Deadline for your comment on Oxfordshire County Council mineral and waste plans to 2030 is noon on Monday 16 July. Cllr Charles Mathew makes an impassioned plea for rejection. The text of his final speech to Council follows in full.
“Mr Chairman, Councillors:
“I want to start by saying that I acknowledge the difficulty of achieving fair equitable and productive Core strategy for Minerals in Oxfordshire through 2030; our deep thanks need to go to Lois Partridge and Peter Day for all their hard work and dedication to the task. The draft plan should be transparent in its integrity, its logic and its intent. Sadly it is not, on all scores.
“As a gravel fanatic, I feel passionately that this plan does not fit the needs of Oxfordshire nor does it consider the devastating effect on the amenity of the communities of the Lower Windrush and Evenlode valleys and their character.
“You have all heard cries of woe from me on cumulative effect, the lack of infrastructure, archaeology, palaeontology, flood risk, the unimaginative aftercare, the North / South dichotomy between need and excavation, perception of conflicts of interest, lack of enforcement conditions and so on. These problems remain; the answer has always been a hybrid solution.
“I turn to the Core Strategy document:
“It says that gravel miles, the distance from excavation to need is fundamental. The Policy proposes the opposite.
“It says that there will be no increase in West Oxfordshire’s digging, easy to say when there is no base level defined. The policy produces the opposite.
“It says that the policy will not affect the Highways-A34 and A 40. Clearly it will.
“It says that extensions to existing sites are preferable. Where is the definition of an extension? When is an extension not an extension?
“I have consistently requested the uses to which secondary gravel can be replace primary gravel- a very important aspect of any need calculation. I still await an answer.
“I now turn to the most problematic issue of the Report - it does not add up.
“Presently some 7.5m tonnes represents the landbank - approved gravel in the ground. The amount excavated in Oxfordshire in 2010 was confirmed in December as 455,000 tonnes of sharp sand and gravel. Landbank is advised by Government to be some seven years’ production (NPPD 145 $6, p35). That means we have enough gravel in the Oxfordshire landbank to cover 16.48 years. Further calculations show that the Core strategy figures are simply unreconcilable to reality and the result taking Oxfordshire annual requirement of 1.01m tonnes, amount to Gravel Operators’ dream. If one takes the eighteen years between 2012 and 2030 at say 750,000 tpa, one reaches some13.5 m tonnes - even at 1.01 it reaches only 18m - and the landbank plus the projected sites amount to 40.75 as absolute and 28.4 in reserve. This means that the Core strategy is aimed at primary gravel production some two and a quarter to three times the required amount. These calculations ignore secondary gravel and gives plenty for our neighbours, with whom no discussions have taken place, to import.
“It saddens me to say that on all scores this draft Core Strategy Minerals 2030 does not make sense, is inconsistent, unsound and please Councillors reject it before the Government does.”
Nonetheless the Strategy was approved for submission to the Government. Charles Mathew continues:
“There are numerous other concerns with the Policy - not least is that it was composed before the National Planning Procedure Framework was enacted earlier this year and no audit has been done to verify if the Draft Strategy reflects the new planning laws.
“One can go on for too long - green belt, eco issues, lack of consultation and therefore cooperation with neighbouring authorities to name a few more.
“Personally I rate the level of average need for the next sixteen years the most important - because the present OCC position of 1.23 million tonnes a year for sand and gravel must be compared with some 470,000 tonnes in the last announced figures (2010). SEEDA had wanted 2.1m.tonnes. This figure influences all other calculations, which in itself controls the size of the sites to be allocated. I believe a figure of 750,000 tonnes per annum is generous as an average up to 2030 and on that basis, the Core document is way over-egged.
“Please write / email before the deadline - the future of West Oxfordshire as we know it depends on you.”