Friday, 13 June 2008

Impressions of a Meeting (19th May) ...

Having attended The Oxfordshire County Council’s planning meeting of 19th May to consider the application for gravel extraction at Stonehenge Farm, Northmoor, I write to express my serious concerns about the conduct of the meeting and the simplistic manner in which some Councillors arrived at their conclusions.

Representatives for residents of The Windrush Valley gave the most carefully considered presentations, particularly in respect of the increased incidence of flooding caused by continuing gravel extraction in this area. Presentations were backed up by as much scientific and practical evidence as possible. It is absolutely clear that the objections expressed were not made as a result of the ‘nimbyism’ often associated with planning objections these days but with a sincere and genuine fear of the flooding which will undoubtedly result if excavation in The Lower Windrush Valley is allowed to continue.

In response to the considered presentations, some Councillors summed up the complex matter with comments like “another 80 acres won’t make any difference” and “It’s not our place to question reports from The Environment Agency”.

These councillors showed a complete lack of understanding of the dire danger to public and to property by choosing to ignore the obvious. Over half of The Lower Windrush Valley has already been dug for gravel, leaving lakes and wastelands that are entirely useless for absorbing water in times of flood. Gravel acts like a sponge, absorbing water when the water table is high and releasing it slowly back into the streams and rivers as the flood recedes. No thinking person on earth can say “gravel extraction will not cause additional flood risk” when HALF the natural absorbency of the land has been removed. I say nothing of the added dangers of the associated ‘bunds’ which interfere with the free flow of water and endanger many residents of The Lower Windrush Valley.

It seems to me that to ignore such basic facts borders on the criminally negligent and I shall take legal advice as to the recompense that might be sought a) from Oxfordshire County Council b) from the Environment Agency & c) the operator, should I ever sustain flood damage as a result of continued gravel extraction.

I should mention that I live in a house that I understand has not been flooded at any time during the last 550 years, although the Thames has flooded up to 20 yards from my front door on a number of occasions. Climate change is here to stay and it is the job of our elected bodies to minimise danger wherever possible. For those of us living in The Lower Windrush Valley, gravel extraction exasperates our vulnerability to flooding. We look to Oxfordshire County Council to protect us.

Sent in by Peter Strange, Sutton

For more "Impressions" from others on this subject, see the "In My Opinion" post of Sunday 25th May.

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