Burcot & Clifton Hampden for the Protection of the River Thames
The 5-week period for public consultation and the chance to object to this substantial quarry closed on 13 May 2016. Tremendous strength of community opposition was evident in the 570 emails/letter objections sent to OCC, in addition to the petition signed by over 800 people. Thank you to the many volunteers who have helped distribute leaflets, knock on doors and assist with conducting the traffic survey. You’ve also supported the cause by wearing the #sorrybutNOquarry T-shirt (still available at CH Village Stores) and joining in with TV, radio and news media coverage (e.g. Guardian, ITV news).
We’ve taken a great deal of time and care to scrutinise the quarry company’s application and provide an in-depth, robust response, driven by thorough research and analysis. We remain firmly of the opinion that there are areas of the planning application that are not properly covered or have been dealt with inconsistently. Using the services of a range of professional advisors (planning, traffic, flooding, landscape and visual, noise and dust, environmental, etc.), we have rigorously challenged the application and provided evidence to demonstrate that it is not supported by planning policy and that the facts presented by the application show a number of weaknesses.
What will happen next?
OCC will now be in the process of considering consultation responses from a number of parties, such as statutory bodies (e.g. the Environment Agency, Historic England and Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust), and the views of the OCC officers across several areas (Highways, Archaeology, Ecology, etc.). Various statutory bodies have already made submissions pointing out work that has not been done, differences of interpretation and some fundamental issues requiring further attention.
OCC will invariably ask the quarry company to provide additional information or do further work, which will lead to further periods of consultation over several months. Throughout this time, OCC will be developing its view about whether to accept or reject the application. Bachport will remain engaged with OCC throughout and aims to influence the process constructively.
Here’s an example of how our local activism has already helped. Planning applications for a gravel pit have to satisfy the planners that there is no important archaeology present, or if there is, how it will be protected. Knowing this, the quarry company employed an archaeology consultancy firm in 2013 to conduct a survey of the site (which involved digging approximately 500 trenches) and review all the literature relating to the site. The consultants concluded there was no significant archaeology on the site to prevent mineral working and that having an archaeologist present at the time of digging would be sufficient protection. Yet without access to all those trenches, 2 local people with an interest in archaeology reviewed all of the literature, including 1930’s aerial photographs in the Ashmolean museum, and subsequently submitted a case to Historic England for the Bronze Age burial features on the site to be protected. Historic England agreed and the Secretary of State defined part of the site as a Scheduled Ancient Monument of national importance.
That’s quite a difference of interpretation: from no significance to national importance! That is why we need local activism to properly test the case made.
Local communities can help OCC, who are very stretched by budget cuts and other priorities, such as social care. Our case focuses on demonstrating there is no need for another quarry at this time, that policy does not support this location or the grade of mineral provided, that the assessed risks to the floodplain and traffic are not acceptable or robust, and the loss of landscape, agricultural land and biodiversity is not justified. We will keep you updated. Thank you for your continued support.