BACHPORT: Actively campaigning to protect our local countryside

Burcot & Clifton Hampden for the Protection of the River Thames

Decision Time is Upon Us: 27 November 2017

Planning application for quarry set to go to Planning Committee on Monday 27th November at 2 pm in Rooms 1&2, County Hall, New Road, Oxford OX1 1ND

Please can you be there to show your support

We need you. Please show your support by attending this meeting. Your support is essential to show community opposition to a planning application that has raised serious concerns on multiple levels, not least by the Council’s Highways Authority (HA), which has said the quarry would cause “severe harm” to road safety, threatens air quality and ousts plans for a much needed new road link and river crossing between Didcot and Culham.

Responding to the council’s fourth consultation on the quarry, the HA highlighted the results of recent detailed surveys and modelling work on junctions in Culham and Sutton Courtenay in connection with the development of Didcot Garden Town. It also carried out queue length surveys at the staggered crossroads of A415, B4015 and High Street at Clifton Hampden.

The Highways department is worried about “gridlock”. Principal Highways Engineer, Geoffrey Arnold, says the quarry would generate more traffic through a sensitive part of the highway network.  In his response he notes; “The A415 is an important corridor in the local highway network and it is of paramount importance that appropriate priority is given to this A-road to maintain operational capacity. If exit blocking occurs at these points in the network then it can have a severe and detrimental impact on the wider highway network.”

Engineers fear queues would be slow to disperse and drivers would perform unorthodox manoeuvres.  “Frustrated drivers merging and manoeuvring indiscriminately will have an adverse impact on road safety as will the increased likelihood of rear-end shunt collisions resulting from queuing, especially where forward visibility may be limited. In addition, idling vehicles would add to particulate and carbon dioxide emissions. The HA considers the traffic impact of this development would be unacceptable and will cause severe harm so as to justify the refusal of planning permission.”

Mr Arnold also has worries about an increase in lorries using the quarry travelling through Abingdon town centre. He says extra HGV movements have implications on air quality for the town and urges further consultation.

Bachport spokesman Giles Baxter comments: “The quarry company has consistently ignored the traffic problem, despite advice from the outset by the HA to avoid routing through Abingdon and to assess the signal-controlled junction at Clifton Hampden. The HA survey results come as no surprise to us and confirm our own expert’s survey of the junction.”

Highways have also objected to the quarry as it could compromise delivery of a new link road and river crossing.  Mr Baxter adds: “The road and crossing is needed to alleviate the horrendous traffic that we have now, which will get significantly worse with the massive expansion of housing in Didcot. It would be madness to scupper plans for a new road in favour of a quarry that is neither needed nor wanted.”

Bachport argue that traffic is not the only reason to reject the application. “This quarry will cause permanent harm to the openness and tranquil nature of Oxford’s Green Belt and the Thames path. Demand for sand and gravel has fallen consistently over the past 30 years due to the success of aggregate recycling schemes and new marine sources.   Oxfordshire has permitted sand and gravel reserves for 15-20 years, even after taking account of the increases in proposed house building. There is no justification to support the development of a new quarry in this highly sensitive location.”

You can read the full HA traffic report here: LHA Recommended Refusal of Quarry Application

In advance of the meeting on 27 November, the council has released papers which, at first glance, look promising, as refusal of the quarry application is recommended on the basis of the traffic issues. However, the quarry applicant has since met with the council and suggested ways in which quarry-generated HGV movements may be limited at peak travel times. How the Planning Committee respond to this gesture may well dictate the outcome.

We’re asking for you to show your support and opposition to the quarry by attending the meeting and reminding the decision-makers that their choices affect real people, residents and tourists alike, daily commuters, local businesses, Culham Science Centre employees, school children, the environment, the Green Belt – in a nutshell, all of us and our future for years to come.

Press coverage: Abingdon Herald

IMG_7085

(Above) Snapshot of backed-up traffic at 4.30 pm (20 Nov) outside Culham Science Centre.

THE BATTLE FOR THE QUARRY IS REACHING ITS CLIMAX. PLEASE HELP DEAL THE KNOCK OUT BLOW

Oxfordshire County Council have launched a 4th round of public consultation on new information provided by Hills.   We believe the application will go to the planning committee late 2017 or early 2018.  We urge you to write and object to OCC by Thursday 2 November. 

Here are the key points.

CONCRETE PLANT

The main change is that Hills have removed the concrete plant.   Don’t be fooled.   This is a purely tactical move to get round Green Belt planning policy.  Hills applied for a concrete plant at their new quarry in the Green Belt at Besselsleigh once planning permission for the quarry had been granted, through a ‘Permitted Development’ application, which only requires approval by OCC.   No public consultation is required.   Hills have retained the site for the concrete plant on their plans, together with the massive bunds, a sure sign of their true intentions.

NEW HEDGES AND TREE SCREENS

Hills have proposed lots of new hedges and tree screens to surround the site edges and the footpaths.   But these will enclose the whole of the Thames Path and the diverted footpath in the vicinity of the site, such that there will be no open views to be enjoyed any more.   Hills haven’t proposed to reinstate these open views for either walkers or residents when the operation is complete.  These screens will destroy the openness of the Green Belt, which we think is unacceptable to public and residential amenity.

