No scope to appeal against Straitgate Quarry decision

Devon County Council has ruled out an appeal against the granting of planning permission for the Straitgate Quarry near Ottery St Mary. 

Philippa Davies 

The council has expressed disappointment that its refusal of permission was overturned by planning inspectors earlier this month, but said it could not challenge that decision. 

It gives the quarrying company Aggregate Industries 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 – 23 miles away – for processing. 

Ottery town councillors have unanimously condemned the decision, which they said ‘appeared to have ignored a lot of expert witness statements and scientific advice’. 

Cllr Vicky Johns, the Mayor, said: “I’m still shocked and saddened by the quarry being given the go-ahead and can’t believe they didn’t take the residents’ and local councils’ comments into account.” 

Following the successful appeal by Aggregate Industries, the town council wrote to the county authority asking if it could take any action to prevent the huge quarrying operation, but Devon County Council said the only possibility was a judicial review. This would not question the merits of the proposals to quarry at Straitgate Farm, but would examine the way the decision to grant permission was made ‘on the grounds of illegality, irrationality or procedural impropriety’. 

Attention is now focusing on the huge number of planning conditions and legal obligations imposed on the quarrying company, including many that must be satisfied before any mineral extraction can start. 

Devon County Council will be responsible for enforcing all these conditions, and will also have a duty to investigate any reports of alleged breaches. These could include working outside the agreed hours, failure to control levels of noise or dust, or failure to carry out habitat management or restoration work. 

Ottery Town Council and the Straitgate Action Group are now urging the county council to carry out those duties rigorously. 

Ottery councillor Dean Stewart said: “The council did contribute to the Straitgate Action Group and we need to explore whatever options are still available. The appeal decision did attach a lot of conditions to the approval and we need to make sure that Devon County Council and East Devon District Council impose all of those conditions and police them carefully.”