EDDC Development Management Committee agrees industrial expansion in Woodbury AONB

Details of industrial business expansion plan for Woodbury Common site agreed.

he first phase of expansion plans for an industrial business at the former Blackhill Quarry in Woodbury Common has been approved.

Last year, East Devon District Council’s development management committee gave the go-ahead for outline plans for 35,000 sq ft of additional industrial floor space at the quarry, operated by Blackhill Engineering, in Woodbury.

Tuesday’s meeting saw the committee approve the details of the first of those buildings, which will become the first part of a four-building development for Blackhill Engineering Services.

The site lies in the open countryside, this part of which is designated as an AONB and lies adjacent to the Pebblebed Heaths SAC, where development should be strictly controlled.

Cllr Tom Wright proposed that the scheme be approved, saying that the buildings would be less intrusive than the cranes and the movements to and from the quarry beforehand.

He added: “We also have to take into account the CDE management of the pebblebed heaths and no other organisation is more committed to retaining the high quality wildlife.” …

Cllr Olly Davey said that the ecological measures go some way to mitigating the effect of this, but said it was such an incongruous place for such a development to actually be taking place and that it was unfortunate it is here.

Cllr Nick Hookway added that he also had a real problem with the application. He said: “I understand the need for jobs but I am at a loss as to how the outline permission was passed by the previous DMC as this doesn’t seem to fit in at all here.

But Cllr Wright said that Blackhill have been there for decades and there are time limits of when they can operate.

Councillors voted by nine votes to two, with two abstentions, to approve the scheme.

Outline permission was granted last year despite calls for the former quarry land to be returned to heathland.

Concerns had been raised by parish and district councillors in Woodbury and the Otter Valley Association about the continued industrial use of a site in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Outline permission was granted last year despite calls for the former quarry land to be returned to heathland.

Concerns had been raised by parish and district councillors in Woodbury and the Otter Valley Association about the continued industrial use of a site in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/details-industrial-business-expansion-plan-2970387

And Clinton Devon’s Blackhill quarry plans at Woodbury go for decision …

Oh dear, another development test …

“Applicant Clinton Devon Estates (CDE) is seeking reserved matters planning permission to build a 929m2 building with 11 car parking spaces at the former Blackhill Quarry in Woodbury Common.

The building is set to become the first part of a four-building development for Blackhill Engineering Services.

Landowner CDE has previously-approved outline planning permission for four industrial buildings and this latest development would be the first phase of the application.

The proposal is set to be discussed at East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) development management committee on Tuesday (June 11) and planning officers have recommended approval.

The officer’s report said: “The proposed building would be the first in a phased development of the site, it would be of a suitable scale taking into account the limitations imposed at the outline stage in terms of height and a building finished in green cladding under a dark grey roof would assimilate well into its surroundings.

“The layout of the site responds well to its constraints and is clearly part of a planned phased development.”

Outline permission was granted last year despite calls for the former quarry land to be returned to heathland.

Concerns have been raised by parish and district councillors in Woodbury and the Otter Valley Association about the continued industrial use of a site in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

This latest plan has had one comment of support which said the area was already ‘degraded’ and was ‘not worth trying to save’.

In its design and access statement, CDE said it will retain existing trees and hedges which would provide more than 7,000 square metres of habitat for various mammals and reptiles. A redundant concrete tank will be converted into a bat refuge.

A further three units are expected to be built in the former quarry and CDE anticipates submitting reserved matters applications for those in the next four years.

EDDC will make the final decision on the reserved matters application.”

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/blackhill-engineering-plans-for-woodbury-common-1-6093931

Clinton Devon Estates: Director with too many fingers in too many public body pies?

Owl has been pondering the potential for conflicts of interest between some of Clinton Devon Estates’ (CDEs’) more environmentally sensitive development plans and the activities of its Estates Director, John Varley.

On the CDE website, at the time of going to press, Estates’ Director, John Varley is described as follows:

“John’s current non-executive positions include Board Member of the Environment Agency (EA) and Natural England (NE).”

Clearly he is a very influential man.

