Quarry campaigners vow to continue fight for Stratford area
PLANS for a huge quarry between two villages on the edge of Stratford district remain on the table — but two other proposed sites have been dropped.
Land at Lower Farm in Salford Priors and Glebe Farm in Wasperton do not feature in Warwickshire’s new Minerals Plan, which were recently published.
But the 210-acre, Oxford University-owned farm site between Wasperton and Barford is one of six that remain in the plan that sets out six preferred locations for the extraction of sand and gravel. The other five are in the north of the county.
The county council included eight sites in its initial plan, published at the end of 2016, but revised down expected demand for sand and gravel last year, triggering a review of those sites.
The revised document does not go into any detail as to why Salford Priors or a smaller site in Wasperton were left out, other than that the review looked at fewer, bigger sites, the ease of their deliverability, and the impacts on the surrounding communities.
Justifying the larger Wasperton site’s inclusion, the document describes it as ‘not best and most versatile agricultural land’ and dismisses health fears that have been expressed if it was to be quarried.
The report says that noise and dust levels would be no more than ‘as a result of normal agricultural activities’, adding ‘…a properly operated and managed mineral site is less likely to create any health issues’.
It is envisaged that 1.8million tonnes of sand and gravel would be extracted from the site over nine years, after which it would be filled with imported soil and returned to agricultural use.
The strategy will go through another round of public consultation and then be examined by a government-appointed planning inspector at a public inquiry.
The landowner of each site would then need to secure planning permission and a company to do the digging.
In the case of Wasperton, there is also the need to overcome a legal precedent, after an attempt to quarry the land was blocked by the Court of Appeal in the early 1990s.
The court ruling that overturned a successful appeal against the refusal of planning permission did not say that mineral extraction could not take place at Wasperton in the future, although the then Secretary of State re-determined the appeal and dismissed the proposals as ‘not acceptable in terms of the development standards and policies being applied at that time and because real supply exceeded real need’.
The county’s new minerals extraction plan will deliver almost one million tonnes of sand and gravel more than the 6.5million tonnes than the county council has estimated will be needed to serve developments over the next 15 years.
Wasperton resident, Andy Steel, a spokesman for the Sand and Gravel Action Group, an arm of the residents’ association that covers Barford, Sherbourne and Wasperton, said: “It is disappointing, because we felt we had a lot of very reasonable and very strong arguments against this site’s inclusion.
“It’s a big site and a very public one on a main route through this area.
“The site is being promoted by the university and its agent, and we’re not convinced that there is a developer who is interested in taking this forward.
“We believe that the income for the university is minor compared to what people who live here will lose.”
“We need to regroup and see where we go with it. This has been going on for three years now and a year since anything has really happened, and there is a feeling among a lot of people that this has gone away, but it hasn’t.
“We have a fight on our hands, but we will take it all the way.
The 123-acre Lower Farm site in Salford Priors is owned by the county council and was estimated to have delivered 800,000 tonnes of sand and gravel. Its inclusion in the first draft of the extraction plan sparked the formation of campaign group Salford Priors Against Gravel Extraction (SPAGE).
Spokesman, Simon Harrison, told the Herald this week: “Obviously we are delighted at the outcome, a lot of hard work has gone into stopping this. It shows that people power can prevail. We had a lot of support from Cllr Mike Brain and submitted a very comprehensive report for the reasons why this should not have gone ahead, one major element being that it was so close to a school.
“The council said they had never seen anything like it. People are coming to terms with this decision, because it’s been going on for so long, but this is now the end of it.”