The Stonehenge Farm Quarry Application

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The OCC Planning and Regulation Committee have twice resolved to defer their decision on the Stonehenge Farm application – on 19 May 2008, and again on 21 July 2008, when they resolved that they would defer “until such time as the final West Oxfordshire District Council Strategic Flood Review was published”. The Committee explicitly rejected suggestions that the decision should be deferred to the next meeting or to any specific date.

Since 2004, when the current episode of the Stonehenge Farm saga was first trailed by Hanson Aggregates, OUTRAGE has consistently argued that the application is flawed and inconsistent with the Council's own policies. In particular OUTRAGE has argued that the floodplain at the confluence of two rivers is the wrong place to put a massive quarry.

Until recently the Environment Agency has refused reasonable requests by OUTRAGE that the applicant should be required to do the kind of modelling that would allow us to understand how the Stonehenge Farm quarry would change the flood risk for Moreton, Standlake and Northmoor. But the Environment Agency appears now, from an email it has recently sent to OUTRAGE, to be reconsidering its position.

Since 2004, the floods of July 2007 have demonstrated that the risks are severe, and that there is very little margin for error. That is why members of the Committee decided that they should not determine this application until West Oxfordshire District Council had published their 2007 Flood Review.

OCC has in any case commissioned, together with WODC and Cherwell District Council, a Joint Strategic Flood Risk Assessment which is due to be published in early December. This document will specifically address the impact of further mineral extraction in the Lower Windrush Valley floodplain.

The Joint Strategic Flood Risk Assessment is itself part of the new Local Development Framework which OCC is constructing after its earlier proposals were rejected by GOSE, (Government Office for the South East).

OUTRAGE has argued in its responses to this application that there are good planning reasons why it should be rejected, and that the Minerals Planning officers of OCC have
  • failed to give the Planning Committee a fair account of the arguments against the application
  • misrepresented the extent to which the area has already suffered from the cumulative impact of decades of mineral extraction so that a new quarry is inconsistent with the Oxfordshire Structure Plan 2016
  • failed to require the applicant to evaluate alternative sites and market requirements as required by planning law
Nothing has happened since 21 July to change the situation or to tilt the argument in favour of this application. The arguments for rejecting it remain as valid as ever.

Solicitors for OUTRAGE have now written to OCC stating that to proceed now without the WODC Report, the Joint Strategic Flood Risk Assessment and the further information to be produced by the Environment Agency would be unacceptable and probably unlawful.

Our barrister Harry Wolton QC has agreed to address the Planning and Regulation Committee when it meets on 24 November.

It is very important that the committee should be exposed to public scrutiny on 24 November. If they decide to overturn their previous resolutions we should make sure that they do so in the public gaze. If they do decide to settle this question, we can encourage them to settle it in the only way that will protect our countryside and our villages.

Meanwhile ...
Come and have some fun at the Family Fundraiser at Northmoor Village Hall on 22 November

Our Fundraising campaign has been a great success. The attempt to nullify the majority votes of the OCC Planning Committee means that legal representation is now more important than ever. Your contributions have made it possible for OUTRAGE to instruct both our solicitors and our QC. We want to thank everyone who has helped in any way - by giving donations, by buying and selling raffle tickets and by buying Family Fundraiser tickets. There are still tickets available for this event. It'll be a great evening out, with wonderful food, music and dancing - and of course the Grand Raffle Draw with lots of fantastic prizes. Please come along and bring your friends.