Evidence by Mr John Day on Ecology for Buckfastleigh Community Forum opened Day 10 of the inquiry. Mr Day has been employed as a professional ecologist since 1976 and currently works as an independent landscape ecologist and botanical consultant. Over the course of 35 years he has served on many committees dealing with wildlife conservation. He has broad experience of dealing with ecological issues in relation to planning, ranging from acting as a consultant on strategic policy formulation at regional, county and district levels to public inquiry work. Mr Day’s proof of evidence can be found here.
Mr Day identified that Mr Mellor’s Environmental Survey produced for MVV quotes just two sources for a data search, which is less than best practice, given the wealth of features that indicate a potential high ecological value site. It ignores soils and scrub and woodland edge habitats of considerable value; largely ignores birds; is weak on woodland interests and cliff and rock habitats; brushes aside or ignores invertebrate issues; and misclassifies grassland. Mr Day’s evidence pointed out aquatic habitats, lake, springs, aquifer, Dean Burn as high ecological value, yet there is a lack of any appraisal of these in Mr Mellor’s Environmental Survey, despite requests from the Environment Agency and others. Mr Day considered this a serious shortfall. He felt that the survey data presented by Mr Ryan Mellor, MVV’s ecologist, was not as complete a representative of the ecological environment of the site and surrounding areas as it should have been.
He made comment on Mr Mellor’s lack of sufficient survey data regarding the numerous protected species that are thought to inhabit the site. A Great Crested Newt survey should be required and must do this survey before de-watering. MVV totally ignored reptiles until Mr Day’s rebuttal. One of the most important likely areas for reptile is the northern face of the quarry void, that’s the sunniest bit, and that hasn’t been surveyed. He then went on to emphasize the importance of the different habitats, flora and fauna at and around the site, with mention of grasslands, ancient woodland, Dormice, Peregrine Falcons, Reptiles and Otters. There are quite clearly two otter territories and this information was obscured in the environmental survey. Mr Day is not convinced there has been a proper otter survey done.
Regarding Peregrine Falcons, he referred to Mr Mellor’s evidence as far too dogmatic, the outcome cannot be predicted and the risk of desertion of the nesting site is a distinct possibility, i.e. individual peregrines will respond differently. Mr Day stated he had no doubt that there is ancient woodland having long-standing experience of dealing with ancient woodland and surveyed 2,000 such sites in Worcestershire alone. Ancient woodland is irreplaceable habitat that cannot be recreated by planting a new wood, not in any reasonably timeframe.
Mr Day placed an extremely high value on the site in terms of bio-diversity which he felt was completely understated by Mr Mellor’s evidence, in which he commented that he couldn’t believe a site of such bio-diversity had got this far in the planning stages. When asked his view of the likely effect of the proposed scheme, Mr Day stated it will at a minimum substantially reduce the flora and fauna and decimate some.
Mr Day also pointed out that he was concerned with pollution in both water and the air, for example lichens and bryophytes are very sensitive to minute levels of things in the atmosphere. In addition, British Cave Shrimp is endemic to Devon and Cornwall and lives nowhere else in the UK. Its greatest distribution is in Buckfastleigh area, likely having evolved in the cave systems in the area and been here for 100,000 years before the first ice age. However Mr Mellor’s survey didn’t include British Cave Shrimp undoubtedly throughout the hill system, deep fissures of the rock including the area proposed to be infilled with Construction & Demolition Waste and dolerite.
Potential water pollution from the IBA and the dolerite itself were referenced with respect to their adverse effects on the Dean Burn ecosystem. The possible adverse consequences on vegetation of dust from the site were also examined.
Mr Day was then cross examined by Mr Mark Westmoreland Smith, MVV’s barrister. Mr Westmoreland Smith pointed out that the environmental regulations do not require every possible ecological presence to be surveyed. However, Mr Day replied that even key species of flora and fauna were not surveyed at anything beyond the most basic level. Mr Westmoreland Smith reinforced that a number of authorities did not object to the proposal. Mr Day responded that none of the local or statutory authorities were given enough information in a substandard Environmental Survey. For example if they knew there were ancient woodland on the site, these authorities would have come to different decisions. In addition, any time there are species protected by European law there is a duty of care for the consultant to apply best practices, they must do proper surveys.
Re-examination came next with questions from, first, Mr Hopkins reaffirming the points raised in the Examination in Chief. The Inspector then asked for Mr Day’s take on some of the dust and water pollution mitigation measures proposed by MVV.
The day continued with another chance for the local residents and objectors to give evidence and present statements. First to present was Mr Robin Williams, who has lived and worked in the valley for over 40 years. He presented concerns about the impact on the drinking water which is used by local businesses and residences and extracted from the River Dart.
Next to present evidence was Mr Colin Kilvington a independent objector from Plymouth, who raised concerns on the mitigation measures and their enforcement.
Dr Ro Cartwright, a Lower Dean resident and doctor of mathematics with 25 years experience in the highways industry, presented evidence focusing on the impact of traffic. She questioned the assumptions on which Neil Rugg’s (MVV’s Transport witness) traffic models were based. She also criticised the data selected by Mr Rugg in his analysis of traffic safety.
District Councillor for Dartington and Totnes Town Councillor for Totnes Bridgetown Jacqi Hodgson expressed Totnes Town Council’s concerns with the proposal, suggesting a threat to local sustainable development. She also mentioned the lack of proper public consultation on the environmental statement addendum whilst also highlighting traffic and ecological concerns. The inspector asked if she knew of councillors or councils that might wish to make submission to which she replied yes – Staverton, Dartington, Saint Gabriel, Rattery and West Buckfastleigh.
Jenny Godwin expressed her concern for natural boundaries, the construction and repair of fencing and hedges regarding the hedgebank in Whitecleave Quarry.
The inquiry will resume tomorrow, Friday the 12th of July, at 9:30 with the evidence to be presented by Professor John Altringham on Bats and SAC issues.