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What we think about minerals

Massive lorries squeeze and rumble down tiny Thrupp Lane Massive lorries squeeze and rumble down tiny Thrupp Lane Photo: © Jane Tomlinson

Oxfordshire’s mineral wealth is in sand and gravel rather than diamonds and coal. Nevertheless, it’s a hugely valuable natural resource and brings economic benefits to communities. But this needs to be carefully managed because the impact of large-scale, long-term extraction of minerals can be profound.

West Oxfordshire is already scarred by pits, which once exhausted of minerals, have been used as waste disposal sites, or are allowed to flood. A few flooded pits may be great for anglers and sailors, and become unlikely wildlife havens, but acres of once fertile farmland and countryside are now under water, permanently transformed into a network of lakes and wetland. How much more of this do we actually want?

In Wild West Oxfordshire, the Windrush Valley has long been a favourite spot for sand extraction. 95% of gravel for Oxfordshire comes from the Windrush area and 45% of the area has been excavated since the War. But now residents are fed up. They’ve had enough. Nine parish councils have set up ENOUGH, a pressure group opposing further gravel extraction in the Windrush and Evenlode valleys. ENOUGH was set up in response to an OCC consultation exercise which set out to identify possible sites for future extraction. We support their efforts.

At Longworth in the Vale of the White Horse, sand extraction from 69 acres of agricultural land was proposed. Fierce local opposition was supported by CPRE. Happily, a revised application to extract of almost 900,000 tonnes of sand over a period of 15 years was refused in 2012.

It’s not just the scarring of the landscape that residents object to – though that in itself is enough reason! The big, heavy lorries transporting tons of minerals along quiet country lanes can make life miserable for residents with the noise, rumble and all that dust. For example, at Thrupp Lane, Radley, near Abingdon residents have had their once-tranquil single-track lane turned into an access road for a quarry. Huge trucks pass down the lane and in places squeeze past parked cars, horses, cyclists and pedestrians. They fear it’s only a matter of time before a serious accident occurs. We vigorously support the Thrupp Lane Residents’ Association.

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