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October 20, 2010

Oxfordshire Cabinet supports continued gravel extraction at Sonning Eye

Bad news for Sonning Eye and the surrounding areas. As part of the agreement of its minerals strategy for the next ten years, the OCC Cabinet voted on 19 October to support continued minerals extraction in the so-called 'Caversham' area – which means the Sonning Eye pit.

A planning application for new digging on site continues to be expected, perhaps sometime before Christmas. SEAG is resolved to fight this.

In the strategy plans, OCC consultants will now report on the amount of gravel to be produced. This has to be agreed with the Government and then a plan prepared for its production.  If the existing areas cannot supply it, then new areas will be brought in. This plan will go out to public consultation in the spring and then be considered further. It is expected that the plan will go to the Secretary of State for approval by early 2012.

A Public Enquiry may be called and a motion will be put before the full OCC Council of 74 Councillors, along with any legal challenges from excavation companies and other pressure groups.

The supporting documents are available on this site, with the relevant passages highlighted. Or follow this link to Oxfordshire's site.

The new strategy:

  1. wrongly states that there are no archaeologically significant sites at Caversham (there certainly are in their current target areas)
  2. seeks to minimise the impact on the Chilterns (AONB)
  3. does not mention the impact on the River and Thames Path
  4. barely mentions and then disregards the continued impact on local communities
  5. sees proximity to Reading as a bonus (local out of county supply is seen as good)

The wording of the motion was:

The Cabinet is RECOMMENDED to:
(a)              agree the guiding principles for the minerals strategy (paragraphs 3 to 5 of Annex 1);
(b)              agree that the County Council’s preferred approach for mineral working in the short to medium term is:
(i)                 sand and gravel – concentration of working in existing areas of working, at Lower Windrush Valley, Eynsham/ Cassington/Yarnton, Radley, Sutton Courtenay and Caversham, subject to the ability of these areas to provide for the medium to longer term being re-assessed when the requirement for sand and gravel supply has been established and consideration being given to new areas of working if the re-assessment indicates this is necessary;
(ii)               soft sand – working in three existing areas: south east of Faringdon; Tubney/Marcham/Hinton Waldrist; and Duns Tew;
(iii)             crushed rock – working in three existing areas: north of Bicester to the east of the River Cherwell; south of the A40 near Burford; and south east of Faringdon;