Owl remembers him being appointed to the Environment Agency Board in 2012 (£21,002 per annum). [This coincided with CDE’s their first planning to extend their cow sheds in the Otter flood plain at the bottom of Colaton Raleigh – something we will return to]. Owl finds John is still on EA’s Board.

But he seems to be a bit confused about his role with Natural England. Owl doesn’t see his name listed as a current Natural England Board member. So Owl has had to call in the Ferrets.

They report that John Varley, whilst on the Environment Agency Board, was also welcomed onto board of Natural England on 29 April 2015 (remuneration £10K-£15K). They also have discovered that he was reported as being “sad to depart before the end of his term” at the meeting of 22 March 2017.

They also note that he has popped up again as chair of the review which will consider all aspects of Network Rail’s approach to vegetation management 12 July 2018.

There is no suggestion whatsoever that John Varley has ever failed to declare an interest. Indeed, the Ferrets find that, quite properly, he had to leave the room during discussion of the agenda item on the reintroduction of beavers on the River Otter at the Natural England Board in September 2015.

What worries Owl is the conflicts, real or imagined, this might pose to the local staff of the Environment Agency and Natural England as they comment on CDE planning applications “without fear or favour”. Owl is also concerned about how it looks in the daylight.

In the old fashioned world Owl was brought up in any potential conflict would have been avoided. Those in a position to wield influence would do the “honourable” thing of either resigning or at least ensuring any applications they could be associated with were made in exemplary fashion.

Owl is not convinced that CDE’s recent planning applications could be described in this way. For example, consider the controversial 2012 applications to extend the cow sheds at Otter Farm, Church Road, Colaton Raleigh (application 12/0400 superseded by 12/2660).

One aspect of the controversy concerns whether or not either of these applications should have had a flood risk assessment. The fact is that Otter Farm is in flood zone 3, but it was claimed that the adjacent cow shed site, literally only yards away, would only lie in Zone 1 (1 in a 1,000 years risk). This was confirmed by EA on 6 February 2013:

“We have had a look at this one and feel, due to the nature of the development that a Flood risk Assessment would not be necessary. Of course we would still expect the applicant to demonstrate a commitment to SUDs in the design of their surface management for the site.”
[SUD – Sustainable drainage system]

However, this was queried by many on the basis of local knowledge including the Parish council, which, in February 2013, asked “for a better assessment in view of recent flooding incidents in the area”. The details were spelled out rather more graphically by one resident who expressed concern that “recently slurry was allowed to escape into the river (Otter) and into Railway Cottages”.

EA wrote again later in February: “Regarding the above, we have been advised that the site is over 1ha, if the new access road is included. If this is the case we are happy to review the application if accompanied by a Flood Risk Assessment”.

Eventually a detailed Environmental Management and Waste Management plan was submitted in April along with a Sustainable Drainage System Design of 66 pages. In May the Environment Agency recorded its thanks to: “you and your colleagues for meeting on site with [ ] to consider measures that could reduce flooding risks for the nearby Railway Cottage.”

Owl now flies forward to a more recent, even more controversial, case that of CDE’s application 17/3022 to extend the Blackhill Engineering works on Woodbury Common, submitted in December 2017.

It is clear from NE’s first comments that the Visual and Environmental Impact Assessments accompanying the application were still not up to scratch. NE’s comments 6 February 2018 read: “As it stands, we have significant concerns regarding the potential impacts of these proposals. We will provide more detailed advice once we have reviewed the additional information.”

“Gove wasting his time” – “Wild Woodbury” responds to Blackhill Quarry incursion further into AONB

Press release:

“Michael Gove is Wasting his time!

Conservative Councillors Undermine Government Environmental plans

The Woodbury Common “Area 12” development in East Devon is a classic example of members of the conservative party undermining the leadership and the will of the electorate. The proposed development of factories within an Area of Outstanding Natural beauty caused a local outcry. There were 198 objections to the plans and 4 people supported the application. When the development was put to the planning committee the council chamber was packed with objectors. The plans were passed with 6 people voting in favour and 5 against. The 6 supporters were all Tory Councillors who were not only out of step with the wishes of the electorate but also showed a total disregard for Michael Gove’s 25-year Environmental Plan.

