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Barford quarry protest staged in Oxford

SERIOUS health concerns over a proposed quarry in Barford saw 100 residents protest outside St. John’s College in Oxford which owns the land where the quarry will be located.

Protestors who gathered with posters at the college last Saturday were joined by Matt Western, MP for Warwick and Leamington who backs the campaign to stop the quarry going ahead.

Barford quarry protest. (60675201)
Barford quarry protest. (60675201)

Villagers have battled against the quarry Wasperton Farm for seven years arguing it poses a major health risk caused by toxic dust which is dangerous to children and older people. They also say the noise and congestion caused by the mining operation would seriously affect the quality of peoples’ lives as it would be situated 550 yards from the village primary and nursery school, attended by 200 children.

Smiths Concrete, which wants to build the quarry, estimates 200 HGV lorries will need to travel in and out of the site each day, creating more than 1,000 journeys each week. A public exhibition was held by the company in May to answer residents’ questions and outline the proposal in more detail. However, the Barford Residents Association opposed to the plan say their determination is now ‘stronger than ever’ and Saturday’s protest underlined that.

Itincluded schoolchildren, parents, and grandparents who protested peacefully with banners outside the college with the sole purpose of informing the students on site to raise awareness of what the quarry will do to their community.

The protesters handed out leaflets which highlighted their concern that not only will St Johns College risk damaging residents’ lives but also damaging their own glowing global reputation as a world leading centre of excellence in education and research by directly contradicting its own ethos of preaching “environmental sustainability.”

According to the protestors, some students informed protesters they had already signed a petition at their Student Union to stop the quarry from going ahead. One of the protesters also managed to hand out a leaflet to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, who happened to be in Oxford that day.

Malcolm Eykyn, one of the protest committee members against the quarry. (60675035)
Malcolm Eykyn, one of the protest committee members against the quarry. (60675035)

Malcolm Eykyn, one of the committee members against the quarry, said: “Our protest went well, and the students were gravely concerned and angry to hear what their college is doing. 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.”

He added: “We hope 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?”

Matt Western MP said: “It was great to see so many at the protest continuing this campaign. We are still fighting to protect the quality of life and our future in Barford and I’m proud to associate myself with this campaign. I genuinely believe we can win. There is no need for this quarry. It’s in the wrong place and St Johns can cancel the contract and other sites can be used.”

Barford quarry protest in Oxford. (60675114)
Barford quarry protest in Oxford. (60675114)

The protest committee further argues that Smith’s Concrete is planning to mine the quarry once their planning application is approved by Warwickshire County Council and will profit from this scheme for years to come.

Ray Chambers, Smiths general manager 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.”

A comment issued from St John’s College reads:

“The College entered into a contract with Smiths Concrete Limited to take forward a planning application for potential mineral extraction at land near Barford. Warwickshire County Council has stated the site’s potential to provide minerals to meet local needs as part of its Minerals Local Plan 2018 to 32 which was adopted on 19th July 2022. Following an extensive consultation process and an independent examination into the soundness of the Warwickshire Minerals Plan by a planning inspector, this site was deemed to be one of the most sustainable sites to meet local needs during the Plan period.

Zoe Hancock, principal bursar added: “The college will not allow any activity on its land that does not comply with the local authority’s plan and environmental and safety regulations. 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.”

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