Trees

The Environment Agency has looked again at the question of trees in the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (OFAS) – this is from their recent newsletter:

‘We have listened to local concerns about the impact the scheme will have on trees and recently conducted some additional tree surveys. Although trees will unfortunately have to be felled during the construction stage, we can confirm that our tree-planting proposals will ensure there will be more woodland within the scheme area after completion, than there currently is at present. 

By surveying individual trees by eye, we estimate that 2,000 trees will need to be felled. To mitigate for this we will be planting around 4,325 trees. In addition, 15,000 smaller trees, such as hawthorn, hazel and elder, will also be planted, along with many more native shrubs such as dogwood, goat willow, dog rose and wild privet. Throughout the design process, our contractors, engineers and ecologists have worked together to minimise tree loss wherever possible. Once a contractor has been appointed we will work with them to further minimise losses of trees wherever possible. 

Our aim is for the scheme to bring a true green legacy to the area. We are currently exploring options for the long term maintenance of the scheme to ensure it is not only maintained as a flood scheme, but continues to provide lasting environmental improvements well into the future.’

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Saving Oxford’s freshwater habitat: FHT and OFAS

The Oxford Mail today carries an article about the Freshwater Habitats Trust’s (FHT) very positive involvement with OFAS:

Freshwater Habitats Trust is Saving Oxford’s Wetland Wildlife

Much more on FHT and OFAS here:

freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/projects/saving-oxfords-wetland-wildlife

Gravel mining – Be careful what you wish for

Gravel mining in Oxfordshire

The County Council is responsible for minerals and waste planning in Oxfordshire, including the preparation of a local plan setting out planning policies for mineral working and supply and for waste management. The Council is preparing a new Oxfordshire Minerals and Waste Local Plan, which will comprise: Part 1 – Core Strategy; and Part 2 – Site Allocations.

Sand and gravel is the most common mineral resource in Oxfordshire.

Part 1, the Core Strategy was approved and adopted in September 2017. It sets out the vision, objectives, spatial planning strategy and policies for meeting development requirements for the supply of minerals and the management of waste in Oxfordshire over the period to 2031. Para 4.21 reads:

“4.21 Policy M2: Provision for working aggregate minerals

Provision will be made through policies M3 and M4 to enable the supply of:

  • sharp sand and gravel – 1.015 mtpa giving a total provision requirement of 18.270 million tonnes
  • soft sand – 0.189 mtpa giving a total provision requirement of 3.402 million tonnes
  • crushed rock – 0.584 mtpa giving a total provision requirement of 10.512 million tonnes

from land-won sources within Oxfordshire for the period 2014 – 2031 inclusive.

Permission will be granted for aggregate mineral working under policy M5 to enable separate landbanks of reserves with planning permission to be maintained for the extraction of minerals of:

  • at least 7 years for sharp sand and gravel;
  • at least 7 years for soft sand;
  • at least 10 years for crushed rock;

in accordance with the annual requirement rates in the most recent Local Aggregate Assessment, taking into account the need to maintain sufficient productive capacity to enable these rates to be realised.”

Part 2 is the Site Allocations, currently being prepared. A consultation began in August 2018 (Oxfordshire minerals and waste local plan, part 2 – site allocations, issues and options consultation); comments had to be in by 3 October 2018.

One of the sites that is nominated and so under consideration is Site number SG-37: Land at Grandpont and South Hinksey. This is a 20hA site, with an estimated yield of 1.5 million tonnes.

A map of the area can be seen on p. 63 of this document MWLPSitesIssuesOptionsConsultation

We commented (as did the Environment Agency). Our own objection read:

“Site number SG-37: Land at Grandpont and South Hinksey.

This area is the subject of a major planning application currently being considered by Oxfordshire County Council for the construction of the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme. For this reason we ask that this site should not be taken forward.”

OFA comment

Many of the easiest to mine areas in the County have been mined, increasing pressure on those that remain. While there are logistical difficulties to mining at Site SG-37, Land at Grandpont and South Hinksey, the demand for gravel seems likely to continue unabated with road and rail schemes and new housing very much on the agenda both nationally and in Oxfordshire. In our opinion it is far from impossible that in future this Site might be chosen for mining.

The Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (the Scheme) is not designed or intended in any way to prevent gravel mining in the future.

However, having said that, it seems to us that having the Scheme in place would make gravel mining at this site much, much less likely. We say this because mining for gravel once the flood alleviation scheme is built would compromise its design and its proper functioning. (The very fact that the Scheme is under consideration is probably already affording protection in the present consultation round.)

Disclaimer: this present brief note is intended to explain the issues as we understand them. There is a great deal more information available in the relevant County documents and on their website, e.g.

https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/residents/environment-and-planning/planning/planning-policy/minerals-and-waste-policy/new-minerals-and-waste-plan  

https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/residents/environment-and-planning/planning/planning-policy/minerals-and-waste-policy/core-strategy#adoption

which anyone particularly interested should read for themselves.

OFAS: Environmental meeting

OFA attended a briefing yesterday (22 May 2018) on the Environmental Statement which forms part of the OFAS planning application. This was organised by the Environment Agency (EA) specifically for local environmental groups. Penny Burt, Phil Marsh and Graham Scholey for the EA covered different aspects of the scheme, and provided updates on the various environmental assessments being conducted.

The scheme will result in the creation of a continuous area of marshy meadow either side of the new channel with various scrapes and ponds to enhance the habitat value. Overall biodiversity should be improved and strengthened.

But there are downsides. Rich grassland meadow in some areas will be lost, and while there are plans to create more of this habitat elsewhere in the scheme this is not without risk. Trees will be lost in some areas, though compensated for elsewhere. Some views will change significantly, e.g. along Willow Walk, and at Kendal Copse just north of Kennington.

Several useful comments were made by participants in the meeting about ways to enhance environmental benefits from the scheme which the EA will think about.

Ongoing effective management of the project will be critical and the Environment Agency is now exploring detailed proposals around this with various local wildlife organisations. OFA welcomes the idea of collaboration between the EA and local bodies, but is arguing that whatever arrangements are set up there needs to be a mechanism of accountability to the public, so that local interested parties can understand what is being undertaken, and what achieved – both for flood relief and for wildlife.