airliner was struck in 1995 by at least one Canada Goose at their airport" CAA Safety Regulation Group
"It’s important to understand that the concepts of negligence and liability apply to all persons and business entities associated with aircraft operations including—but not limited to—airport operators, ATS providers, pilots, airport employees and airport wildlife-management contractors. Even non-aviation related industries can be affected; waste disposal contractors are an example." MacKinnon, E. et al ‘Sharing the Skies’, An Aviation Industry Guide to the Management of Wildlife Hazards 2001
"The number of private water supplies suggests to me that this would be a difficult site to take forward. Similarly, if this area is shown to be a significant part of the catchment for the water features near Cadhay, its deliverability as a viable site would seem unlikely."
"In terms of Potential to lead to loss or damage of ancient woodland (19), again, as functionality of these ancient woodlands will be negatively and irreversibly impacted these impacts should be assessed as High risk. We consider this impact is unacceptable." Environment Agency Letter to DCC 30 April 2012
"Natural England neither supports nor objects to the western part of site S7 at this stage but is concerned about the potential for impacts upon East Devon Heaths SSSI/SPA/SAC and other important natural environment considerations. More detailed studies are needed. If it is not possible to rule out significant impacts upon statutory landscape and/or biodiversity designations objection from Natural England is likely."
"Before making any decision on whether to allocate this site we strongly recommend the Council undertakes or requires further studies, including: Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment; hydrogeology report and more work on the value of the site for protected species."
"If processing were to be undertaken here [Blackhill Quarry] that would raise our level of concern about the potential impacts upon the European site. We recommend the Council ensures that the environmental implications of undertaking processing here are fully understood - including the likely disruption to the agreed restoration programme - and taken into account in deciding whether to allocate the western part of site S7." Natural England Email to DCC 7 May 2012
"In practice, standoff distances are often incorporated into local planning policy, with distances of 250-500m typically adopted, unless there are unusual or exceptional reasons to permit a variation." BGS Planning4Minerals: A Guide on Aggregates
"6. Conclusions. Mineral extraction beneath the Straitgate area has the potential to significantly affect water flow and water quality of water features in the vicinity of Cadhay. "In particular, it is considered that the maintenance of a good quality water supply to the mediaeval fishponds at Cadhay is at risk from the site development. Other water features including the Cadhay private water supply feeding ten properties could be affected and areas of known wetland ecological interest in Cadhay Wood and Cadhay Bog, which are designated County Wildlife Sites, may also be derogated. It is concluded that the hydrological setting of the Straitgate mineral area is very sensitive. Any future development considerations must therefore include a detailed investigation and assessment of the site hydrology and hydrogeology and preparation of a detailed impact assessment." Hydrological Impact of Mineral Working at Straitgate on Water Features at Cadhay - A Preliminary Review, December 2001, Marcus Hodges Environment
“Possible extraction method and processing: Details yet to be established potential for processing of material off site at nearby mineral workings.” "Mineral resource (estimated yield and lifetime of site): Test drilling indicates up to 3.6 million tonnes. Lifetime of site approximately 10 years based on 350,000 tonnes per year" DCC Consultation Document, March 2012 [our emphasis; misleading resource figure, see calculations below in DCC correspondence file]
"SLR are as you know Aggregate Industries' consultants. The [concept] drawings belong to Aggregate Industries and they gave us permission to share the drawings with some statutory consultees. Aggregate Industries do not wish for the drawings to be more widely circulated."
