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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project