EMPLOYEES at the company behind contentious plans for a sand and gravel quarry near Barford have spoken out about their uncertain future.
The future livelihood of Smith’s Concrete – which runs operations in the Stratford and Warwick areas – hinges on whether its application for the quarry is given the go-ahead, according to those that work there.
Sand and gravel is used in the materials needed to build and maintain schools, hospitals, houses and roads, but supplies in Warwickshire are running out, the company claim.
Approval of the new quarry at Wasperton Farm, which is included in Warwickshire County Council’s Mineral Plan, is essential to maintain its supplies and secure its future.
General manager, Ray Chambers, said: “For Smiths’ 68 employees, plus many more local contractors and suppliers, the decision is critical. We have been operating in the area for over 60 years, but our nearby quarries are nearly exhausted. If Wasperton doesn’t get the green light our customers will need to bring in supplies by road from elsewhere, adding to the number of HGVs on the road, and we’ll all be looking for new jobs.”
Transport manager Paul Simpson continued: “It’s frustrating to see people who have never even visited a sand and gravel quarry and don’t understand how they are operated protesting against the plans, when, for us and our families, it’s about securing our futures.”
Mr Chambers added: “Much of the opposition to our plans at Wasperton Farm appears to be based on incorrect assumptions that it will add to traffic – but not adopting our proposals will only add to traffic across the county. I have calculated that when Smiths’ operations at Wolston close in 2025, the move to Wasperton would reduce the distance travelled by our aggregate deliveries to our own concrete plants by around 40 per cent in Warwickshire.”
Without Wasperton, the alternative will be to bring material from outside the county and Mr Chambers believes this will nearly double the distance that such movements will require.
He added: “I do worry that if the site at Wasperton Farm is not developed, the future of Smiths and those of our employees will be at risk.”
Warwickshire County Council agreed to consider Smith Concrete’s planning application for a quarry earlier this month.
But residents on the proposed quarry’s doorstep have been campaigning for more than six years against the plans.
Campaigners have long argued there could be severe health consequences – particularly for children and elderly residents – if the 220 acre site becomes a quarry, as well as the destruction of agricultural land and ancient hedgerows. Campaigners have also voiced concerns about increased traffic.
Malcolm Eykyn, of campaign group the Sand and Gravel Committee, refuted Smiths Concrete’s claims sand and gravel supplies were running low in the county saying there was already a surplus of capacity of sand and gravel in Warwickshire’s Local Minerals Plan – even without the Barford quarry going ahead.
He continued: “It is important to understand that Smiths are part of the Hanson Group which are in turn owned by Heidelberg, the largest concrete manufacturer in the world. Smiths have 60 employees, we have over 2000 residents, with thousands more in the surrounding area and significantly more than 60 people working near this proposed quarry which will blight their lives and disrupt their livelihoods.”