Thursday, 6 September 2018

Pressures to expand business parks in East Devon >>> Blackhill Quarry, Woodbury: making a mockery of the government's environmental initiative "A green future - Our 25 year plan to Improve the Environment"

The District Council's planning committee took a very controversial decision earlier this week:
Futures Forum: Pressures to expand business parks in East Devon >>> Blackhill Quarry, Woodbury: plans are narrowly passed

Meanwhile, the conservation group Wild Woodbury has been acting to provide and maintain habitats and encourage biodiversity on the Common:

Wild Woodbury - Home
Wild-Woodbury Public Group | Facebook

It has been very vocal in its opposition to the project to expand the industrial estate on the Common - with a report on the Devon Live website from January this year: 

Woodbury business park expansion would be ‘morally and ecologically wrong’

Wild Woodbury have hit out at plans to expand business units at Blackhill Quarry

Daniel Clark Local Democracy Reporter
25 JAN 2018

Environmental campaigners have said it would be ‘morally and ecologically wrong’ to allow proposed expansion business units at Blackhill Quarry in Woodbury.

The scheme, for the proposed expansion of Blackhill Engineering, is seeking approval of access for construction of up to 3251 sqm (35,000 sq ft) of general industrial floor space with access, parking and associated infrastructure.

The proposed development is located within the area that is currently being turned into a nature reserve, which was previously used as the processing area for extracted minerals and latterly for the processing of material transported to the site from other quarries.

Processing plant in area 12 being dismantled (Image: Tony Bennett)

The processing plant in “Area 12” is being removed as planned and the area was to be restored to heathland. But Tony Bennett, from Wild Woodbury, has said that the plans would seek to reverse this restoration plan and the “U-turn” would be a huge blow to the environment as it sits within one of the most highly protected and scientifically important areas of countryside in Europe.

Mr Bennett added: “The heathland restoration plan represented a prime opportunity to turn a significant area of industrial wasteland into a nature reserve that will benefit everyone. The U-turn would make a mockery of the Conservative government's new environmental initiative entitled “A green future - Our 25 year plan to Improve the Environment”.

“Lowland heaths are wild open areas similar to Moorland, and Woodbury Common is one of the few areas of it that are left in the UK. With regards to flora & fauna the Pebblebed heaths are home to many important species including rare butterflies such as the pearl-bordered fritillary and silver-studded blue, 24 types of dragonfly and damselfly, and innumerable rare plants. Notable birds include the hobby, the nocturnal nightjar, hen harrier and the elusive Dartford warbler. Deer, foxes, rabbits & hares, several species of rare bats, and many other mammals also make it their home.

“The application shows a total disregard for public opinion. The applicant states that it was not considered necessary to carry out a “formal community consultation exercise” as the site is “remote from any settlement”. By allowing this area to be used for industrial purposes the public are being deprived of access to an area that should be heathland.

Woodbury Common

“There will be a massive increase in number of cars using an already over stretched local road network. More huge heavy transporters and low-loaders will be bringing materials to and from the industrial site causing congestion and damage to roads that are too narrow and unsuitable for this type of vehicle. “Indeed complaints from residents of the nearby towns and parish councils about traffic problems, and the unsuitability of the location was one of the main reasons that the processing plant in area 12 was closed down.

“This extremely sensitive area should be restored - not degraded by further industry. It would be morally and ecologically wrong to allow development in this area.”

Woodbury parish council have also voted to object to the application.

The application says: “Quarrying operations within the site have diminished and the existing sifting and grading plant structures which remain on site today are largely redundant. It is proposed that they are removed, allowing new development to take place and to facilitate the expansion of the existing Blackhill Engineering business, as there is a clearly identified need to expand the existing premises on the adjoining land.

Blackhill Quarry

“The proposal is to construct three separate buildings units that would be clustered around an open service yard and the existing site entrance would be used to provide access to the scheme.

“Blackhill Engineering’s operations have grown substantially in recent years and their existing facilities are now at capacity. As a result, the existing facilities are unable to facilitate further growth of the business, and if they are to remain in their current premises, they now need to expand their operations onto the application site.

“The proposed development would be within the area that the existing quarry equipment is currently located, which would in turn be removed.”

East Devon District Council planners will determine the fate of the planning application.

Woodbury business park expansion would be ‘morally and ecologically wrong’ - Devon Live

It has just published this press release: 


6 SEP 2018

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.”

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

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