Burcot & Clifton Hampden for the Protection of the River Thames
The window for public consultation has now closed. You can read the response developed by Bachport and appointed professional consultants on behalf of the four parish councils here: Bachport3rdResponseAugust17mdf
Further updates will be provided as and when they become available.
Bachport makes the headlines – check out the coverage in the Herald Series, in which Bachport spokesman Giles Baxter observes that, “The only reason the road is being planned along these routes is because it has to avoid the quarry. There are many reasons why a quarry should not be built there and this is another one. We are calling for plans for the quarry to be suspended whilst the problems with the road route are resolved.”
Following continued objections from consultees, Hills submitted further information on their proposal for a sand and gravel quarry with concrete processing plant in Clifton Hampden. Hills did not change the scheme and the new information provided did not address our concerns. The new information covered:
Oxfordshire County Council led a 3rd round of public consultation that ran until 3 August. Our arguments relevant to this round of consultation included:
Loss of High-Grade Agricultural Land
The new information showed a much higher loss of high-grade agricultural land than previously indicated, and this loss was not justified. This is counter to National Planning Policy.
Trees and Hedgerows
The new information did not address the presence or absence of veteran or biologically important trees, as required by National Planning Policy. Hills merely stated that they had not identified any veteran trees.
Hills refused permission for Dr David Lonsdale, a world-renowned tree expert, to access the site. Dr Lonsdale had identified 40 trees that merited further investigation. Why are Hills so worried? The survey would take less than a day and would not be intrusive or damaging. Hills should have nothing to fear from one of the country’s leading experts on trees visiting the site. Or, perhaps they do, because there are important trees, protected by National Planning Policy, that they have failed to take into account in their scheme.
Hills have been wrong before. Their initial claim was that the site contained nothing of archaeological importance following their extensive archaeological survey by professional consultants. Historic England disagreed and designated 25 hectares of the site as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Hills have also been forced to admit that their previous assessment of the agricultural value of the land was wrong.
Hills did not provide evidence or justification on why they departed from the advice given at the time of the scoping opinion. They did not address concerns regarding the impact of HGVs on existing congestion problems around the Clifton Hampden junction/lights. They continue to ignore the impact that their quarry will have on an already congested road network.
Hills provided further information on the massive bunds that they will need to construct to reduce dust and noise. They are now 10 m high in places, the height of a 3-story house. They will be prone to slumping, and difficult to maintain. This is highly obtrusive and will have a significant impact on the openness and tranquillity of the Green Belt.
In a letter to Oxfordshire County Council (OCC), the Environment Agency (EA) has retained its objection to the proposed quarry. Why?
Hills’ Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) does not comply with the requirements set out in the National Planning Policy Framework and thus doesn’t provide the right information for a full assessment of flood risks arising from the proposed development. The National Planning Policy Framework states that development should not be permitted if there are reasonably available sites appropriate for the proposed development in areas with a lower probability of flooding.
While Hills’ FRA shows some overall increase in volume of flood plain storage under some conditions, they have not demonstrated how they could compensate for the loss of flood plain storage in other conditions.
The FRA allows for small events in climate change but does not factor in larger events. Hills need to show how they will prevent the proposed development reducing flood plain storage and displacing flood waters, thereby increasing flood risk elsewhere.
Assessment and mitigation of the risks to nature conservation are inadequate. Hills’ survey has not identified current records for water voles or otters, which are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. The EA states: “Water voles have not been found at the site but potential otter lying-up sites have. The loss of these areas and the impact of increased disturbance hasn’t been addressed through the phasing of quarry activities, nor the mitigation measures.”
Hills have not provided satisfactory clarification on watercourse and ecological mitigation. They have not answered the EA’s questions on grassland and hydrology, and need to rectify their contradictory statement regarding the use of artificial flood lighting. Inconsistencies in bund height and missing figures in their application have also been flagged for attention.
With regards to post-quarry restoration plans, the EA points out that the proposed lake for sailing/boating/fishing appears to be missing infrastructure to support it; there are no fishing platforms, access tracks or paths, slipways, site office or facilities marked on Hills’ plans.
Bachport spokesman Giles Baxter said: “We welcome the stance taken by the Environment Agency. We are also pleased that the EA have reminded OCC that development should not be permitted if there are other reasonably available sites in areas with a lower probability of flooding. This site is self-evidently at high risk – it floods regularly now, and this quarry could make flooding worse. Oxfordshire does not need another quarry for 15–20 years and we maintain our position that OCC should identify sustainable sites for mineral extraction that are at lower risk from flooding before this application is considered.”
Our response to the Additional Information (AI) from Hills has been submitted to OCC; a copy is available here: Bachport Response Addntl Info Mar 2017
In short, Hills has not provided the necessary information and OCC should not determine the application until they have done so.
We and our professional advisors reviewed the AI supplied: it has not changed the substance of the proposal and there are still very strong grounds on which the application should be rejected.
