South Warwickshire quarry campaigners take their protest to Oxford - The Leamington Observer

South Warwickshire quarry campaigners take their protest to Oxford

Leamington Editorial 17th Nov, 2022   0

VILLAGERS in south Warwickshire opposed to a quarry being opened on their doorstep have taken their protest to the doorstep of the landowner’s in Oxford.

St John’s College in the city owns the land earmarked for the proposed sand and gravel quarry at nearby Wasperton.

And some 100 residents from Barford, along with Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western, protested outside the college at the weekend in a bid to stop the impending quarry, which they have been fighting against for seven years.

Warwickshire County Council’s (WCC) Mineral Plan – which includes the Wasperton site as an area where significant mineral resources can be found – was adopted at a full council meeting in July.

At the time campaign group The Sand and Gravel Committee declared it only hardened their resolve to fight against it.

The 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.

They have also voiced concerns about increased traffic. It is estimated 200 lorries a day would travel to and from the quarry – the size of around 126 football pitches – 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.

The campaigners have accused St John’s College of “hypocrisy” – pointing out that the college’s publicly stated ethos is to “adopt policies that support environmental protection and reduce the carbon footprint”.

Campaigner Malcolm Eykyn said: “We believe the college doesn’t really understand the implications of what they are about to do.

“By going ahead with this 15-year mining process, toxic silica dust and diesel fume particulates from up to 400 HGV movements per day will become airborne for residents to inhale, exposing them to risk of permanent ill health.

“The carbon footprint of this activity combined with that of the mining extraction machinery will adversely contribute to greenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere. Barford is already registered as an atmospherically highly polluted village locality”.

“We hope that the policy makers at St John’s College will share our concern and withdraw their consent for this to go ahead, which is in their gift to do. They are one of the wealthiest colleges in the country and their only incentive is a comparatively small financial gain. Do they really want to risk their reputation and our health by proceeding? Do they realise they are putting a price on our health and well-being?”

St John’s College principal bursar Zoe Hancock, Principal Bursar, said the college would not allow any activity on its land that did not comply with the local authority’s plan and environmental and safety regulations.

She added: “We will require the land to be returned to good order at the end of the process.

The provision of minerals, which are required for local housebuilding and infrastructure from

the most sustainable local sites, as identified by the council and scrutinised by a planning

inspector, are critical to ensure environmental harm is minimised whilst supporting local

economic growth and infrastructure needs.”

Smiths Concrete will operate the quarry.

Smiths general manager Ray Chambers said: “Much has been said in the local communities close to our proposed sand and gravel quarry at Wasperton Fields, with some wilfully misinterpreting unrelated and historical information which has needlessly raised concerns among residents about our proposals.

“Sand and gravel reserves in Warwickshire are running out and the alternative would be bringing in supplies adding to costs, HGV traffic and transport-related emissions.

“What the protestors in Oxford are also ignoring is that the potential air quality and dust hazards from quarries are well known and understood and are addressed by stringent regulatory controls set to protect health.

“We’re now sending invitations to all those who would be our near neighbours* at Wasperton to visit one of our nearby sites – so they can see first-hand what sand and gravel extraction, alongside progressive restoration is really like.”

WCC has long stated it had a legal duty to produce a plan and allocate sand and gravel sites for future quarrying, and that difficult decisions had to be made.


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