Controversial plans for a 100-acre quarry near Ottery St Mary have been given the go-ahead after planning refusal was overturned at appeal.
Economic benefits outweigh any harm – the all too often verdict of an appeal and a deeply disappointing result. – Owl
Philippa Davies www.midweekherald.co.uk
Devon County Council rejected the Straitgate Quarry application in December 2021. Their reasons included potential harm to ‘heritage assets’ such as Cadhay House, the health risks caused by potential dangers to the water supply, a lack of evidence of measures to conserve protected species and lack of a surface water management plan and subsequent potential flood risks.
The quarrying company Aggregate Industries (AI) appealed against the refusal and both sides argued their case during a hearing in October which lasted several days.
Today, Thursday December 5, the planning inspectors published their decision to allow the appeal. This gives the company planning permission to extract up to 1.5 million tonnes of raised sand and gravel over 10 to 12 years, and transport it to Hillhead Quarry near Uffculme for processing.
The appeal hearing examined all the areas of concern, but in each case the planning inspectors concluded that there were not sufficient grounds to block the scheme. They said AI had provided a ‘robust’ hydrogeological assessment and ‘it has been clearly demonstrated that the development would not be likely to result in unacceptable adverse effects on water supplies and human health’.
With regard to heritage assets, they said ‘there would be no harm to Cadhay House or its garden, and that although there would be less than substantial harm to Straitgate Farmhouse during operations, that harm would be outweighed by public benefits’.
Concerns had also been raised about potential road safety risks of HGVs using the B3174, but the planning inspectors said this could be managed by limiting the HGV movements. Responding to concerns about damage to the natural environment, they said ‘the proposal would not result in any unacceptable adverse effect in terms of its impact on trees and hedgerows’.
The county councillor for the Otter Valley, Cllr Jess Bailey, said she is ‘horrified’ by the decision to overturn planning refusal.
She said: “From my initial reading of the decision notice it certainly appears to me that the Inspectors have failed to recognize the very great harm and risks associated with this proposal and some of their conclusions appear flawed. I strongly disagree with their decision and as far as I am concerned the proposal remains completely unacceptable.”
The Straitgate Action Group, which has been opposing the quarrying for more than 20 years, said it is ‘disappointed’ with the planning inspectors’ decision. A statement on the group’s website says: “We would like to thank all those who have have campaigned with us, and all those who have so generously supported us over the years – we are so sorry that the end result was not the one we had all hoped for.”
Having followed these controversial plans for a 100-acre quarry near Ottery St Mary over many years, there are numerous communities who will empathise and identify with planning decision-makers ignoring and appearing to run roughshod over local community views by, yet again, citing that the future economic benefits outweigh any harm, whilst toppling and crushing the arguments supporting the social and environmental pillars that are required to achieve true sustainability.
Although DCC councillors rejected the Straitgate Quarry application – it is a very hard pill to swallow, when those who we rely on to inspect, scrutinise and protect our special local spaces – (in our opinions) ACTUALLY DON’T!
With an influx of countless developers now descending on this district offering sizeable commercial and residential development,–it will be ‘open season’ for them (especially without a five year housing quota at present in East Devon)!
‘The West End’ area is growing exponentially, now incorporating rural villages and towns that were previously seen as outside its’ boundaries. There now appears an incessant yearning for more and more development in our district, even though GESP is now deemed ‘dead in the water’ – but by ruining the intrinsic value and attractiveness of our landscapes in East Devon – are we killing the goose that lays the golden eggs?
We can only hope that some decision-makers will agree with our opinions – but if they don’t actually live in the particular developmental areas affected by their decision making – does it make it more likely that they will support such development for the greater good of the entire area and beyond?
One contemptuous comment overheard recently from developers exiting EDDC’s Blackdown House Chamber (after their inappropriate application had been approved by 6 votes to 5), whilst they sneered and actually poked their tongues out at residents who had spoken in opposition to their proposals, was that local people “will just have to Suck It Up! “
However, today, this will give neither comfort to Councillor Bailey nor those stalwarts of the Straitgate Action Group, who have given so many years of effort and time (much voluntarily) to the Straitgate scenario and are now recovering from the battle scars inflicted by this latest decision by HM Planning Inspectorate! . . . . . As a final positive note of encouragement, when you are swimming in a sea of despair – just remember there are so many others in our surrounding communities that can identify with your feelings and who support your endeavours and hopefully that will encourage you all to move forward?