Michael Gove is wasting his time! He is being undermined by his own Party and would be more effective working for an organisation with real environmental integrity such as The Wildlife Trust. He may be the most progressive and forward thinking Conservative Secretary for the Environment that we have had in decades. He recently stated “Outside the EU we are going to make sure that our environment is enhanced and protected. We believe in a greener Britain.”

If he hasn’t been a closet environmentalist all his life he has learned very quickly. He has listened to the much maligned “so called experts” and taken their ideas onboard. He isn’t afraid of speaking out either. When Donald Trump pulled the USA out of the Paris International Climate agreement most of the government were shuffling around looking at their shoes and scared to speak out in case they caused any offence. Michael however came out and condemned the move in his first speech after being returned to the cabinet. People have said that the new Tory “Green” policies that he is putting forward are just “vote bait” and that the conservatives are desperate to grab votes from the younger generation.

It is true that the younger generation in general tend to be greener than the traditional Tory voter, but they are also quite canny. It is not enough these days for a party to Talk the Talk, they will have to be seen to Walk the Walk if they are to get the youth vote. If the Tories don’t make good on their promises the next generation of voters will be even more disaffected about politics than the current ones. Plans for environmental initiatives like the bottle deposit scheme, banning single use plastics, and a switch to electric cars are very welcome, but until the legislation necessary to get them working is in place they are just a good idea and nothing more. Michael may have good intentions but after a year in the job the harsh reality is that he has changed very little.

Michaels downfall will not come because of criticism from environmental groups as most of the conservationists I talk to agree with his proposals. He is in step with most current thinking on environmental protection and is happy to express his own ideas. The document “A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment” contains enough positive ideology to satisfy most environmental campaigners. The document is elegantly designed, and its contents has been carefully thought out. It covers a huge range of subjects: sustainable land use, enhancing the beauty of landscapes, ways of reducing pollution and waste, fishing policy that ensures seas return to health and fish stocks are replenished, climate change, and new forests. The document even covers wildlife crime, poaching and illegal wildlife trade beyond our borders.

The problem that Michael has is that the document is a vision and not legislation. It is a collection of really good ideas, but it is not law. When there is a conflict between potential industrial development and the environment the ideals will get thrown into the river like toxic waste. If there is a chance for a profit to be made Tory councils will always find ways to get around even the most stringent protections. The “Green Future” is not seen as a moral compass for development it is just viewed as a bit of a nuisance.”

“Un-Natural England! Industrial Development on Woodbury Common Agreed”

Reactions to the decision:

Yesterday at East Devon District Council the Planning Committee agreed to an area on Woodbury Common to be allowed to become an extension to an Engineering works. The application will allow the engineering plant to become twice as large.

Tony Bennett chair of “Wild Woodbury” responded to the news

“Area 12” Factory Development for Heavy Industry on Woodbury Common – I would like to thank everyone who campaigned to get this proposal thrown out. Sadly, the council voted to accept the submission.

There was a fantastic turnout for the meeting and I think it is fair to say everyone left feeling let down, angry, and betrayed. The floodgates are now open. This will probably be biggest development (apart from mineral extraction) to have taken place on Woodbury Common since the Doomsday book was written! A golden opportunity has been missed.”

The site known as area 12 was the processing and offices area for a large gravel and sand quarry which originally had been agreed back in 2003 to be returned to heathlands after a payment of £6.4M was paid to the landowners and operators in compensation for stopping mineral extraction and processing of materials due to the special status of the Pebblebed Heaths. However, following further temporary planning changes, it was later agreed that consideration would be allowed for Area 12 to be used for another purpose.

Most of the Existing Engineering buildings next to area 12 had been granted “stand alone” planning permission by the previous planning Authority in the early 1960s and 1970s, which preceded the area being designated an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”

The Application yesterday was submitted by the landowners Clinton Devon Estates to allow the expansion of the Engineering plant because of the “exceptional justification” and “economic importance” of allowing their tenant to expand the operational facilities at their site.

