Monday, 5 April 2010

Oxford Mail - Local people must fight gravel plans

Local people must fight gravel plans

I write in reply to your story about gravel extraction in Thursday’s Oxford Mail.

I write as Chairman of OUTRAGE (Oxfordshire Upper Thames Residents Against Gravel Extraction), a community group which has been fighting gravel extraction in the Lower Windrush Valley for more than 30 years. We deplore the decision by the Secretary of State to increase the amount of gravel that Oxfordshire is expected to provide. At the same time, the plan makes clear that the practicality and deliverability of the amounts apportioned to each county in the region will be tested at a local level.

The figures are not inflexible. Oxfordshire County Council should be prepared to stand up and say no.

The consultation exercise it has been conducting shows no sign of its willingness to do this.

All over Oxfordshire we are being asked to sign away either our own fields or someone else’s. You mentions the council’s plan to concentrate digging in one or two areas: in south Oxfordshire and in west Oxfordshire, in the Lower Windrush Valley.

The truth is that digging has been going on in the valley for 60 years. A large part of it is now a moonscape of pits, haul routes, banked up topsoil (known as bunds), aggregate heaps and conveyors.

Much of the rest is a string of old field-shaped gravel lakes. The people who live here have had to put up with noise, dust, gravel lorries, dangerous footpaths, and the destruction of what was once a landscape of largely water meadows.

The southernmost end of the valley, where the Windrush meets the Thames at Newbridge, is still unspoilt. Here you can walk safely through fields down to the river and the Thames Path without ever seeing a bund or a conveyor.

Now the minerals corporation Hanson Aggregates wants to dig it up.

Last November the council refused it permission to excavate gravel at Stonehenge Farm, Northmoor – an interesting name in view of the Devil’s Quoits henge at Stanton Harcourt, now destroyed by gravel extraction. Hanson has appealed against this decision and on April 13, at Northmoor Village Hall, there will be a public inquiry. Anyone who loves this part of West Oxfordshire, should come and support us.

Julie Hankey

Chair of OUTRAGE

The Green



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