OCC requested Winter viewpoints of the site. These have still not been supplied. Thus the landscape and visual assessment remains inadequate, and fails to properly assess the potential harm of the quarry, which will be significant and irreversible.
A full survey of trees and hedgerows has now been supplied and confirms all trees and hedgerows scheduled for removal are significant for their landscape and conservation value, and should be retained within the design of the development.
Soil sample data for assessment of agricultural land value has now been supplied and shows that, contrary to their submission statements, the majority of land is ‘best and most versatile’ (BMV). More than 2.5 x the amount of BMV land they claimed is lost is actually lost on restoration. This contravenes national and local policy requirements to preserve BMV land.
Existing (i.e. ‘quarry-free’) noise readings were required from neighbouring properties to the proposed site. These were much lower than expected so Hills would need to put in higher, longer bunds to shield residents from the extra noise. However, in terms of landscape impact, such a size would be unacceptable.
Long Wittenham residents cannot be protected from noise by bunds along the southern edge of the site because bunds here would impede the land’s natural floodwater capacity.
Hills haven’t addressed a single one of our water consultant’s concerns, some of which are ‘fundamental’ planning issues. They have provided more modelling, which has shown (a) they can’t accurately predict flood events, and (b) an increase in flood risk during some stages of quarry working. They also haven’t properly assessed effects on the Lower Greensand aquifer (under the sand and gravel layer), which runs underneath the science centre and railway line.
Bachport and the Culham Science Centre concerns about traffic impacts have been dismissed without presenting any evidence to support Hills’ assertions that traffic impacts are minimal. They dismissed our traffic survey (which showed significant additional traffic delay at the village junction) as lacking independence, even though it was conducted by Paul Silcock, an expert in signal modelling. Our survey remains valid until they produce actual evidence to contradict our assessment.
There was a distinct paucity of ecology survey work with the initial application, and further survey work was required including bats (they are a National and European protected species). While Hills suggested the site was unlikely to have any significant bat interest, the survey shows the site is actually used by 8/14 Oxfordshire bat species, some of which are rare for Oxfordshire. Loss of mature vegetation would have a significant impact on this bat population yet has not been adequately addressed in Hills mitigation proposals.
Hills have suggested the new planting on restoration will be ‘mature’ in 15 years; an ironic assessment when their Arboricultural survey suggests that many of the oaks, ash, poplar and willow proposed for removal, and which have been present for more than 150 years, form mostly ‘early mature’ vegetation.
There is no need for this quarry to meet the county’s sand and gravel requirements. The OCC Minerals and Waste Plan is still being formulated. Sales figures show the need for sand and gravel has already fallen over the Plan’s period. The landbank of existing reserves is more than sufficient for at least another 13 years. Any favourable determination of this quarry at this time would pre-empt the emerging Plan, and would be directly contrary to government policy that major development should be Plan-led.
Oxfordshire County Council have begun a 2nd round of public consultation on the quarry. The planning decision will depend on this consultation response. Please can you WRITE AGAIN by 1ST MARCH.
If you previously objected, please write again or resend your letter. Say nothing has changed from the new information and repeat your objections.
Post: Gemma Crossley, Environment & Planning, Speedwell House,
Speedwell St, Oxford OX1 1NE.
Reference: MW.0039/16 Fullamoor Quarry.
If you haven’t written before and would like to, now’s your chance. Bachport have set out a strong case for refusal – we need this supported with your objections. Your email today may take a minute or two but could affect the countryside and the local community for the next 10 to 25 years. You can make a difference. Together, the community can make a difference.
Thank you for your continued support.
Hills have now come back with the additional information requested by Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) last August. The initial quarry application failed to provide essential information on a number of key areas. Second time around and Hills have still not done a good job.
Firstly, the required information is incomplete and there are at least 6 areas where Hills have not provided the information requested by OCC. We have written to OCC pointing out these deficiencies. Why are Hills treating the process with contempt?
Secondly, and true to form, Hills have made the new information deliberately difficult to find and analyse. It is buried within a mix of 60 new and revised documents (without tracked changes). What have they got to hide?
As an example, some information on trees is now provided (glaringly absent in the original submission); however, it is still not clear which veteran trees will be saved and which are for the chop, and the maps provided are unreadable. Why not just be clear?
Bachport Is Fighting Fit
Bachport and its advisors are painstakingly analysing the new information and preparing our own submission for this second round of consultation. We continue to have a strong case and strong support for getting this planning application rejected.
Representatives of the 4 parish councils have met and remain united in their opposition. We have successfully done a second round of fundraising to pay for our advisors, and have a dedicated core team in addition to nearly 850 registered supporters.
You Can Make a Difference
In the first consultation more than 600 letters and emails were sent to OCC protesting about this unwelcome development. The scale of local opposition was certainly noticed by OCC.