email 20 April 2012 County Solicitor
“Consultees must be given sufficient information to enable them properly to understand the proposal and respond to it. Rollo v Minister for Town and Country Planning  1 All ER 13, 17H per Bucknill LJ” “If the information provided to consultees is incorrect or misleading... then this may constitute a sufficient flaw in the consultation process to lead to a quashing of the subsequent decision. R v Brent London Borough Council, ex parte Gunning  84 LGR 168” Jonathan Auburn
"Aggregate Industries have confirmed there are other suitable locations for the processing of material but we cannot state whether they are commercially viable. We would not expect to go into the detail of commercial viability at this stage of the process." County Solicitor email 20 April 2012
“Pursuing sustainable development requires careful attention to viability and costs in plan-making and decision-taking. Plans should be deliverable.” National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
"As a point of fact, in the Council's own Site Appraisal Methodology, 5.5 Assumptions Underpinning the Site Appraisal, "for sand and gravel sites...it is assumed that processing will be undertaken on site using mobile or fixed plant". It is therefore incorrect of [the Mineral Officer] to say "The site appraisal for site S7 was undertaken in the knowledge that a range of options for the location of processing was available", and there is no commentary to indicate as such." SAG email to County Solicitor 20 April 2012
"We accept that Devon County Council in the Site Appraisal Methodology made a general assumption that processing will be undertaken on site. As the plan progresses and operators provide more information we take into account the most recent information received and we have had subsequent information which informs that statement. It must be sensible to reflect that information." County Solicitor email 20 April 2012
"You question whether Members have been misinformed when making decisions due to suggested factual errors in the site appraisal work and an error in the calculation of sand and gravel landbanks. My understanding from [the Mineral Officer] is that the matters you have raised would not have altered the overall conclusions of the site appraisal work, and that the western part of the site at Straitgate Farm remains the only potentially deliverable site in the Ottery St Mary area." County Solicitor email 21 March 2012
“Substantial harm to or loss of … grade I and II* listed buildings, …should be wholly exceptional” NPPF
"The aim of the Sequential Test is to steer new development to areas with the lowest probability of flooding. Development should not be allocated or permitted if there are reasonably available sites appropriate for the proposed development in areas with a lower probability of flooding. The Strategic Flood Risk Assessment will provide the basis for applying this test. A sequential approach should be used in areas known to be at risk from any form of flooding." NPPF
“..planning permission should be refused for development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland….unless the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss” NPPF
“To support the move to a low carbon future, local planning authorities should: plan for new development in locations and ways which reduce greenhouse gas emissions” NPPF
"As a company we are committed to sustainable construction and reducing the carbon footprint of the products we produce and transport." Estates Manager, Aggregate Industries
"One of the potential consequences of climate change is the increasing number of heavy rainfall events; our sites cover large catchment areas and there is an increasing risk of sites breaking permitted discharge consent limits, particularly for suspended solids." Aggregate Industries
"2.11 Following the completion of works at Blackhill the site would be restored, and then be subject to ongoing aftercare. The existing quarry faces adjacent to the stockpile areas would be regraded and restored to heathland. The silt ponds would be kept, and the final ground level treated to promote heathland development. Although the plant would be removed, the Applicant may seek alternative uses for this area and the existing offices, subject to obtaining the necessary planning consent.
6.11 Blackhill Quarry is adjacent to the SSSI, SPA and SAC, located to the north, south and east of the planning application area. However, given the area is already in use and the nature of operations will not change as a result of this proposal, it is considered there will be no additional impact on these protected areas.
6.16 There is an option to provide a processing plant at Venn Ottery, but this site is also within the AONB. At Venn Ottery the site is not well screened and the provision of processing plant here may result in additional noise and dust impact. In addition silt lagoons would also have to be established and this would delay the restoration of Venn Ottery Quarry. Also the range of products would be reduced, leading to lower annual sales and the prolonging of the life of the quarry.
6.17 The option to provide fixed plant at Rockbeare has the advantage of the site being outside of the AONB. However, the Applicant considered that this would be uneconomical in terms of the investment required due to the limited permitted reserves at Venn Ottery and Marshbroadmoor [Rockbeare]. Again, if mobile plant were to be used at Rockbeare the range of materials would be less, sales reduced, and the life of Venn Ottery Quarry prolonged.
6.18 The third option is to close Blackhill which would result in immediate job losses, have a detrimental impact on supply of aggregates [including surface dressing material that is used in road repairs in the County].
6.21 The restoration of Blackhill as a whole is secured by Legal Agreement which was required as part of the Thorn Tree Plantation planning permission. It is recommended that in the event that planning permission is granted for this proposal, it would be opportune and appropriate to update the Legal Agreement in terms of the securing of the comprehensive restoration of the site." DCC Development Management Committee, EEC/10/217/HQ, 24 November 2010
"It is estimated that winning and working of mineral within the Thorntree area will be completed in late 2009. At this point, the processing plant will be dismantled and removed from site, leaving only the weighbridge and stock piles operation whilst stock is depleted." Aggregate Industries, Supporting Statement, 2008, Blackhill Quarry importation of Marshbroadmoor material.
"To protect the hydrology of the area it is proposed to cease excavation at 1 metre above the maximum level of the water table" Aggregate Industries, ED/01/25/HQ, 2001, Site visit considering planning permission for working Thorn Tree Plantation at Blackhill Quarry.
"... the quarry would close completely after the application area was excavated, because the quarry site is limited by the Special Protection Area, candidate Special Area of Conservation and other landscape designations." Aggregate Industries, ED/01/25/HQ, 2001, Site visit considering planning permission for working Thorn Tree Plantation at Blackhill Quarry.
Selection of DCC correspondence
Reply from Cllr John Hart Leader of Devon County Council to SAG email
Letter from Hugo Swire MP to Cllr John Hart Leader of DCC
Cllr John Hart's reply to Hugo Swire MP