County urged to halt gravel extraction strategy

CAMPAIGNERS against a plan to extract gravel from farmland between Cholsey and Wallingford say they have been given a boost by a planning inspector.

They have described as “a significant breakthrough” the news that Jonathan King has asked Oxfordshire County Council to put its countywide extraction plan on hold.

The council has now raised the possibility that the strategy could be withdrawn and re-submitted at a later date.

Under the scheme, 1.2m tonnes a year could be dug in Oxfordshire from the Lower Windrush Valley, Eynsham, Cassington, Yarnton, Sutton Courtenay and Caversham, with Cholsey replacing Sutton Courtenay for gravel extraction from 2020 for 25 years.

Government planning inspector Mr King has asked the council to suspend the examination of its strategy until the end of May, following the county council election.

Cholsey district councillor Mark Gray, a member of the Communities Against Gravel Extraction (CAGE) group, said: “I think this is a significant breakthrough and boosts the campaign’s stance.

“The county council will still keep looking for places where they can extract gravel, so our fight isn’t over yet.”

County spokesman Marcus Mabberley said: “Following recent helpful dialogue with the inspector, it has been mutually agreed that the examination process will be suspended until the end of May this year.

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“The council will decide how it wishes to progress the strategy at its meeting in May. It may decide to press ahead with the plan as currently submitted, or it may wish to withdraw it, do some further work and re-submit it.”

Mr King has asked the council for more information about how it has engaged with other local authorities on its gravel strategy. Villagers in Cholsey and Wallingford residents have been fighting the county’s minerals and waste plan since it was approved last March, saying it would harm the countryside and damage the area’s tourist trade.

Helen Wilson, programme officer for Mr King, said the examination in public hearings could now be delayed until September, but the council said it was not possible at this stage to say when the hearings would be.

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