Clinton Devon Estates PR team working overtime on Blackhill Quarry!

Sent to Friends of Pebblebed Heaths

“Dear Friends,

Many of you will have seen the recent coverage in local newspapers and on social media concerning a planning application lodged by Clinton Devon Estates for the former quarry plant area adjacent to Blackhill Quarry, enabling a nearby engineering firm to expand.

Unfortunately lots of inaccurate rumours were also circulating.

As you know the primary aim of the Pebblebed Heath Conversation Trust is to ensure threatened heathland ecosystems are protected, to ensure all wildlife associated with this habitat flourishes, to protect public access and encourage responsible public enjoyment of the heaths.

The most important conservation partner of the Trust is the public and we strive to keep our Friends of the Commons well-informed, so the Trust continues to develop with public support.

Our staff live in nearby villages and understand the issues local people have. Our neighbours are concerned about development, volume and types of traffic, change of use in rural areas and we recognise these topics can bring about many questions as well as strong feelings and differences of opinion.

We hope by providing the facts of this complex issue, especially given the amount of misinformation and speculation there has already been, you will have more of the information needed to make up your own mind.

Please take time to view the maps, statements and explanations we have included here, plus links to the EDDC planning application, where you can read and see what others think.

Blackhill Quarry has no statutory conservation designations, although it is registered as a County Wildlife Site. Attempting to restore heathland on industrial sites can be extremely problematic due to the raised nutrient enrichment of the land due to lime. Similar issues are already the case on East Budleigh common, where the remains of buildings from Dalditch Camp, make management of this site, extremely difficult. To mitigate the loss of 1.09 ha heathland (from total area of 63 ha for the quarry) not restored from hard-standing, we would be looking to create significantly more heathland and of a better quality. This is likely to be through the conversion of existing coniferous plantations to heathland. Our goal is certainly for there to be a biodiversity uplift above and beyond that proposed under the existing restoration scheme.

Later in the year we will organise a visit to Blackhill so you can see the restoration work in progress and ask any questions. In the meantime please contact any one of the team if you have any further queries.

The Pebblebeds Team”

The communication continues with some extraordinary reasons why CEE thinks the engineering works are a special case including:

* Specialising in steel fabrication and design, Blackhill Engineering has recently been involved in many prestigious projects including the design of flood defence gates for New York City Hospital, work for the European Space Agency and the pier at Hinkley Point for which Blackhill has been recognised with two awards from EDF Energy.
[aahhhh!!! now Owl understands!]

* The site proposed is currently covered in concrete and any restoration to high quality habitat will be problematic …”

Who knew that concrete couldn’t be so difficult to remove! If it’s THAT difficult perhaps we shouldn’t allow any development at all at this site since more and more concrete will be needed to expand it!

One thought on “Clinton Devon Estates PR team working overtime on Blackhill Quarry!

  1. Like, I suspect, many others I welcomed the creation of the Pebblebed Heath Conservation Trust established as a conservation charity (charity registration no. 1109514) in 2006 by Clinton Devon Estates. It put the management of one of the most important conservation sites in Europe on a sustainable basis and enabled financial support from DEFRA to be obtained. I appreciate the good work that the trust has done in the years since.

    However, I want to make two comments.

    IS THIS A PROPER USE OF THE CHARITY?

    I question the propriety of the Charity in using its Friends mailing list to promote the Estates’ development proposals for Blackhill. There is always going to be a potential conflict of interest between development either on or adjacent to the Heaths and to their conservation. This is recognised by the 400m housing development exclusion zone that surrounds them. The Trustees of both the Clinton Devon Estates and the Conservation Trust should be aware of this.

    INACCURATE RUMOURS

    Despite the story being spun by the Estates’ PR department, this planning application is controversial. At the core is the issue of how to treat the existing site. Is it a matter of replacing existing industrial equipment and, therefore, will not change the status quo? Or should the baseline acknowledge that the existing plant, machinery and buildings are not permanent features and that there is a current agreement to restore the site to heathland?

    Currently there are 189 objections from individuals.

    It is particularly disappointing to find that the Pebblebed Conservation authors do not appear to have followed their own advice to read the comments on the EDDC planning web site to dispel inaccurate rumours. Had they done so they would have found that Natural England, who oversee the work done on the Heaths, have been very dismissive of the ecological aspects of the CDE planning application and want additional information.

    Natural England do not buy the argument that there are no potential significant effects on the East Devon AONB, East Devon Pebblebed Heaths SSSI, East Devon Pebblebed Heaths SAC and East Devon Heaths SPA. They are not satisfied with the “comprehensive” ecology report submitted with the planning application. They are awaiting further information on the effectiveness of the proposed ecological mitigation; and they were provided with an updated (why updated?) Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment only one day before the closure of the formal consultation period.

    This is a devastating comment on the quality of the ecological case made by CDE in its application and which the Friends are being told to accept at face value.

    Like

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