Burcot & Clifton Hampden for the Protection of the River Thames
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.