Former quarry is providing 158 acres of space for nature whilst application for 2% of the site will help sustain local economy.
Landowner Clinton Devon Estates would like to clarify that a planning application which it has lodged with East Devon District Council to enable the sustainable development of the local economy in the South West, represents an area of less than two percent of the former Blackhill Quarry on the edge of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths (EDPH) which is being fully returned to nature.
The application is to install new specialist facilities on a 1.5 hectare (3.7 acres) site, formerly occupied by the quarry’s processing plant. The ten year project to return 64 hectares (158 acres) of redundant quarry to lowland heathland with open water habitats has already won national recognition in the 2017 Mineral Product Association’s Biodiversity Awards just five years into the programme.
Species recorded on site include the nightjar, Dartford warbler, small red damselfly and the silver studded blue butterfly. Also, the common lizard and adder are regularly recorded, and great crested newts were found for the first time in 2017, thanks to breeding ponds that were created by extracting minerals.
Gravel extraction at the site, near Woodbury, began in the early 1930s and ended in 2011 at which point a Restoration and Aftercare Scheme was drawn up and approved by Devon County Council, East Devon District Council and other stakeholders.
Under the terms of the scheme it was agreed that a planning application could later be lodged to consider alternative use at the site of the quarry processing plant and other buildings. The area represents less than two percent of the 64 hectare former quarry site which lies within 1,124 hectares (2,800 acres) of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths and is owned by Clinton Devon Estates and managed by the EDPH Conservation Trust.
Leigh Rix, Head of Property and Land at Clinton Devon Estates, said: “We’re extremely pleased at how well the restoration at the quarry site is progressing, and we’re grateful to both Aggregate Industries and the team from the RSPB for all their efforts. While quarrying and related work at Blackhill has ceased, Blackhill Engineering, who have been based at this site for over thirty years, continue to operate from this location. We are in discussions with them about them taking on the extra space so that they can expand locally, creating extra jobs and apprenticeships. Blackhill Engineering, which supplies products to the UK civil engineering and defence industries and exports to the USA, New Zealand and Europe, already employs 34 full-time staff at the site, and hopes to increase this.
“This application proposes that we replace the existing sifting and grading plant structures with purpose-built units which would be lower and less intrusive on the landscape. All the existing screening on site would be maintained, and studies have shown that the traffic generated by the new use would be less than that associated with the previous quarrying and processing work.”
The site, like much of East Devon, lies within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is also a County Wildlife Site, but is outside the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and outside the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the Special Protection Area (SPA).
Mr Rix said: “Prior to submitting this application, we commissioned a comprehensive ecology report, which shows that, because the application involves replacing existing industrial equipment, the work is unlikely to impact on nearby designated sites, nor the County Wildlife Site. Nevertheless, we will be implementing an ecological mitigation plan.
“This application will help a successful local company to grow, creating high-quality, full-time jobs for local people, without damaging the local environment and not causing any interruption to the highly successful restoration work already under way. We believe that approval of this application will result in a major boost for the local economy, while at the same time protecting the environment for the benefit of people and wildlife.”