Public consultation underway over plans for quarry on Ottery’s outskirts

Straitgate quarry plans aerial view

Straitgate quarry plans aerial view - Credit: Archant

One of the UK’s leading suppliers of construction and infrastructure materials says it is looking to secure jobs in Ottery and East Devon, ahead of consultation meetings about its development of a new quarrying operation at Straitgate Farm.

One of the UK’s leading suppliers of construction and infrastructure materials says it is looking to secure jobs in Ottery and East Devon, ahead of consultation meetings about its development of a new quarrying operation at Straitgate Farm.

Aggregate Industries has been operating quarries in the area for more than half-a-century and currently operates sand and gravel sites at Blackhill and Venn Ottery - alongside a concrete plant at Sowton and an asphalt business in Rockbeare.

In total, it is estimated these operations are worth more than £1million per year to the local economy.

However, the company says that after decades of quarrying in the area, reserves are running out.

This means that the development of an alternative sustainable mineral reserve needs to be secured in order to safeguard the 10 jobs that would be directly affected - as well the numerous jobs at third party suppliers.

The proposal from Aggregate Industries is to extract sand and gravel at Straitgate Farm - with the material being transported to the existing Blackhill site near Woodbury for processing.

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Two public consultations are taking place in West Hill on Monday (March 2) and in Ottery on Tuesday (March 3) so residents and other stakeholders can find out more about the proposals and meet the team.

“Naturally, some people will have questions about the environmental impact of a new quarry and we’ll be using these exhibitions to discuss them face to face,” said John Penny, estates manager in the South West for Aggregate Industries.

“The nature of our business means we are committed to balancing the needs of the wider UK minerals and construction industries with those of the local residents and environmental priorities. We simply couldn’t operate if we weren’t experienced at working with the community to find that balance.

“We pride ourselves on our commitment to biodiversity and sustainability in the areas that we work,” John continued. “We work closely with environmental partners, local government and, of course, the community as a whole to make sure that there is minimum impact before, during and after the life of each quarry we operate.”

Aggregate Industries has provided brief responses to initial concerns that have been raised:

? Need for minerals?

To ensure there is enough raw material sourced from the UK, to build houses, buildings and new roads, each County Council needs to commit to a Mineral Plan.

This shows how much material is needed and where it will come from in the county.

National Planning Policy dictates that a seven year reserve of sand and gravel must be available during the Mineral Plan period.

It has been identified that, based on current reserves and recent levels of production, Devon will have a shortfall of sand and gravel reserves during the period of the Minerals Plan to 2031.

Aggregate Industries has provided robust evidence that Straitgate Farm can provide a strategically important and sustainable supply of aggregates, which will make a valuable contribution to helping Devon achieve its required supply of sand and gravel during the plan period.

? Risk of bird strikes at Exeter Airport:

We are proposing to run a ‘dry working quarry’, meaning there would be no need for pools of water that often attract birds. With this in mind, we’re confident that the new operation would not increase the risk of bird strike.

? Risk of increased flooding:

The hydrogeological assessment has shown that the dry working option would not affect the groundwater and surface water quantities feeding into the four streams flowing off the site, including the two flowing into Cadhay Wood and Cadhay Bog.

The fish ponds at Cadhay House would similarly not be affected. The geological fault which lies immediately to the east of the proposed development acts as partial barrier to the groundwater flows. There would be no effect at Cadhay Wood and Cadhay Bog (and the fish ponds) since the quantities of water flowing in the streams would not be affected.

? Increased traffic:

The approach to processing material at Straitgate would require it to be transported to our Blackhill quarry.

The ‘as-dug’ material would leave the site via a new access constructed onto ‘Birdcage Lane’ where it links onto the ‘old A30’.

At the junction of the B3174, lorries would turn south east onto the Exeter Road towards Daisymount roundabout and would then continue south towards Blackhill Quarry on the B3180.

The B3180 has been used for the transportation of locally won sand and gravel for many decades.

At Aggregate Industries, we’re aware of the potential impact our vehicle movements can have on residents and local traffic but we have a strong history of managing this.

We take pride in working with local haulage firms and have already enjoyed a successful partnership with Parsons who currently manage the haulage of material from Venn Ottery to Blackhill.

• Visual impact:

The development would be carried out in a phased manner working north to south to reduce the visual impact as far possible.

This would also allow farming to continue on land not required until later development phases. Temporary screening bunds would be created around the boundary of the site during initial soil stripping operations to screen the operational activity from views outside of the site.

The screening bunds would also reduce any noise from site operations.

Representatives from the company will be available at the consultation meetings to answer further questions in more detail.