Villagers welcome eco-troops in battle to shield otter and badger from quarry

The villagers were relieved when the protesters moved in. After two futile years of letter-writing and campaigning they see the shock troops of the eco-movement as their final chance.

Where other protest camps have not always had local support, in the tiny hamlet of Teigngrace near Newton Abbot there is nearly 100 per cent backing for the band of thirty young people who have sparked debate in a way more routine methods did not.

At issue are plans by Watts Blake Bearne (WBB), a clay company, to divert the paths of the Rivers Bovey and Teign so as to expand clay quarrying.

WBB say supplies of high quality clay are running out and they need the seam which runs under the river. It could provide a 100 year supply. Environmentalists claim the beautiful heathland is a haven for otters, badgers and other wildlife including the cirl bunting, the rarest bird in Britain. They are afraid it will be destroyed by the re-routing.

Within days of the first camps being set up, John Prescott, in his role as Environment Secretary, imposed a holding direction while he examined the files. A decision is expected in the next fortnight.

The 200 citizens of Teigngrace hope he will hold a public inquiry. In the meantime, they are feeding and clothing the protestors and even dropping in daily newspapers. When the camps requested chocolate cake, locals had delivered fifteen cakes within the day.

"They have given us hope," said Jill Bunce, 61, whose rented home will be over-shadowed by a 150ft-high waste tip and lapped by the diverted river. "Everybody was very down when we heard the plans had gone through, and then there was lots police activity and we discovered why and there was jubilation."

"We'll have 100,000 of them if they're going spare," added her husband, Peter, 64, a retired engineer. "The villagers have done everything by the book and it's done nothing. We fear Teigngrace will just disappear, if WBB aren't stopped."

Joan Avery, 75, allows the protestors to charge their mobile phone in her cottage. "Watts Blake Bearne are a big firm and they think they can do what they like" she says.

John Martin, 47, the chairman of the parish council, criticises the County Council who he said had completely failed to listen to what villagers have been saying. A plan for the Bovey basin which has been under discussion for months appears to have completely vanished, even though he believes it would rule out quarrying expansion, if accepted.

Many in the neighbouring towns of Newton Abbot and Kingsteignton support WBB. Jobs are hard to come by and many welcome any expansion by WBB.

Stuart, 20, one of the protestors, comes from nearby Bovey Tracey and said he was there because he wanted to stop the destruction of the countryside. But his father, a long-distance lorry driver who sometimes has dealings with the quarries, supported the plans.

Yet Christine Martin, 48, who runs her own plant nursery, said any emphasis on jobs was short-sighted. Clay was a finite resource and they should be looking to the future. "Sustainable tourism to try to relieve the pressure on Dartmoor would be ideal."

Dawn Crocker, for Watts Blake Bearne, said they were confident the plans would stand up to public scrutiny, but the delay caused by any public inquiry would cause them problems. The best clay deposits will run out in 1999. "We've been working on these plans for the last two years. The protestors move on site and suddenly we're a terrible company."

They said that there are only three areas in the UK where this grade of clay, used in bathrooms, and for tiles and crockery, is found.

"The working of minerals will always cause an environmental impact, but it's company policy that we do everything in our power to minimise that," she said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
News
UK Border Control
i100
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Administrator

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Teleradiology s...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Administrator - Out of Hours

£19000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Telera...

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Office Administrator - Full or Part Time

£14600 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 2003 the company...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn