Saturday, 31 May 2008

Impact map

Here is a map showing the impact of the proposed workings.

Site Map

Here is the site map

Water, water everywhere ...

The problem that we have is that its just more workings here. Look at this map of our area ...

View Larger Map

See all the water filled gravel pits that are here already. And you cannot see on this map the old pits that have been used for landfill too.

Friday, 30 May 2008

What is OUTRAGE?

OUTRAGE (Oxford Upper Thames Residents Against Gravel Extraction) is a Northmoor based community group which has has been active since the 'Seventies in opposing gravel applications in the area:

"It recognises the need for gravel. Oxfordshire is required to deliver its quota. Northmoor is however not the right place to dig. Stonehenge Farm is a pit too far. For decades West Oxfordshire has contributed most (70%) of Oxfordshire's gravel requirements. Other gravel-bearing areas of the county have suffered much less. ENOUGH is ENOUGH!"

Follow this link to the OUTRAGE Website:

Presentations to Planning Committee on 19th May

Below you can read three of the 5 minute presentations made to the Planning Committee on 19th May: the first was made by Terry Kirkpatrick, representing Moreton; the second by Robert Florey, Chairman of Northmoor Parish Council and long time resident and the third by Julie Hankey representing OUTRAGE.

Presentation by Col Terry Kirkpatrick

Chairman, I'm here today representing the residents of the hamlet of Moreton.

Environmental Law is governed by the overarching ‘precautionary principle’. This law also requires that the environment and its residents should not be put at any increased risk as the result of any development. Together, these mean that a developer is required, beyond reasonable doubt, to demonstrate that a scheme will not increase risk. In their turn, Planning Authorities and their statutory consultees have a duty to ensure that developments cannot increase this risk. Notice, not ‘significant’ risk, but risk in an absolute sense.

Hanson Aggregates has not followed the precautionary principle in preparing this application in at least two respects:

* Firstly, it recognises that, without mitigating measures, the only water supply to a number of properties will be cut off by the quarry, but it has not demonstrated that the proposed mitigating measures can work in all climatic conditions. This contravenes the Water Framework Directive.

* Secondly, it has not demonstrated that flood levels at local properties will be the same or lower with the quarry in place, than they would be without a quarry. This contravenes Planning Policy Statement 25.

Equally, The Environment Agency has not required Hanson Aggregates to undertake the straightforward, inexpensive work that would be required to demonstrate the precautionary principle here. This failure of duty by the Environment Agency has resulted in legal action leading to a Judicial Review being taken against them.

By its own admission, The Environment Agency has also been unlawfully withholding information submitted to it supporting this application. My neighbours and I, therefore, have been unable to make comprehensive and reasoned objections to the application. This is in direct contravention of the EIA Regulations 1999.

Furthermore, although it is admitted in Hanson’s application, your officers have omitted to mention in their report to you, that the permeable margins surrounding the lakes and reed beds will require maintenance in perpetuity to ensure hydraulic connectivity between the lakes and the aquifer. Without this maintenance, the local wells will dry up at some time in the future. This maintenance has not been funded and, it is understood, the site landowner has refused to accept responsibility for it.

Also, the Environment Agency has only recently recognised that the siting of this development must undergo the full sequential test required by PPS25. This analysis has been rushed through by the council’s officers and we have not been given the opportunity to scrutinise their work. An analysis of currently identified locations will show that a number are available in lower flood zones that would satisfy all the demand for sand and aggregate for this area. It is not a valid argument to say (as your officers have suggested) that these sites are not owned by Hanson Aggregates.

Finally, we believe that the omissions and language in your Chief Officer’s report are couched so as to persuade you to accept his recommendations, rather than reporting to you in a balanced way, and letting the facts speak for themselves. For example, he says that the Environment Agency has no ‘cause’ to raise an objection, which he is not qualified to judge, when, in fact the Environment Agency has ‘chosen’ not to make an objection, which is the subject of the request for Judicial Review.
We fully understand that there are many dangers for a planning authority that chooses not to accept the advice of a statutory consultee. This is a clear case, however, of the circumstances in which it is proper for the determination of the application to be postponed.

My neighbours and I believe strongly, therefore, that this committee is not yet in a position to take any informed decision regarding the Hanson Aggregate’s application. It should postpone consideration until further work has been done:
· on maintenance costings,
· on the sequential test,
· on proving the groundwater mitigation scheme,
· on a full Level 3 Flood Risk Assessment and
· on the outcome of the request for a Judicial Review against the Environment Agency.

Presentation by Mr Robert Florey

Mr Chairman -I am addressing this committee on two counts. Firstly as Chairman of Northmoor Parish Council and secondly as a long standing resident of the village of some 48 years and a local landowner.

Firstly, looking at this application from a Parish Council point of view, the Head of Sustainable Development states in his report that this application cannot be viewed as an extension of the quarry. It must be viewed as a completely new site. The Parish Council has always emphasised this and I urge this committee to view it as such and not as an extension.

I move now to the matter of the Routing Agreement.

In past years this agreement was supposed to be in place, but it has never worked. Gravel lorries were still to be found ignoring the regulations and using local minor roads, not intended or suitable for such traffic. I sit on the Liaison Committee which comprises representations of this Council, Hansons, Parish Councils and other local bodies. Time and again, this would be bought up at the meeting and time and again it was found not to be working.

If it were successfully implemented and the heavy traffic routed onto the A415, A40 towards Oxford and then the A34, it would lead to bedlam. The Parish council, when making representations to this committee stated this point. These roads at the best of times are heavily congested and at worst are at a standstill. The local highways infrastructure is not capable of withstanding this amount of extra traffic, especially as vehicle numbers continue to increase as they are at present and this does not take into account the increase in traffic that will come from the huge expansion of Witney and Carterton.

I will now move on to how the gravel workings have affected the village of Northmoor.

The officer in his report states that the quarrying of gravel has not really affected the village and its residents. I can tell this committee that, having lived in this village for some 48 years, this is certainly not the case. Where once upon a time, residents of this village enjoyed a large farming landscape, vast areas of this have now been destroyed.

  • Where we now have Stoneacres Lake, it was good agricultural land – now gone forever.

  • We now have the lakes at Watkins Farm which was good agricultural land – now gone forever.

  • Where we had the Ireland land excavated, more good agricultural land, this has also gone forever.

This is by no means all the land that has been excavated in close proximity to the village.

In his report, the Head of Sustainable Development describes the area as “not the best and most versatile agricultural land”. We may not be in the fens of East Anglia but this land is capable of producing some very good, high yielding crops. I ought to know as I farm alongside the application area.

The next area to look at is the matter of Representations.

We have seen some detail in the report regarding representations to this committee from individuals and certain bodies. However, many of the points that are quite rightly raised seem to be dismissed with hardly a comment or debate.

One point that was raised by many people and also the Parish Council was the problem with the earth bunds and the increased risk of flooding. I think this committee needs to look more closely at the response from the Environment Agency.

As a landowner in close proximity, I recently wanted to restore an old pond which had been trodden in by cattle over the years. All it needed was for this small area to be dug out and the spoil graded up the sides, to restore it back to what it was. I was informed that the Environment Agency would object as it could impede the flow of flood water.

How therefore can the applicant, in light of the dreadful flooding that we have just experienced, be permitted to put in place these bunds and tell us that it would not impede the flow of flood water?

I am afraid it smacks of one rule for for us and one for them.

On the subject of water, I am also concerned that during times of dry weather, the water levels in water courses that supply drinking water to my livestock and four or five other farming neighbours will be severely affected by this application.

On the subject of Landscape Character, the report states that the development would change rather than damage the character of the landscape and that the restoration proposals would provide an acceptable alternative landscape.

Acceptable to whom? Not us. It is not as if we are short of water features in this area. We have rivers and lakes completely surrounding us – we don't need any more.

In his conclusion, the Head of Sustainable Development states that in the longer term the development could have positive effects in the local area. I have read through this report and I am sorry but I cannot see where they are, without losing what we have already got.

I strongly urge this committee to look very closely at the merits or not of this application.

Presentation by Mrs Julie Hankey, Chair, OUTRAGE

Mr Chairman, I represent Outrage, a Northmoor-based community group which has campaigned on gravel matters for the last thirty years.

I should just say that during the four years that this application has been in play, we have been dealt with by the case officer and her immediate predecessors with courtesy and professionalism. It was a shock therefore to read your department's report. It reminded me of the eighties, when Stonehenge was first applied for, and when different standards prevailed. And this is the main point that I wish to make: your officers have given you a heavily slanted report which should not be relied on as the basis for a fair and reasoned decision.

Let me give you some examples:

Your officers state that Northmoor has 'not had a great deal of experience of gravel working, as most extracted areas are some distance to the north west'. This is false, and they must know it.

The diggings at Northmoor extend across the north of the village, from west to east, and are mostly only a field or two away. Gravel applications and the ongoing nuisance of the workings have long been the subject of communications between Northmoor residents and these very officers.

The dark orange on the map indicates the extent of workings in the Lower Windrush Valley – and my next example is concerned with cumulative impact.

West Oxfordshire has been over-dug, with scores of lakes and infilled areas, old and new, around Ducklington, Hardwick, Stanton Harcourt, Standlake and Northmoor. The accumulated impact of all this has now reached a point where parishes everywhere are saying enough is enough.

The new Oxfordshire Structure Plan reflects this concern and states that 'in assessing the impact of new locations for mineral workings ...the Council will consider the cumulative impact of mineral working across an area...'

The officers' report mentions cumulative impact, but only to distort its meaning. It claims that 'there will not be a cumulative impact of additional working, as this site is proposed to replace the Stanton Harcourt Quarry nearby'. This implies that a later impact somehow replaces and does not add to an earlier impact, that if the impacts aren't simultaneous then it doesn't matter. This is a smokescreen. We know what the words mean, and so do the officers. The Minerals Planning Department itself confirmed to me last year in writing that 'cumulative impact includes all the impacts ... both current operations and past workings' (e-mail from Peter Day, 6/02/07).

I turn to the issue of alternative sites:

The developer is required by planning regulations to provide 'an outline of the main alternative sites studied'. The application mentions the list of sites under consultation for the new Local Development Framework, but it provides no outline and no evidence of any alternatives studied. The officers have not only failed to challenge this, but offer a number of excuses for it, and even pre-judge the issue, saying that if better sites were found, 'Stonehenge Farm may still be needed and may be better than many other sites'.

Mr Chairman, it is not the function of your officers to excuse or explain why the applicant has failed to comply with a legal requirement, nor to say, in effect, that it doesn't matter because it won't make any difference anyway.

My last example concerns the question of need.

You will probably be told that gravel can only be dug where it is. This is not the same as saying that it must be dug wherever it is. You will also be told that the County is required by policies MPS1 and Regional Planning Guidance 9, to provide a seven-year landbank, which now stands at 2.6 years.

However, Mr Chairman, the report does not point out that, in the words of the planning department itself, 'there is no penalty for not achieving or maintaining these levels' and that 'the maintenance of this [landbank] ... is dependent on the industry submitting enough planning applications in acceptable locations' (e-mail from Mary Thompson, 26/11/07).

Stonehenge Farm is not an acceptable location. It raises genuine environmental problems, as we have heard. I will add another: Outrage has demonstrated in its objection, the absence of a sufficiently large market within range of sustainable transport. But we all might as well have saved our breath. The market? The report declines to engage with the evidence we produce. Unsustainability? The report surmises that the applicant won't want to make long journeys.

In short, all arguments against this application are trumped by MPS1 and RPG9.


Mr Chairman, the House of Commons guide to judicial review (Judicial Review: A short guide to claims in the Administrative Court (House of Commons Research Paper 06/44 28 September 2006) clearly states that 'a public body is not entitled ... to act under a completely inflexible policy' and that 'a body or tribunal is not entitled blindly to follow policy guidelines' (section B para 1b: Illegality - Unlawfully delegating power or fettering discretion).

The officers' report blindly and inflexibly follows certain policies and policy guidelines in favour of gravel extraction. Your council, Mr Chairman, is not entitled to do this.

Flood Alert

Oxfordshire on flood alert

A warning has been issued about possible flooding in

The area has seen a great deal of rain in the last few hours, and more
heavy rain is forecast. The area between Bourton-on-the-Water and
Newbridge is particularly at risk, says the Environment Agency.
River levels on the Thames and Evenlode are already high and still
rising, the agency says.

Areas at risk include the towns and villages of
Bourton-on-the-Water, Standlake, Hardwick, Worsham, Burford,
Witney and Newbridge

Source: BBC News, 30th May 2008

Rivers placed on flood watch

Four Oxfordshire rivers have been put on Flood Watch by the
Environment Agency.