The deadline for this second round of public consultation is March 1st
Please could you take the time to write a short email of your objection to OCC at the address below, even if you have done so before. It really does make a difference.
OCC application ref: MW.0039/16
There are so many reasons to object to this application: destruction of the landscape, creation of massive 10 m bunds (the height of 3-storey houses) in the green belt, the removal of most trees and hedgerows, traffic congestion, noise, dust and increased risk of flooding. The new information supplied by Hills doesn’t answer the questions we and other bodies raised in the first round of consultation.
The winner of the Bachport Visual Arts Competition is Tim Widdowson for his beautiful and haunting watercolour, Dust to Dust. Congratulations to Tim, thank you and congratulations to all our runners up: Primrose Baxter, Eirian Griffiths and Camilla Seaward and to all our entrants. Thank you to our judges Clare Owen, editor of The Bridge, Giles Harvey, filmmaker and Gary Cooper of Fabulous Flowers.
In response to the request by Oxfordshire County Council for further information, Hills Quarry Products have submitted their revised plans for the sand and gravel quarry between Clifton Hampden and Culham.
The Bachport committee is in the process of assessing these plans, working in conjunction with the parish councils of Clifton Hampden/Burcot, Long Wittenham, Culham and Appleford. We will be in touch soon with all our supporters on what’s changed and how, through public consultation, you can help fight this blight on the landscape and our community.
Please keep an eye out for emails from us. If you aren’t currently on our mailing list, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
For your information, the revised application materials can be viewed on http://myeplanning2.oxfordshire.gov.uk under the same reference as before, MW.0039/16.
The photo/picture/painting competition for your artistic expressions of how you feel about the prospect of a gravel pit and concrete plant being built on the Oxfordshire Green Belt, overlooking the beautiful, tranquil River Thames and the Thames path, has now closed. A big thank you to all who contributed for your inspired entries.
The judges are Clare Owen, editor of The Bridge, Gary Cooper, owner of Fabulous Flowers in Abingdon and filmmaker Giles Harvey of Luttrell Productions. Information will be available in due course of the winning entries.
The Barley Mow has very generously donated a fantastic dinner for two (all food and drink included), which is first prize for the Adult section.
The two winning entries will appear on the front and back cover of The Bridge.
All runners up will receive a Bachport #sorrybutNOquarry T shirt.
August 2016 News Update
Read BBC South Today coverage here: Culham Science Centre Voices Concerns
Listen to BBC Radio Oxford here: Culham Science Centre Fears Dust Impact
Read Oxford Guardian coverage here: Scientists Add to Fears Over Plan for Quarry
Crucial work on seeking a new source of clean energy at the Culham Science Centre could be damaged by dust from a proposed sand and gravel quarry says a report to Oxfordshire County Council.
Hills Quarry Products wants to create a huge quarry on Greenbelt land alongside the Thames at Clifton Hampden but the plans have been met with a storm of protests. The Culham Science Centre (CSC) is opposite the quarry.
CSC is the leading UK centre for fusion research and technology and is of international importance in the quest for a new source of clean energy. It says the air quality threat posed by the proposed quarry has not been sufficiently addressed.
In its letter of objection to the county council which is considering the plans and objections CSC says: “CSC is home to a wide range of science and technology based projects, often operating sensitive equipment which could be affected adversely by wind borne dust from the proposed quarry.”
The Culham site is part of South Oxfordshire District Council’s core strategy for redevelopment and research and science based businesses supporting up to 1,000 new jobs. It is one of the cornerstones of the council’s employment strategy and a major part of the Science Vale cluster of science and technology businesses.
CSC’s letter says: “The Environmental Impact Assessment submitted by the applicant completely fails to recognise the importance of CSC, and completely fails to assess the impact that the quarry might have on the site and its tenant organisations. This is a fatal omission on the part of the applicant and the submitted document should not be accepted.”
And the Environment Agency (EA) has also landed a blow on the quarry plan. It says the assessment and mitigation of the risks to nature conservation are inadequate. The Agency says: “We will maintain our objection until the applicant has supplied information to demonstrate that the risks posed by the development can be satisfactorily addressed.”
It says that the scope and timings of the ecological survey work carried out are inadequate, in particular for foraging and commuting, water voles, otters and grass snakes. The EA says the Thames needs protecting with a 25 m fenced buffer and pollution protection measures.
“The scope and timings of the ecological survey work carried out are inadequate, in particular for roosting, foraging and commuting bats, reptiles, great-crested newt and breeding and wintering birds.
No mitigation measures have been proposed for wintering birds or bats, despite the loss of habitat such as woodland, hedgerows, arable land and ditches. The mitigation measures for badgers and other mammals are inadequate.”
The EA cites the county council’s own policy which states that mineral working or waste disposal “should not harm the immediate setting and nature conservation value of the River Thames and other watercourses of significant visual or nature conservation value, or canals.”