The Councillors that voted for the proposal where, Colin Brown, Brain Bailey, Paul Carter, David Key, Jim Night, and Helen Parr (all Conservative Councillors)

The Councillors that voted against the development where Ben Ingram, Susie Bond, Geoff Jung, and David Barratt (all Independent Councillors) and Bruce de Saram (Conservative.)

In a bizarre twist to the debate Councillor Paul Carter seemed to be against the proposal saying it was against the Planning Authorities planning policy and approval to this application may allow developments in inappropriate locations be approved in the future, but then voted for the proposal!

The Committee was advised by officers that although the application was against local policy two important consultees, the RSPB and Natural England both supported the Application.

Natural England said in their written response:

“It is not likely to have a significant effect on the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Special Area of Conservation (SAC), East Devon Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) or East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).”

RSPB said in their response:

“Therefore, we feel that the alternative proposals proposed in the Ecological Appraisal Addendum (Richard Green Ecology, April 2018) are adequate to address the lost opportunity to restore the Blackhill Quarry application site.”

Further in Natural England’s response they requested an additional condition if the application was approved to “personalize” the application so the industrial site could only be used by the Blackhill Engineering or their parent company.

“However, given that the need is specific to Blackhill Engineering/Super Cat and is not a general need for development of industrial space in an otherwise un-spoilt and iconic part of the AONB Natural England recommend that, if you are minded to grant permission, you include a condition or planning obligation which ties the permission to occupancy by this company and requires decommissioning and restoration, as per the original minerals planning permission, should they vacate the site in the future.”

Therefore, this Outline Application which was approved yesterday allows Clinton Devon to submit a “Full Planning Application” for all the details of the Industrial expansion, but with a number of stringent conditions.

A substantial area (larger than Area 12) of managed woodland close to the development site will need to be cut down and returned to heathlands.

Also, that permission is specifically for the occupancy of Blackhill Engineering, if ever they vacated the site the area would be required to be decommissioned and restored as originally agreed by the mineral extraction license agreement.

However, this condition could not be applied to the existing Engineering units on the existing site.

Local residents are very disappointed with the decision taken yesterday by the Planning Committee and by the lack of support from Natural England and the RSPB, which seemed to have swayed the committee.

The Pebblebed Heaths are considered the “Crown Jewels” of this part of East Devon and over the years there have been many battles to preserve these heathlands. The use by the military, creating golf courses, new roads, quarrying, and intensive farming and forestry have all been a threat. It had been hoped with the changing attitudes and better environmental knowledge, National bodies such as Natural England and the RSPB would have supported local people in their endeavours to restrain the Industrial area from expanding on one of the most heavily protected locations in Europe.}

Clinton Devon Estates 1 – AONB 0

“Controversial plans to allow industrial units in a Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty have been narrowly approved.

The site at Blackhill Quarry, near Woodbury, housed quarry processing works but was due to be returned to its natural heathland state.

There were almost 200 objections, including the local parish council and ward member, to Clinton Devon Estates’ plans for 35,000 square feet of industrial space.

East Devon District Council’s Development Management Committee was told there were “exceptional circumstances” and the proposal would create 71 highly-skilled engineering jobs.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-45330324

Blackhill Quarry: planning application at DMC 4 September 2018 10 am

Owl says: How unfortunate that people who work for a living may not be able to attend.

But how fortunate so many of the DMC members are long-retired and can be at Knowle at 10 am with no problem at all.

TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING ACT 1990
PROPOSAL:
LOCATION:
Outline application seeking approval of access for construction of up to 3251 sqm (35,000 sq ft) of B2 (general industrial) floor space with access, parking and associated infrastructure (details of appearance, landscaping, scale and layout reserved for future consideration)

Blackhill Quarry Woodbury Exeter EX5 1HD

… the application has been placed on the agenda for consideration by the Council’s Development Management Committee at their meeting on 4 September 2018.

The meeting will take place at The Council Chamber, Council Offices, The Knowle, Sidmouth and is due to commence at 10am.”