The agency has warned low lying land and roads near the River
Evenlode, River Ock, River Thame and River Windrush are
expected to flood.

It advises people living near those rivers to monitor local news,
charge their mobile phone and check on the safety of pets
and livestock.

Source: Witney Gazette 2:53pm Thursday 29th May 2008

Wednesday, 28 May 2008


More on Northmoor at Wikipedia

Flooding/Water Comments

Comments/Photos on Flooding/Water Issues

Photo taken on 28th May towards the bottom end of Sutton Lane after heavy rainfall.

"We are all trying hard here to live with the flooding issue, and are good at looking after ourselves and each other in the village, but we are restricted in what we can do by Environment Agency rules - no digging of waterways and building up banks to keep water off the land as this would impede water flow. However it seems that this is just what will happen at Stonehenge - digging and building of banks to keep themselves dry. Presumably all the water will make its way to the rest of us."
Sent in by Julia from Northmoor on 30th May

" ....... I quite agree with your concerns about flooding as we have a similar problem at Yelford."
Sent in by Philip Rogers from Yelford on 29th May

Below: Downs Road, Standlake, opposite the church and next to the footpath. Photo taken 29th May 2008

"The heavy rain of the last few days has highlighted just how sensitive Northmoor is to the risk of flooding. Already there are huge pools in many of the fields, and Moreton Brook has come up about 1 foot overnight. The Thames is already over the bank and in the Maybush garden at Newbridge.

Understand our concerns, therefore, about the impediment to free water flow caused by the bunding and clay lining proposed at Stonehenge Farm. Even a small change could have devastating effects in such an exquisitely sensitive area. With the previous gravel diggings higher up the Windrush, that river is already prone to flooding because the usual buffering from vegetation etc is no longer there. More of the same at Stonehenge can only exacerbate an already grave flooding risk. Wake up EA and do your duty. OBJECT to this application, as you invariably do when it is from a private individual. " Sent in by a Northmoor Objector on 29th May

"As a Northmoor resident I have a good insight, from personal observation over many years, into the water flows across our farmland and the typical sources of flooding. There are two strands to this.

One is the Thames, and we have a flood bank and flood ditch, along with at least one key sluice, that protect the village from a substantial amount of flooding from that direction, although all now need maintenance. We believe that they were created by the old Thames Conservancy, now subsumed by the EA.

The other source of flooding is the Windrush, which joins the Thames at Newbridge. The Windrush floods easily and copiously because when the Thames is high a huge backlog of water builds up at the junction, bursting the banks of the Windrush and overflowing into the fields. This then drains down to the Thames via the various brooks and across the fields. The important point to note is that all that flood water is the wrong side of the flood bank.

Stonehenge Farm accommodates an important part of the Windrush overspill. The bunds and clay-lined ponds proposed by the applicant will seriously impede this free flow. I am amazed that the EA to not object on this ground alone. I certainly do, because they will increase the risk of flooding on our land, they will increase the amount of flooding in Moreton Lane and they will increase the amount of flooding in the village. We have no need of models to show this, we observed the process in action last year on the ground.

At a time when the EA has cut back savagely on waterway maintenance, we suffer from poor local drainage, as evidenced by the pools of water already in the fields after just a couple of days of rain. Flooding is therefore a real threat to us. We must stop this development which will only increase that threat."
Sent in by Graham from Northmoor on 28th May

Transport - Comments

Comments on Transport Issues

"In November 2006, OCC carried out a survey of all lorry traffic, including traffic associated with Watkins Farm, travelling north and south on the B4449 through the village of Sutton to the north of Stanton Harcourt. This route avoids the A415, is a shortcut to the A40, and is disallowed in the routeing agreement for Watkins Farm. The results of this survey demonstrate that this routeing agreement - the very agreement which the applicant (Hanson Agreegates) proposes should be continued for Stonehenge Farm traffic - is failing for about 45% of the time. In one day, out of 80 lorry movements in and out of Watkins Farm, 35 followed the route north or south through Sutton." (Source: Response by Outrage dated 25th March 2008 to the revised application to extract Sand and Gravel at Stonehenge Farm, Northmoor)

"When in the Planning Application it says that there will be an average of 40 lorry movements per day, does that mean 20 lorries going in and coming out each day? Or does it mean 40 lorries coming to collect gravel each day and going out again? And is the average calculated over five days or seven?"
Sent in by Michael from Northmoor on 29th May

"Hanson's application specifies 20 lorry movements in and 20 out, this
rising at busy times to 25 in and out." Sent in by Julie Hankey, Outrage

"Impact on rural villages
Villages in West Oxfordshire already affected by the impact of gravel extraction and some small industrial sites. I am concerned that further industrialisation will put the villages at risk of becoming polluted, dangerous, and throughways for trucking. Many of the villages are of historic importance and further gravel extraction will in my view put this at risk. Villagers will not want to live there, the exterior of houses (many of historic importance) will get dirty very quickly and require additional maintenance, house prices will fall, and the villages will deteriorate.

