Apr Forum feedback (April 2018)

Thank you to those close neighbours who joined us last month for a forum to talk with key Estate staff about living near Bicton Arena.

All villagers of Yettington and East Budleigh were invited, along with neighbouring businesses and farming tenants, to help us listen to all the issues there are, as a result of having the South West’s leading Equestrian venue, on their doorstep.

Many had taken the opportunity to submit their concerns beforehand and during the meeting there was opportunity for our team to check all of these had been fully explored and understood.

Noise

Tannoy announcements can be heard at properties across the parish. During certain timed competitions extra sounds such as bells, horns, whistles are also a factor. This year Arena staff are seeking feedback to see if noise levels are always an issue or if there are patterns and other external factors.

The Arena manager will meet the two sound companies who cover the internally organised events, to investigate position, direction of speakers and undertake ongoing monitoring of sound levels. She will also provide new guidance for organisations booking the Arena to hold their own events.

Traffic

The bulk of the issues raised before at the meeting and many topics during the evening related to traffic. This has impact on anyone using the roads locally, but we recognise that Yettington home owners bear the brunt.

Discussions included concerns about pedestrian safety, horse-box size, volume of traffic and situations when large vehicles meet in narrow places causing hold-ups.Some residents shared their experiences and frustrations, but we are heartened that the tone throughout the evening remained positive as we looked for solutions together.

When we are made aware of issues our staff always follow up and look to find solutions. We were able to share resident’s suggestions that have been put into place recently. We also reminded the role the police, parish, district and county councils have to play in wider issues to do with antisocial behaviour and traffic.

The Estates Surveyor clarified the land ownership of village verges and surrounding fields. This helped explain that suggestions of a bypass or permanent one-way solution were not within Clinton Devon Estates power to achieve.

However other valuable suggestions were made from those at the meeting, along with our commitment to do further work to investigate the possibility of timed arrival/departure slots, alternative routes to reduce horse boxes meeting in the village or the road across the commons and trialling voluntary one-way solutions.

Suggestions were made which to improve communications about when events will take place and traffic is likely to be heavier. An events list was given out at the meeting and extra copies available at the Community Shop. Details of the different shows and competition, which are open and free to the public to attend as spectators, are also printed in the East Budleigh Parish News. Mail drops or email updates with be considered and further information can be found at www.bicton-arena.co.uk

In the second part of the evening, Helen West, Arena Manager gave a presentation and reassured those at the meeting that her vision for a sustainable model for the Arena included a reduction in the overall number and competitors at events. She and her team have ensured Bicton Arena is an outstanding venue for the equine community at all levels of competition. Now she is consolidating that work whilst ensuring the Arena only has a positive impact locally, so it is an asset those in the local area can be rightly proud to have next door.

All those who gave us permission to contact them, received a more detailed report of the discussions and information. Anyone else who would like a copy of this can call 01395 443881 or email kate.ponting@clintondevon.com.

The team will continue to review feedback provided throughout this season and we hope this dialogue with our neighbours will inform future measures including traffic planning.

Heathland Codes (March 2018)

Is it okay to let your dog stray off a public right of way?

If it were a front garden, a workplace or home then the dog owner might be embarrassed.

So what about the field next to the path?

Farmland is no different. Unless you have permission, your dog, like you should stay on the  path even when there are no grazing animals present. If you cannot ensure this, then keep your dog on a lead.

On the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths, rights of way are less restrictive and walkers, cyclists and horse riders have the right to roam freely. But like any open space in East Devon, anyone exercising their dogs is legally required to pick up dog waste and this should be disposed of in any litter or dog waste bin.

Other restrictions include the number of animals that an individual can walk at one time and the need for dogs to be on leads around livestock and during the bird breeding season (1 March-31 July). Many heathland birds breed on the ground so are easily disturbed, leaving eggs or chicks exposed to the cold and predators.

It is a criminal offence to ride on scheduled monuments such as Woodbury Castle hillfort, so please enjoy these places on foot. We would also request that whilst our archaeological repair work at the castle consolidates please do not let children or dogs run up the earthworks as some damage has already occurred.

None of the requirements are new but to make it even easier for our many visitors, the Pebblebed Heath Conservation Trust team have recently drawn up cycling, horse-riding and dog-walking codes with our heathland partners the RSPB and Devon Wildlife Trust who manage other areas across the commons.

