We respect the rights of local residents and other interested parties to comment on our planning application and have made significant efforts to provide everyone with the correct information they need to make informed decisions.
Please see below our factual responses to comments that have been made.
The site covers an area equivalent to 165 football pitchesAnswer
• Only 76 hectares of this will be ‘worked’ but not all at the same time
• The work is phased and restoration is done progressively
• At any one time during the life of the site only a limited area is being worked and this ensures that the least amount of land is ‘open’ at any one time.
• Over the 12.5 year period of the quarry, on average, one phase will be worked and restored each year
Hills is buying land for a 25-year quarry and restoration may not be seen for 25 yearsAnswer
• Whilst Hills’ land ownership includes land totalling 106 hectares, the constraints mentioned below limit the area of land that can be quarried to 76 hectares.
• The mineral reserve in this area is estimated to be approximately 2.5 million tonnes
• Extraction will be at a rate of around 200,000 tonnes per year
• Therefore the quarry will operate for a period of 12.5 years
• Restoration is progressive and the early working phases will be restored whilst working is continuing on the later phases.
Hills has extended their site at Tubney Wood twiceAnswer
• Fullamoor Quarry is different to other quarries as the mineral deposit in the surrounding land is not readily workable due to a number of physical constraints.
• The Scheduled Monument at Fullamoor Plantation (west), the A415 (north), the River Thames (south & east) all provide a natural limit to any quarry extension
HGV movements will make existing poor congestion worse eg Clifton Hampden/Bridge/Abingdon bottlenecksAnswer
• Vehicles will be prohibited from entering and leaving the site during morning and evening peak traffic hours during the working week to avoid using the roads at rush hour times.
• The site access is directly onto an ‘A’ class road, the A415 which is identified by Oxfordshire County Council as a designated lorry route.
• Currently, around 68 lorries per hour travel along the A415 to the east of the site (averaged over 24 hours).
• There will potentially be 8 lorries per hour on the Fullamoor Quarry access road, but these movements will dilute immediately as a result of turning left or right onto the main road (A415).
• Hills manages its lorries with a real time GPS that continuously monitors vehicle locations and can identify where problem areas may arise and making the necessary adjustments.
• Hills propose to follow an agreed routeing plan which includes avoiding the bridges at Culham and Clifton Hampden.
Size of lorries is a key concern eg traffic flow, safety, intimidationAnswer
• As part of this application, Hills is looking to contribute funding towards some highway improvement works near the traffic lights at Clifton Hampden. Whilst this has not been identified as a requirement from the traffic assessment, it is in response to historic concerns plus comments received during the consultation exercise regarding the safety of pedestrians in this area.
• The immediate access from the quarry onto the A415 has been designed to Highways Agency standards and takes account of the current cycle route along the A415. At its junction with the A415, the access road includes provision for an island refuge point for cyclists and pedestrians.
• An independent safety audit was undertaken on the access arrangements which confirmed the design to be sound.
Desecrating the Oxford Green Belt, Significant impact on existing quality of landscapeAnswer
• Planning policy considers minerals extraction ‘acceptable development’ on green belt land as it is classed as a temporary use.
• The existing landscape consists mainly of open intensively managed agricultural fields.
The quarry is situated upon the Thames floodplain,
Roads may be closed more frequently, and for longer,
Homes in Clifton Hampden and Appleford vulnerable to flooding,
Flood risk means fewer screening bunds = worse visual impact,
More land dug open to allow for flooding = worse visual impact,
Other sites are available outside of the floodplain
• Hills has undertaken modelling for both the working and restoration stages which confirms the nearest properties will actually experience lower flood levels.
• The detailed flood modelling work has been done using detailed advice from the Environment Agency including making due provision for climate change.
• During the working stage there will be no bunding on the southern part of the site near the River Thames. The bunds that will be created at the plant site to minimise dust and noise will be designed to maintain natural flood flow paths.
• The restored agricultural land areas will not be higher than the original ground levels. The reduction in ground levels over the lake areas provides a larger flood storage capacity to accommodate flood waters during extreme flood conditions than currently exists.