Danger and pollution to villagers
In addition, the villages will become further polluted by trucks, which in my view appear to be dirtier than a standard HGVs for moving consumer products. Very recently at 6am in the morning, I saw a gravel truck parked in a very small layby (designed for resident parking), outside houses in Sutton. While I am sure trucks will stay within a 30 mile an hour speed limit in built up areas, the impact of a collision with a truck, even at this speed will be far more severe than with a standard size car.

The local road networks are not designed for constant use by HGVs
The small rural roads through the villages are not designed for heavy use by large trucks. They are designed for light use, predominantly by standard cars, and limited access by HGVs. They are often quite narrow with sharp bends - I frequently see trucks struggling to get round bends and using both sides of the road. Villagers, through Council tax are faced with the higher bills to maintain these roads.

Many years ago, it was decided not to widen the single lane parts of the A40 to dual carraigeway, in part to limit the potential for industrialisation of the area. the A40 is extremely busy into Oxford, and is not designed to take the volume of HGVs that it does at the moment."
Sent in by a resident of Stanton Harcourt on 28th May

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Date For Your Diary

Monday 21st July at 2 pm at the OCC Council Offices in Westgate, Oxford. Be there if you can to hear the debate. This will lend support to those councillors who are NOT in favour of this application. Details will be posted here nearer the time when the agenda has been published.


* Write to Rt Hon David Cameron MP, our local MP
* Write to our local Councillors nearer the date of the meeting (See full list on the OCC website)
* Contribute to the Oxford Times, Oxford Mail & Witney Gazette blogs (see links in post below)
* Contribute directly to this blog or email me ( with any comments which I will post up for you
* Attend the Planning Meeting on the afternoon of 21st July


The application remarks that "there has been some local opposition" and cites some of the issues raised by that local opposition. These include:
o the effects of noise
o the effects of dust
o the effects of visual intrusion on the amenity of the local area
o the cumulative effects of sand and gravel working in the area
o the impact on public rights of way
o concerns about traffic
o concerns about flooding
o concerns about ground water
o impacts on ecology
o impacts on archaeology
o the effect on the landscape

Annex 3 is however more specific and cites many more reasons for local opposition to the application. During the 2007 Consultation period these included:
  • Flooding/Adverse impact on groundwater
  • Noise Pollution
  • Cumulative impact on the area
  • Increase in traffic on local roads
  • Damage to landscape character
  • Impact on rights of way and access
  • Dust Nuisance
  • Impact on archaeology
  • Impact on wildlife
  • Impact on horse riding – disturbance from noise and conveyor
  • Development should not be described as an extension
  • Does not comply with planning policies
  • Impact on Northmoor Conservation Area
  • Loss of farmland
  • Creation of an industrial wasteland
  • Danger to children
  • Hedge removal
  • Proximity of development to residential dwellings
  • Development would set a precedent
  • The path next to the conveyor will be dangerous
  • The conveyor crossing under the road is unacceptable
  • Lack of communication and information from the applicant
  • Effect on property values
  • Inadequate restoration proposals
  • Loss of woodland
  • Mud on the road
  • Impact on tourism
  • Routeing agreement has been ignored
  • Noise or dust from the conveyor
  • Impact of conveyor on scheduled ancient monument
  • Wetland restoration would have an impact on the climate

During the 2008 Consultation period, following the submission of additional information and the revised Environmental Statement (ES), these included:
  • Cumulative impact on the area/Too many lakes in area
  • Impact on rights of way and access
  • Damage to landscape character
  • Noise
  • Dust Nuisance
  • Impact on Northmoor Conservation Area
  • Disturbance from the conveyor including noise and impact on bridleway.
  • Impact on archaeology
  • Impact on wells
  • Impact on ecology
  • Afteruse not satisfactory/appropriate
  • Disturbance to beauty/peace of area
  • Traffic
  • Destruction of woodland
  • Routeing agreement has been ignored
  • Lack of public access to restored site
  • The access is a dangerous road junction
  • Impact on water quality in rivers
  • Development may cause adjacent farmland to become virtually unfarmable
  • Damage to local roads from gravel lorries
West Oxfordshire District Council has objected strongly to the application. Their concerns include issues such as flooding, recycling existing resources, HGV traffic and cumulative impact.