These are clear, concise dos and don’ts with more detail explaining the reasons, so everyone is clear.

We will be working together to explain how those out on the heaths can help us even further. Look out for the new codes and information in local newspapers, radio and on social media.

As land managers of the commons we will also be licensing commercial dog walkers; a free service which ensures anyone using the heaths as part of a dog-walking business is fully insured and signed up to our dog-walking code. If you use the services of a dog-walker we hope this is something you’ll check they’re signed up too.

As spring arrives we also hope to be seeing much more of Sama and Amelia, the habitat mitigation wardens. They switch their winter focus, which has been on the Exe Estuary back to the Pebblebed Heaths to support us explain and enforce the habitat regulations during our busiest and important seasons for wildlife. When the summer dog exclusions on nearby beaches comes into force (1 May and 30 September) we always expect to welcome more dog walkers, just when one of our most important heathland birds arrives to breed.

In an area refreshingly open and unencumbered, few would welcome the heaths being covered with notices reminding people what to do. We use minimal signage to inform visitors where livestock will be grazing and to remind all users to shut gates. You can also help us by reporting any problems that you see during you visit.  We hope that these other issues can be addressed without additional signage and that all our visitors would welcome the codes and continue to enjoy this special landscape in a way that respects other visitors, landowners, animals and wildlife.

kate.ponting@clintondevon.com  01395 443 881

Black Hill Quarry update (Jan 2018)

Black Hill Quarry has now come to the end of its functional life, although it remains under quarry regulations and will be closed to the public for safety reasons for the foreseeable future.  On-site quarrying stopped several years ago and until recently, the site had still been processing sand and gravel from nearby quarries. This activity has also now ceased.

Black Hill Quarry covers 64 hectares and has been operational for many decades. Under its planning permission, the site will be now returned to heathland. It lies adjacent to the core area of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths. Although the surrounding heathland is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area, Black Hill Quarry does not have the same statutory designations, although it is a County Wildlife Site.

Significant work still needs to be undertaken before habitat restoration at the site is complete. Aggregate Industries (the quarry operator), helped by the RSPB, has been doing a fantastic job on the restoration scheme, with the company’s work at this site highly commended at the Mineral Product Association’s Biodiversity Awards in 2017. It may still be many years before the site is open to the public, but excellent progress has been made, and once completed the wildlife-rich site, complete with water features, will complement the existing heathland and be an amazing new recreation area for local people and visitors to explore and enjoy.

Although the life of the quarry itself is complete, Blackhill Engineering, a separate business, will remain operational at the same location.  Blackhill Engineering, produce high quality heavy engineering for the UK Civil Engineering Industry along with the MOD and also supplies a range of fascinating heavy engineering products to the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Africa.  They employ over 30 skilled people a figure which is set to more than double with new plans. They are developing four engineering apprentices and deliver an amazing amount for the local economy.  A great business we are happy to support and one which wishes to work in harmony with the precious natural environment of the Pebblebed Heaths, within which it sits.

The facilities of Blackhill Engineering are immediately adjacent to the quarry processing plant. Specialising in steel fabrication and design, Blackhill Engineering has recently been involved in many prestigious projects including the design of flood defence gates for New York City Hospital, work for the European Space Agency and the pier at Hinkley Point. The innovative design and engineering company, which also produces specialist off-road wheeled and tracked vehicles for the MOD and civilian customers, was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the International Trade category for its outstanding contribution in 2017.

The nature of the business of Blackhill Engineering and its wide range of unique fabricated products, has meant that the existing site is constraining the ability to operate efficiently and optimise the highly skilled workforce and the specialist equipment to meet the needs of UK and overseas customers.   With the quarry closing, a planning development proposal has been submitted by the landowner Clinton Devon Estates to allow Blackhill Engineering, a significant local employer and contributor to the local economy, to establish new specialist facilities within the site formerly occupied by the processing facilities of the quarry. This covers about 1.5 hectares. The focus of this proposal is only on the pre-existing developed concrete areas where the quarry buildings once stood, and does not involve any encroachment onto heathland or pre-existing wildlife habitat. As with all planning proposals the merits of expanding Blackhill Engineering will be judged by the planning authorities who will be looking at issues such as impact of any new buildings on the landscape. The site proposed is currently covered in concrete and any restoration to high quality habitat will be problematic therefore mitigation proposals that might secure significantly more wildlife benefits for the surrounding heathland are being discussed.