Warwickshire County Council have approved plans for a massive minerals quarry to be built close to a residential village and primary school. Ann Evans has the details.
Barford residents have slammed the county council for approving plans for a ‘toxic’ quarry just hundreds of metres from their homes. On July 19 Warwickshire County Council (WCC) sanctioned the construction of the sand and gravel quarry the size of 126 football pitches.
The site in Wasperton Farm is just 350 metres from Barford, near the historic town of Warwick, and is intended to provide minerals for building across Warwickshire. Villagers have been fighting the plans for seven years and have accused the council of risking their health and ignoring their opposition. The quarry is part of the new Minerals Plan which was adopted at the full council meeting.
The Conservative majority on the council voted in favour of the quarry, cancelling out united opposition from Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat councillors. The Conservative councillor who represents Barford and Wasperton, Jan Matecki, abstained. This was despite him making a speech in which he appeared to oppose the plans.
Residents are fearful about the damage to public health caused by pollution from the mine and more than 1,000 lorry journeys in and out of it every week. This includes toxic silica emissions which are particularly damaging for the development of young children and to the health of the elderly. The site is located about 650 metres from St Peter’s Primary School. Residents are also concerned by environmental destruction and the loss of productive farmland.
The villagers are supported by Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western who claims a fourth quarry in the county is unnecessary because thousands of surplus homes are being built in the district, citing research by a respected demographer and an ex-council planner. Mr Western also brought forward a Private Members’ Bill to Parliament which aims to outlaw mineral quarries – or any that produce toxic particulates and silica – within 1km of homes and communities.
Chief campaigner and Barford Residents’ Association committee member, Malcolm Eykyn, said: “News of WCC voting to adopt this vast quarry outside our back door yesterday has merely hardened our resolve to continue to find legal means to obstruct it at every stage of the planning process.
“The authorities we are battling with still do not understand the gravity of the risk of damage and disruption due to dusty, noisy heavy lorries and mining machinery this would impose on the health of our residents over many years. We have just been informed that the existing Dunton quarry near Curdworth in the north of the county was given planning permission to produce recycled sand and gravel 3 months ago. This will generate the same tonnage per annum as our proposed site giving further proof of the unjustified need next to our community.”
More than 1,000 people have lodged official objections to the plans. Mr Western said: “County council chiefs will be aware of residents’ concerns and should hang their heads in shame for pursuing such damaging plans. None of the county’s other three silica-emitting mineral sites are anywhere near a village – and certainly not a primary school! I have seen analysis that estimates almost 4,000 surplus homes will be built in Warwick district by 2029 – at the trajectory of applications granted and sites earmarked for development.”
Warwick District Council’s Local Plan for future housing and development up to 2029 outlines the need for 16,776 homes. But the detailed analysis compiled by ex-council planner and architect of 40 years, Ray Bullen, suggests 20,320 new dwellings will be delivered in the same time frame.
Mr Western added: “Work by the Keep Our Greenbelt Green campaign group has also cast doubt over whether a further 6,000 homes catering to Coventry’s population should be built in our district – when Office for National Statistics (ONS) calculations for housing need appear inaccurate. Therefore, the sand and gravel from this massive quarry – which would dwarf the entire land space covered by Barford – will not be needed once our Local Plan is revised as I believe it must be. This is devastating and potentially dangerous for Barford and its residents and I will be with them every step of the way as they continue to fight the plans.”
The site – which campaigners say is composed of high-quality agricultural land and irreplaceable ancient hedgerows – is owned by the University of Oxford’s wealthiest college, St John’s. The college, with £650million in assets, has sanctioned the county council’s request for the land to be used in its minerals land allocation plan – which designates areas for natural resource extraction.
After the quarry plans were submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for a review, a public consultation was staged by applicant Smiths Concrete and alterations were made to the scheme before it was approved.