The WODC Environmental Health Officer has requested conditions to cover dust, noise & domestic water supplies.

Northmoor Parish Council has objected.


The Planning & Regulation Committee of Oxfordshire County Council met on Monday 19th May to discuss the "Application for the Extraction of Sand and Gravel with Associated Processing Plant, Silt Ponds, Conveyors and Ancillary Works. Restoration to Wetland/Reedbed and Fishing. Extraction of Basal Clay to form Hydrological Seals and for the Purposes of Restoration on Site Stonehenge Farm, Northmoor - App No 07/0111/P/CM".

The agenda detailed that at this meeting there would be a report by the Head of Sustainable Development, Environment & Economy (Mr Chris Cousins) who recommended the application subject to certain conditions, including a routing agreement. The OCC Minerals Officer who presented this application was Mr John Duncalfe.

Just a few of the highlights of the application for those of us that live locally:

This is an application to extract 1.55 million tonnes of sand and gravel from a 31 hectare (77 acres) site. The total site area is 59 hectares (146 acres).

I have read that the extracted sand and gravel would be transported by conveyor for 2km (1.2 miles) to the existing Stanton Harcourt processing plant. During its journey the belt will pass over a motor mechanism at the junction with the village road, from where the gravel will fall down a drop-hopper into a tunnel dug under the road, emerging on the other side and continuing along over the fields up to Linch Hill. There will be 2 electricity sub-stations next to the village road to keep the conveyor going. After processing, the sand & gravel will be transported by lorry across Cow Lane, through the Dix Pit complex, left on to the B4449 towards Hardwick and right on to the A415 towards the A40. There will be an average of 40 lorries per day.

It is proposed that the extraction lasts 8 years. Phases 1, 3 & 5 will be worked wet and 2, 4 & 6 will be worked dry using an electric dewatering pump.

"Restoration" and site management will follow for a further 20 years. The "restoration" will be to wetland, reedbed and fishing [lakes].

The River Thames lies approx 400m to the south of the southern edge of the extraction area and the River Windrush is adjacent to the western boundary of extraction.

The conveyor route passes under the Standlake Road. It also crosses over a bridleway and public footpath (which will have to be diverted). The closest property, Pinnocks Farm, is only ca. 15m away.

There is a Scheduled Ancient Monument nearby and the conveyor belt crosses this area. It is an area of archaeological remains believed to be the remains of a Romano-British settlement with origins in the Iron Age.

Full details of the application can be found at:
Here you can also download a Location Plan and Annex 3

Oxfordshire County Council Consultation in 2007 can be found at:

Thisis Oxfordshire features Gravel

Sunday, 25 May 2008

In my Opinion ...

If you have not been following the story closely, this is the place to start...

Despite reference in the Report by the Head of Sustainable Development to "some local opposition", I truly believe there is a great deal more than just "some". It would, I think, be hard to find many in the local area who believe that our way of life would be enhanced by the extraction of 1.55 million tonnes of sand and gravel from the fields around our homes. This is my attempt to collect in one public place the facts and personal opinions of those most affected by the planning application to extract gravel from Stonehenge Farm.

I am not an expert, just someone who lives here, and I relish being part of a rural community. So often, it seems to me, decisions are made by those who live out of the immediate area. The very real issues which dominate our lives locally are issues with which we have to contend daily. The objections raised by local people in response to this application were raised because they truly exist.

We see with our own eyes, for example, the flooding which occurs after just a short period of heavy rainfall, not just in the winter, not just in one or two places near the rivers, but widespread throughout the local area. It is we who have to move our livestock or who have to turn back from our chosen route or footpath because the way is impassable owing to flood water. We are the ones who meet the heavy lorries on some of our narrow country roads. We wish to cycle to the village school, church & shop, to meet our local friends and use the Oxfordshire Cycleway and it is we who then have to cling to the verge to get out of the way when HGVs are coming towards us from both directions. It is our fields that resound with that "beep beep" noise as vehicles reverse and it is our landscape that is made hideous by this endless excavation.

