Clinton Devon Estates and Blackhill Quarry: a critical test of the company’s environmental credentials and standards

A correspondent writes:

Sites of Environmental Significance:

We have three very special environmental sites in, or on the edge of, East Devon protected by stringent European and UK Habitat Regulations: the Exe Estuary, Dawlish Warren and the Pebblebed Heaths.

Clinton Devon Estate (CDE) is the owner of 80% of the the Pebblebed Heaths, including the land of Blackhill Quarry.

CDE web site proclaims “Responsible stewardship and sustainable development are at the heart of everything we do”.

So it seems extraordinary that CDE, instead of promoting the reinstatement of the Blackhill Quarry site as part of the Pebblebed Heaths, should, instead, be seeking to turn it into an industrial site with all the accompanying pollution (noise, light, traffic etc).

Recently Aggregate Industries withdrew an application to continue quarrying on the site and has been restoring the site to encourage wildlife. Indeed, Aggregate Industries was awarded runner up and highly commended at the Mineral Product Association’s Biodiversity Awards 2017 for its restoration of the sand and gravel quarry.

“This is an unique wildlife habitat situated close to Exeter. Designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area, this area represents one of the most important conservation sites in Europe.”

Also, studies have shown these are popular local sites, and access to them is vital to the local economy and highly valued by local people.

Access has widespread benefits including health, education, inspiration, spiritual and general well-being. While much of the access takes place regardless of the wildlife interest, that wildlife interest is also a part of the specific draw for many people. New development in the area is putting this under pressure not only by destroying green space but by increasing the footfall on what is left from an ever larger population. Local authorities have a legal duty to ensure no adverse effects occur as a result of their strategic plans.

Legally, there can be no building within 400m of these sites and also any development within 10Km requires a formal Habitats Protection Assessment with favourable conclusions. EDDC, however, accepts a funding levy from developers to get around having to do this individually, effectively taking on the responsibility for mitigation delivery themselves.

Though money might do a lot of things, it can’t create more land.

Your correspondent recalls a time when CDE were talking of using the old industrial site to enhance the existing recreation experience of the Heath. And now it wishes to develop an industrial site.

Do they think the prohibition on building within 400m doesn’t apply to them?