Ancient hedgerows, protected trees and natural habitats will be lostAnswer
• There is relatively limited tree cover across the site.
• The trees on the site boundaries and at Grasshill Covert will be retained and maintained for the duration of quarrying operations.
• Site investigations undertaken revealed limited ecological interest and there are no nature conservation areas in the immediate locality.
• Hills’ restoration proposals will provide a much greater range of habitats and opportunities for wildlife than the current agricultural fields.
• The proposals do not affect the wildlife interests of the Thames River
• The restoration proposals will complement the river environment with more extensive river backwater areas.
• The proposal is designed to avoid the Scheduled Monument at Fullamoor Plantation.
• Any visual impact on residents along Abingdon Road/A415 will be screened with trees, and bunds that will support vegetation and appear green and therefore in harmony with the landscape.
Operating hours: 11 hours a day, 5 days a week and 6 hours on SaturdaysAnswer
The hours are typical of the industry and to reduce these would either result in an increase to the overall life of the site or the vehicle numbers per hour.
Loss of amenity: rights of way will be diverted and open views of countryside landscape will be lostAnswer
• No current public footpaths will be lost as a result of this proposal.
• An existing footpath crossing the site will be maintained and permanently diverted around the site boundary to maintain the link between Clifton Hampden and the Thames Path.
• Upon restoration of the quarry, additional footpath routes will be added which members of the public will be able to use and have greater access to the Thames Path.
The quarry will be highly visible from all directions, including AONB, as full screening bunds are not permittedAnswer
• The landscape assessment of the proposal confirmed the site was contained within a small zone of visual influence.
• The surrounding villages do not have views of the site and mitigation measures will limit the impacts on the nearest properties
• Any visual impact on residents along Abingdon Road/A415 will be screened with trees, and bunds that will support vegetation and appear green and therefore in harmony with the landscape. The trees and Grasshill Covert will be retained and maintained for the duration of quarrying operations.
• The AONB is 1.4km from the site at its closest point and the proposal will have a negligible impact on the AONB landscape.
The tranquility of the River Thames path, a National Trail, will be lostAnswer
• During the working life of the quarry the users on the River Thames will be unlikely to have views into the site as their field of vision is obscured by the river bank due to the relative height of the river to the land profile.
• Where the Thames Path borders the south western edge of the site there are open sections of the floodplain land which will have only temporary views over the excavations at certain times depending on the phasing of the site being worked at the time.
OCC Minerals Strategy not agreed and under challenge,
Granting planning permission ahead of a new strategy is premature,
There is no need for a new quarry in Oxfordshire,
Existing quarries could supply Oxfordshire’s gravel needs for 18+ years,
Demand for gravel in long-term decline, despite economic growth
• The current Oxfordshire County Council Minerals Local Plan was adopted in 1996 and 20 years on all the areas for mineral extraction have been worked but despite several attempts no new minerals policy document has been adopted.
• As part of the Science Vale Action Plan, surrounding district councils have proposed development sites for over 20,000 new homes to support over 20,000 new jobs close to the three centres for science, including Culham Science Park. (Ref: www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk)
• These will all require construction materials including sand and gravel.
• The new minerals policy Oxfordshire County Council is developing is looking to balance mineral extraction in the county and considers a new quarry in this area is needed particularly as other quarries in the area will soon be exhausted. The land at Fullamoor has been identified for consideration as a potential quarry site for many years.
• Recent trends in gravel extraction in Oxfordshire have seen an increase in gravel production as the recession has ended.
Proposed site is 160 metres from Culham Science Centre, a major employment providerAnswer
• The edge of the quarry is over 350 metres from the edge of the Culham Science Park.
• The quarry cannot be seen from the Culham Science Park due to a ground height difference of 10 metres and intervening vegetation with the A415 running between the two locations.
• There is no strict specification for a buffer zone and Oxfordshire County Council policy PE3 states that ‘approximate buffer zones will be safeguarded around mineral working sites for protection against unacceptable losses of residential or natural amenity’.
• This means that where necessary, appropriate separation distances or buffer zones between mineral developments and occupied residential property or other sensitive receptors and/or other mitigation measures will be required, as determined on a site-specific, case by-case basis.