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October 28, 2011

Flooding makes busiest B road in Oxon impassable


The scene in 2003
Locals have long believed that the joining of two worked out gravel pits to form the Redgrave Pinsent Rowing Course has significantly altered floodlfows, making closure of the busy B478 more likely. These images, from the severe floods in 2003, show how disruptive the high flood levels were. Several houses and garages were inundated. Another 10cm in the river and levels would have been at the catastrophic highs seen in 1947. More gravel extraction followed by landfill threatens to make this situation much worse. It will also blight a beautiful landscape for years to come.

Take action now. Write to Oxfordshire County Council by 31.10.11 to object to their inclusion of Sonning Eye in their minerals plan.


October 18, 2011

Time running out to respond to minerals plan

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No support from SODC? 

An article in last week's Henley Standard highlighted the concerns of local people that South Oxfordshire District Council will no longer provide sandbags when they need them – just when the risk of their homes flooding is set to get worse.

This community is threatened by over 30 years of minerals extraction if Oxfordshire goes ahead with its plan to approve land along the Thames between Sonning Eye and Shiplake for future extraction in its new Minerals Plan.


A million lorries through Caversham and Henley?

It has been calculated that over the 30 or more years life of the proposed workings, around a million new lorry movements might be added to the area's already choked roads. They would be delivering 2m tonnes of sand and gravel and then bringing in builder's waste to fill up the hole left behind by the aggregates. These lorries will bring dust, noise and aggravation. And just how effective will be the control of exactly what waste gets put back in the ground? 


No support from Oxfordshire?

Now Sonning Eye Action Group has identified critical failings in the process by which their council is promoting the Sonning Eye area as being suitable for gravel extraction. According to Nick Marks, Chairman of SEAG, the process has been 'a travesty' that threatens to change the area forever. Key government procedure on site selection has been neglected.  'Unlike other catastrophies, household flooding is a disaster from which you can never recover – once insurance is refused because a house has flooded, who will want to buy it?'


Spoilt views as local roads to grind to a halt?

Apart from the impact on locals, 30 or more years of gravel extraction followed by landfill risks spoiling a beautiful area for the many who enjoy visiting it or who drive through it. Views from the river and footpaths could be affected. Worsened flooding across roads carrying 15,000 vehicles a day will bring the local road network grinding to a halt.

Nick Marks said it was vital that people email mineralsandwasteplanconsultation@oxfordshire.gov.uk to express their disapproval of the inclusion of the Sonning Eye site at Caversham in the plan. The deadline for this is 31st October.


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October 04, 2011

Act now while your voice will be heard

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Will you respond to Oxfordshire's consultation on where gravel should be dug in the county? If you care about the beautiful countryside around Sonning Eye, you only have until the end of the month to tell OCC that no more gravel should be dug there, saving the area from decades of despoilation by landfill. Full details are in our PDF newsletter which you can download here.

Increased risk of flooding
We have mapped local property levels against the 2003 flood level. Almost half of the houses in Sonning Eye would have flooded if levels had continued much longer. Every further 10cm of level rise would have flooded another 3 houses. We have very real fears that not only will huge soil banks hold up flood flows, replacing porous gravel with impermeable landfill will also make flooding in Sonning Eye much, much worse.

How should I respond?
Please write to Lois Partridge, Planning Policy Officer, Oxfordshire County Council, Speedwell House, Speedwell Street, Oxford OX1 1NE or visit this link: http://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/links/public/mineralsandwas.... Please do this by 30/10.

What should I say?
The words you use are up to you, but consider:

  • By leaving massive soil banks on the floodplain Lafarge operates in a way that completely conflicts with Government rules, and that makes flooding risks much higher.
  • OCC has neglected its duty to protect areas at high risk from flooding from the impact of gravel extraction. Without landfill, the extraction would have far less impact on the local community.
  • Sonning Eye is a Conservation Area and its beautiful setting must be protected. There is plenty of gravel elsewhere, where the impact of extraction will be far, far less.
  • Every time floods block the road the disruption to many lives in the Reading area is massive.
  • After around 70 years of gravel extraction locally, enough is enough for Sonning Eye.

Who else is involved?
We have taken the advice of our MP and County Councillor, to whom you might like to copy your letter. You might also like to copy your response to Councillor Judith Nimmo-Smith, SODC cabinet member for flooding: 78 St Andrews Road Henley on Thames, Oxon RG9 1JE. SEAG has also taken consultants’ advice, this is attached.

What next?
We expect to scrutinise Lafarge’s planning application for 30+ years of gravel extraction very carefully when it finally arrives. Besides flooding and planning blight on Sonning Eye, we will be looking at the impact on archaeology at the site, on the Thames Path and on landscape value. SEAG is not opposed to the principle of gravel extraction. It is however opposed to gravel extraction that makes flooding worse and that blights the area. We will be asking for your support then.

Thank you.