Oxfordshire County Council’s decision to approve a large increase in the amount of sand and gravel needed to support large scale housing developments over the next 20 years is a set-back to campaigners fighting plans for the huge quarry near Clifton Hampden. But the fight continues.
The council says more than one-million tonnes of aggregates a year are needed until 2031 to support the need for houses in the county. In total 22,500 homes are due to be built in South Oxfordshire by 2033. The plan specifies that 75 per-cent of aggregates should come from quarries in south Oxfordshire.
The aggregates total for the county represents a 40 per-cent increase which protestors say it far too high and is not needed. In October or November the county’s planning committee is expected to discuss plans by Hills Quarry Products to create the quarry and concrete processing plant on Green Belt land near Clifton Hampden.
The approved minerals and waste strategy puts pressure on the planning committee to approve plans for a quarry at Clifton Hampden or New Barn Farm near Cholsey or both sites despite widespread objections from local residents, businesses and national organisations.
Leading the campaign against Hills’s proposals is Bachport – Burcot and Clifton Hampden for the Protection of the River Thames. Other organisations have jumped on board the opposition including the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Culham Science Centre and neighbouring parish councils at Long Wittenham, Culham and Appleford. South Oxfordshire District Council has also lodged a strong objection.
Local MPs John Howell and Ed Vaizey have expressed concerns along with county councillors Lorraine Lindsay-Gale and Lynda Atkins and South Oxfordshire District councillor Sue Lawson.
Bachport spokesman Giles Baxter said: “We are very disappointed that councillors have approved such a large increase in the amount of sand and gravel which it’s claimed is needed. There is no demand for a new quarry for the next 15 to 20 years. The county has more than sufficient material to cater for the increased housing need.”
“The driver for this decision is a powerful minerals lobby looking to cash in on the value of sand and gravel in the ground. We had hoped that councilllors would be swayed by the evidence and not the minerals lobby.”
Mr Baxter said if a quarry was allowed the environmental and visual impact on the Green Belt and damage to the Thames Path would be enormous. There was a risk of erosion on the river banks and earth bunds the height of a three-storey house would be constructed. There would be a loss of tranquillity caused by an increase in dust, noise and traffic.
Mr Baxter emphasised the campaign was not over: “We have mounted a very strong case against a quarry with support from many quarters both national and local. The council have not produced any evidence as to why the majority of any new quarries should be in South Oxfordshire.”
“Clifton Hampden is the wrong place to build a new quarry, due to environmental damage, visual impact, unsustainable traffic and the threat to the much needed link road and new river crossing We will be fighting the quarry plan all the way to the county planning committee.”