NO CHANGES TO THE ENORMOUS BUNDS

If Hills were serious about improving the landscape impact they could have reduced the length of the enormous bunds around the plant area following the removal of the concrete plant.   The proposed bunds are the height and length of a street of 3-storey terraced houses and will be in-situ for the duration of the quarry.  Reducing the scale of these would have a far more beneficial impact on landscape.

And in other breaking news…

See here for recent press coverage in the Oxfordshire Guardian Oct 2017

NEW RIVER CROSSING CONFLICTS WITH THE QUARRY LOCATION

Hill’s claim the objections of the planning authority and statutory consultees have now been addressed.  However both South Oxfordshire District Council and OCC Highways objected to the quarry as the application fell within the area under consideration for the new river crossing.  Since then SODC have released their Final Publication of the SODC Local Plan 2033 which safeguards the majority of the quarry site for the much needed road and river crossing.  SODC and OCC have now applied to central government for full funding for the road scheme which, if granted, could see the road development start within 5 years.  The road is much more important to Oxfordshire, the Culham Science Centre, businesses, and local residents than the quarry, so it would be madness to allow the quarry to scupper the road.

GOVERNMENT REVISE CALCULATIONS FOR NEW HOUSING SHARPLY DOWNWARD

Since Oxfordshire County Councillors voted in favour of the Minerals Plan last month which they use as justification for a new quarry, the Government have revised their calculations for future housing requirements sharply downwards.  This fundamentally undermines the applicant’s case that the quarry is needed to meet additional demand.

Furthermore, the amount of sand and gravel dug up in the county fell by 15% despite forecasts by OCC to the contrary, and despite all the new houses going up.  Hills claim that the quarry will produce 250,000 tonnes of material a year but the county used only 680,000 tonnes from existing five quarry sites last year, and one quarry remains mothballed!  The numbers just don’t stack up – production is bound to be lower at least initially and this quarry will last not 10 years but 20 years, creating long-term environmental blight for our four villages and this beautiful area of the River Thames valley.

We urge you to write and object to OCC by Thursday 2 November. 

 You can do this, quoting Application Reference MW.0039/16, by:

Emailmary.thompson@oxfordshire.gov.uk

Onlinehttp://myeplanning2.oxfordshire.gov.uk  Search for MW.0039/16

Letter: Mary Thompson, Oxfordshire County Council, County Hall, New Road, Oxford OX1 1ND

Please write even if you have objected before.  OCC need to know that you still feel strongly about this application even though it has gone on for so long.  In your letter, please refer to the new information and state that it does not address your concerns and your objection still stands.

Thank you so much.

Bachport Committee on behalf of the communities of Clifton Hampden, Burcot, Appleford, Culham and Long Wittenham

Bachport Response on Behalf of 4 PCs to Public Consultation No. 3 (Aug 2017)

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

For more information on drainage and water-related concerns, see here: Water related concerns GWP

Further updates will be provided as and when they become available.

Front page news!

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.” 

http://www.heraldseries.co.uk/news/15474252.Thousands_of_new_homes_thrown_into_doubt_by_ancient_sites/?ref=twtrec

Public Consultation No. 3

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:

  • Loss of high-grade agricultural land.
  • Trees of arboricultural value and almost 3 km of species-rich ancient hedgerow, which will be removed.
  • Traffic through Abingdon and the A415 through Clifton Hampden.
  • Details of the enormous bunds around the site which will be visually intrusive, difficult to maintain, and prone to slumping.

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.

Traffic

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.

Bunds

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.

For your information, the Bachport response to Consultation No. 1 can be found here. The response to Consultation No. 2 can be found here.

June 2017 Summer Update: EA Objections Maintained

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.”

Bachport Response on Behalf of 4 PCs to Public Consultation No. 2

March 2017

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.

  • Landscape impacts

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.

  • Arboricultural survey data

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.

  • Agricultural survey data

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.

  • Noise

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.

  • Flood risk

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.

  • Traffic

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.

  • Biodiversity

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.

  • No need for a quarry

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.

Feb 2017 Quarry Update: Decision-Time Approaches, Please Object (Again)

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.

  • Hills have supplied further information – but nothing in their proposal has changed.
  • Bachport’s concerns have not been addressed.
  • The Culham Science Centre’s concerns have not been addressed.
  • The quarry will generate significant, long-term, negative impacts – on our four villages and on visitors using the Thames and Thames Path.

If you previously objected, please write again or resend your letter.  Say nothing has changed from the new information and repeat your objections.

Email: Gemma.Crossley@Oxfordshire.gov.uk
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.
Bachport Committee

Round 2

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.

Email: Gemma.Crossley@Oxfordshire.gov.uk

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.

Bachport Committee

Feb 2017

Bachport Photo/Art Competition: Winner Announced for Creativity Against the Quarry

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.

worked

Dust to Dust by winner Tim Widdowson

bronze-age-thames_eirian-griffiths

The Thames is Liquid History by Eirian Griffiths

primrose-baxter

Clifton Hampden Bridge by Primrose Baxter

Losing to the sands of time...

Losing to the Sands of Time by Camilla Seaward

Jan 2017: The red flag is raised

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 bachport@btinternet.com 

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.

Bachport committee
Jan 2017

Bachport Photo/Picture/Painting Competition

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.

Prizes

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.”

%d bloggers like this: