From a correspondent:
“I am still trying to get my head around the extent of the gap between Clinton Devon Estates (CDE) publicity campaign and how much care they have actually taken over the ecological aspects of the application to extend the Blackhill Engineering site.
provided a link to a Devon Live article on CDE’s application under the headline: “Quarry expansion plans will provide ‘space for nature and sustain local economy’”.
In the article Mr Rix (CDE) said: “Prior to submitting this application, we commissioned a comprehensive ecology report, which shows that, because the application involves replacing existing industrial equipment, the work is unlikely to impact on nearby designated sites, nor the County Wildlife Site. Nevertheless, we will be implementing an ecological mitigation plan.
But how much emphasis has “Space for Nature” actually been given in the application so far?
Outline planning was validated on 20 December. Formal closing date for comments was set for 6 February, this Tuesday, the day Natural England submitted their comments. Natural England is the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England, helping to protect England’s nature and landscapes for people to enjoy and for the services they provide. What do their comments at the end of formal consultation say?
“SUMMARY OF NATURAL ENGLAND’S ADVICE:
FURTHER INFORMATION REQUIRED TO DETERMINE IMPACTS ON:
EAST DEVON AREA OF OUTSTANDING NATURAL BEAUTY (AONB)
EAST DEVON PEBBLEBED HEATHS SSSI
EAST DEVON PEBBLEBED HEATHS SPECIAL AREA OF CONSERVATION (SAC)
EAST DEVON HEATHS SPECIAL PROTECTION AREA (SPA)
As submitted, the application could have potential significant effects on the East Devon AONB, East Devon Pebblebed Heaths SSSI, East Devon Pebblebed Heaths SAC and East Devon Heaths SPA. Natural England requires further information in order to determine the significance of these impacts and the scope for mitigation.”
Natural England is also awaiting further information on the effectiveness of the proposed ecological mitigation. So the comprehensive ecology report can’t have been as comprehensive as advertised and the mitigation would seem to be missing!
Further reading shows that CDE slipped Natural England an “updated” Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment on 5th February (this Monday), one day before the deadline for comments.
Why the need for an updated LVIA? A clue can be found in a Devon County Council comment of 16 January:
“Given the current requirement to remove the existing plant and restore the site to heathland, the District Council may wish to ask the applicant to take this into account for the “baseline” for the Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment. Paragraph 6.18 of the Planning supporting statement appears to assess the proposed visual impacts set against the baseline of the existing plant and machinery. It would be more appropriate if the landscape assessment acknowledged that the existing plant, machinery and buildings are not permanent features and that there is a current agreement to restore the site to heathland which needs to be considered as a part of the overall planning balance. This is especially important given the location within the AONB and the NPPF policy tests for new development in such locations.”
In other words the assumption that this can be treated as an established Industrial brownfield site, as suggested by Mr Rix, is incorrect.
The evidence emerging from these expert consultees shows just how insensitive this application has been to the particular sensitivities of this site.
Clinton Devon Estates are now desperately trying to catch up. Their credibility to care for the countryside has, in my view, been severely damaged.
Although the formal consultation period is closed comments can still be made by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org quoting 17/3022/MOUT.