Saturday, 24 July 2010

Call for Review of County Minerals Quota

BIG increases in gravel and sand extraction in Oxfordshire needs to be urgently reviewed, ministers have been told.

With fears mounting that large areas of Oxfordshire’s countryside could be under threat, the Government has been told to act on its promises to allow key planning decisions to be made locally.

Ian Hudspeth, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for infrastructure, has written to the Communities and Local Government Minister, Greg Clark, arguing that unfair extraction figures were drawn up by the regional assembly, which is to be abolished.

Mr Hudspeth said: “While we accept that in Oxfordshire we have a significant supply of resources, there are large areas of the county that have already been devastated by mineral extraction.”

The amount of gravel proposed in latest targets would see extraction rise in Oxfordshire by almost 20 per cent.

Nationally, however, gravel extracting is to go down by 2.4 per cent.

Mr Hudspeth has told the minister that an inspector should not have allowed a reduction in Kent and Surrey to be compensated by an increase in Oxfordshire, as the minerals would have to be moved more than 30 miles.

He urged the Government to look at making better use of recycled minerals and stone.

Sites in Oxfordshire that could be hit if the proposed minerals targets are not changed include Dorchester, Radley, Benson, Culham, Warborough, Sutton Courtenay, the Lower Windrush Valley, Eynsham and Cassington.

Another option is to include sites near Cholsey, Bicester, Chipping Norton, Faringdon, Bampton, Witney and Burford.

The Parishes Against Extraction group (PAGE), which represents eight parishes in South Oxfordshire, said key decisions affecting the Oxfordshire countryside should be left to the county council.

The group said it had been encouraged that the government had issued guidelines saying that councils could submit new evidence and figures.

PAGE spokesman Steve Thompson said: “We shall be lobbying local government hard to ensure county councillors know that they now have an opportunity for self-determination on minerals policy.

“It is time that every county councillor realises that the on-going plans to exploit the River Thames flood plain for sand and gravel are wholly unacceptable to local communities and must be challenged.”

Reg Little, 23 July 2010, Oxford Times

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Public Inquiry concludes

The Stonehenge Public Inquiry finally drew to a close at 6.45 pm this evening.
THANK YOU to all those who came and witnessed any part of the proceedings this week; also to those who couldn't come but sent messages of support. It meant such a lot to the OUTRAGE team who have done their best to defend the local area from the proposed gravel extraction of 1.5 million tonnes and 20,000 lorry movements over the next 10 years.
The Inspector, Mr Ken Smith, concluded by paying tribute to the conduct of all those who attended the Inquiry, recognising how strong the feeling was on both sides but despite that, how civil and courteous each side was to the other. He gave no indication as to the speed of his decision. It will certainly take some weeks.
There will be more to say in due course but for the moment, thanks once again ...

Keep an eye on the OUTRAGE website for further developments:

Friday, 2 July 2010

"Everyone must help stop floods"

Agency chief executive Dr Paul Leinster said contributions towards flood protection had to come from places other than the Government.

He said while this investment was important, councils “must now look at alternative funding streams, including increased contributions from those who will benefit from future defence schemes”.

In Hereford, supermarket chain Asda contributed £2m and constructed 440 metres of flood barriers as part of the conditions for a new supermarket in the town, he said.

Elsewhere, in Bawdsley, Suffolk, local landowners and residents formed a trust and raised £2.2m for flood defences by selling plots of land.

The EA warned that “businesses, landowners and communities will have to make a bigger contribution to paying for flood defences in their area in the future”.

Last night Oxfordshire flood risk manager Barry Russell said the way flood risk schemes were delivered would have to become more innovative in the future.

He said: “The more we can deliver in partnership, the greater flood risk protection we can provide.”

West Oxford city councillor Susanna Pressel agreed.

In July 2007 hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes in the west of the city after heavy rainfall.

Ms Pressel said: “It’s a very good idea and one that Oxford has been doing for many years now. Schemes like the one in Hereford are a useful source of money.”

Ms Pressel said it was the responsiblity of all sorts of people to pay for flood defences.

She said: “Private landlords should be building flood-proof houses with power points half way up the walls, waterproof plaster and things like that”

Factory owner Terry Siddall was one victim of the 2007 floods – he suffered £70,000 worth of damage to his farm near Hailey as the water destroyed 18 rooms.

He said disappointingly little had been done since to prevent future incidents.

He added: “Our home has been flooded twice. I live in fear of the third time because not enough has been done.”

Mr Siddall said local councils needed to ensure landowners maintained ditches and drainage systems.

“It would not cost the councils much at all,” he said.

Ms Pressel said action had been taken since 2007, including the building of a water wall on Bullstake Close and better drainage systems on Duke Street and Earl Street.

The EA, Oxfordshire County Council and Thames Water have also set up flood prevention schemes across the county over the last three years.

For example, in East Hanney, volunteers cleared vegetation from a local brook and built a flood defence bank and footpath. The EA and local authority both provided funding and equipment.

Ms Pressel said: “There is a lot more cooperation between councils and groups now. Things are getting done.”

Oxford Times, 1 July 2010, by Rhianne Pope