On the morning of 21st May I went out with a couple of friends and our dogs to walk the public footpath leading down from the Standlake Road to the proposed gravel extraction area. Our walk coincided with the Councillor's site visit planned for that morning. We saw the coach, its windows with dark tinted glass, making its way down the track behind us. We stood back from the path to allow it to pass and walked on slowly behind it as it progressed to the proposed extraction site. There it stopped for a moment or two, turned round and retraced its route back past us to the road. If the councillors got out of the bus to examine the area under scrutiny, then we failed to see it.

I was one of the 70 or so local residents who went to the Planning Meeting on 21st May. We heard the petitions made on behalf of the Moreton residents, Northmoor Parish Council, OUTRAGE, West Oxfordshire District Council and our own local Councillor as well as the agent for the applicant, Hanson. David Cameron MP submitted a letter which was read out. There were statements from representatives for the Highways, the agent for the Harcourt Estate and the Planning Officer amongst others. We listened to the presentation made by the Minerals Officer. The councillors posed questions to all those who spoke out publicly and some made statements.

After 3 hours of presentations, questions and answers, I noted, as did others around me, that the councillors were asked to vote on what many of us believed was the motion before them. By a show of hands, it was defeated, 8 votes to 7. There was a stunned moment as the sudden realisation dawned - it seemed to me as though the motion had been defeated. There followed much indistinct mumbling and confusion at the Chairman's end of the table and a second motion was quickly put forward to defer a decision until the publication of WODC's Final Report on the 2007 Summer Flooding. Chaos broke out. There was a general outcry not only from a section of the public, unable to believe what they had just witnessed, but also from a number of the Councillors. To give you a flavour of the outburst that ensued:

"You can't do that."
"We have already voted."
"It makes us look so unprofessional."
"That's ridiculous. So our vote means nothing?"
"Do you want us to carry on on voting until we get it right?"
"The Chairman can do exactly what he likes."

This second motion was carried, 9-2 in favour of deferral until 21st July.

I, like a number around me, left the meeting in a state of shock at what seemed to me to be such a blatant miscarriage of democracy. It was the first OCC Planning meeting that I have ever attended and I did not come away impressed. This was a meeting of such enormous significance to those of us who live here and it was conducted in a way that was confusing not just to members of the general public but clearly also to some of the Councillors who are experienced in such matters.

What I witnessed that day first hand does not fill me with confidence in our system for democratic decision-making. I fear for the outcome on 21st July. I hope there will be a fair hearing for both sides. We realise that there is a need for gravel - but why should it all come from here?

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Oxford Mail Features Gravel

See the Oxford Mail web site here

"What your report does not state is that there were 70 local residents present during the Committee's deliberations ..."

"As a resident of Sutton I see many large lorries going through Sutton towards Eynsham ..."
"Our family as residents of Northmoor are very concerned ..."

"I'm extremely concerned about the EA decision to not oppose the Hanson proposal ..."
"I was surprised by the lack of apparent understanding that was shown as regards the volume of HGV traffic in the area arising from various industrial sites, the Dix Pit and existing gravel workings ..."

"I attended the Planning Meeting and was surprised at the bias shown by the County Council's officers in favour of the Application ..."

"To say that there is 'some local opposition' completely underestimates the almost universal opposition that we in this area feel towards the proposed extraction ..."

Oxford Times Features Gravel

See the Oxford Times web site here

Michael in Northmoor writes:

"West Oxfordshire's report on last year's flooding is expected to say that the Environmrent Agency's failure to maintain the rivers in Northmoor contributed to the flooding.
What reliance can Northmoor place on the Environment Agency to give the right advice on the effect of this Application on flooding in Northmoor in the future?"

Matthew in Stanton Harcourt writes:

"This is only one of a whole range of applications that are being made or prepared for the area around Stanton Harcourt, Northmoor and Eynsham. The cumulative impact of all these workings or proposed workings around and along the Windrush valley is hugely increasing the risk of substantial flooding.

Flooding that ruins homes and makes people's lives miserable.

Gravel extraction should not be concentrated in this way in one single area."

Witney Gazette features Gravel

See the Witney Gazette article and blog here: