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Anti-quarrying campaigners fight 'monster in our midst'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: April 27, 2012

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Residents of two communities faced with the threat of new quarries on their doorsteps made impassioned pleas to planners yesterday.

Campaigners fighting proposals for quarries at Straitgate Farm, near Ottery St Mary in East Devon, and Penslade, near Uffculme in Mid Devon, begged Devon County Council to reconsider earmarking their areas for sand and gravel excavation.

The council is identifying options for its Minerals Plan, which identify supply of materials until 2031.

Yesterday was the first time the council had invited the public to give oral submissions to a planning consultation.

Campaigners put forward arguments based on noise, dust, heavy traffic and damage to the environment and economy.

Mid Devon District Councillor Bob Evans said the two communities were being forced to "fight" each other on the issue.

He pointed to a dwindling demand for quarried aggregate which he said has dropped by 35 per cent since 2004. Many new builds are now glass and metal, and in-fill materials are often recycled.

But committee chairman James McInnes said Wednesday's vote to reject a proposal for a plant at Buckfastleigh, which would recycle ash from an energy-to-waste plant to create aggregate, showed no community wanted such developments in their area.

The committee heard that the council has well over nine million tonnes of sand and gravel in its reserves, which would last at least ten years.

Thomas Ferguson, of the Culm Waste and Minerals Group, said the quarry outlined for Uffculme was within 100 metres of 25 homes. He said residents had already suffered from decades of quarrying at Hillhead and Houndaller, and claimed little had been restored, as promised.

He said: "You have created a 1.25km hole on top of a hill, and you are never going to hide that satisfactorily."

In East Devon, residents are particularly concerned about damage to underground water sources, and the increased risk of flooding which devastated Ottery St Mary in 2008.

Devon County councillor Roger Giles, who waived his position on the committee to speak on behalf of the community, said he could not think of a "more inappropriate" plan for Straitgate.

Rupert Thistlethwayte, of the Straitgate Action Group, said a quarry could "only undermine" tourism. He said: "Do we really have to accept this monster in our midst, driving down the local economy? No – this is a totally unnecessary plan."

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