COLLEGE chiefs say they are listening to south Warwickshire residents fighting proposals for a quarry on their doorstep.
St John’s College in Oxford owns the land at Wasperton which has been earmarked by Warwickshire County Council as a possible sand and gravel quarry – much to the anger of residents.
The council is in the process of drawing up a minerals plan for the county which is set to be considered this summer before being finalised.
But campaigners fear there could be severe health consequences – particularly for pupils at the nearby Barford St Peter’s Junior School and also the village’s elderly residents – if the 220 acre Wasperton site became a quarry.
Residents are also concerned about increased traffic. It is estimated that 60 lorries a day would travel to and from the quarry on the already busy A429, raising road safety fears over lorries pulling across and onto the Wellesbourne to Warwick road and eventually onto the Longbridge roundabout.
And campaigners took their fight to Oxford on Tuesday where they held a protest outside St John’s – one of the wealthiest Oxbridge colleges with assets of £450 million.
A college spokesman said: “The college wishes to assure those people who have taken the time to write, that all the letters have been read by the relevant people in the college and their points fully considered.
“There is no doubt that the points that have been raised in the various letters are of substantial concern to the residents. However, the majority are environmental and health and safety issues which the college is not in a position to answer.
“It will be the responsibility of the county council and potential new sand and gravel operator to address and answer any such concerns through future planning processes. The college will not allow any activity that is contrary to the local authority’s advice on environmental and safety issues.
“The college has a social responsibility not just to the people living locally but assisting the local county council to build homes for those people buying houses in the future.
“If there is a call for sites, then the college believes that it should respond and enable the county council to go through the necessary planning and public consultation processes.
“Warwickshire County Council is best placed to decide where such sites are located and then present their findings to the planning inspectorate.
“The college is reassured that any minerals sites are subject to the stringent planning application process where full environmental, health and safety, transport and infrastructure investigations and reporting are carried out alongside a public consultation.”
But the protesters remain to be convinced.
Charlotte Morgan, an Oxford graduate who has lived in Barford for over a decade and whose two young children attend the local primary school, said that St John’s College was undermining its own environmental policy.
She said:“The college’s own website proudly claims that they do all they can to reduce their impact on the environment, and have even won awards from Oxford University for doing so.
“Yet if this quarry goes ahead, the local ecosystem will be destroyed. There will be increased risk of flooding, risk of polluting the nearly River Avon and 220 acres of the highest grade agricultural land will disappear. I’m really concerned about my children’s health suffering as a result of 700 diesel lorries travelling to and from the quarry each week, as well as the dust from the quarry.”