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.

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New Chair of RFCC visits Oxford

The recently appointed new Chair of Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFCC), Professor Robert Van de Noort, visited Oxford on 19 October with EA staff. He was briefed on the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme and then shown the Seacourt area at the western end of the Botley Road, which marks the northern end of the Scheme.

We were pleased to meet Professor Van de Noort in South Hinksey, where he went on to see both the lie of the land where the channel will come past the village and on to Kennington to the south, and the earthworks done in the village itself to make the village ‘temporary barrier ready’ for the coming winter and beyond.

OFA Update, August 2017

We have just sent this to the people on our mailing list:

Since our last update in February this year we have seen further steady progress on the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (OFAS), designed to reduce flood risk for hundreds of properties in Oxford and nearby. We have been involved in several ways:
  • As part of the Sponsoring Group, the body representing the various partners in the scheme and having overall responsibility for it.
  • Urging that maintenance be provided for in perpetuity rather than just 10 years. We have proposed setting up a dedicated body to be responsible for this; this idea has received good support. We are discussing with the Environment Agency and partners other possible approaches, and if an independent body, what corporate structure might be best.
  • We have been working with the Freshwater Habitats Trust and the Environment Agency to try to ensure that the scheme (while it will regrettably involve some environmental losses) can incorporate significant environmental enhancements too, including the important freshwater habitat.
  • We are supporting the EA if their efforts to close the funding gap for the scheme – currently at $4m. This money needs to be found by the end of November if the scheme is to go ahead.
  • We have participated in a number of public consultation events about the route of the scheme.
OFAS is running to schedule, and assuming the money is found the next major step is application for planning permission, probably in spring 2018.
 
Local matters
Earl Street has a new, dedicated, mobile pump that will be available to them in the event of future floods. Nick Hills, an Earl Street resident and member of our Steering Group, applied successfully for a generous grant, £20,000, from Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks.
South Hinksey groundworks have been completed, meaning the village is now ‘temporary barrier ready’ when floods next threaten. Many thanks to the Vale of the White Horse District Council for funding and to the Environment Agency, especially engineer Magnus Williams, for all the hard work that’s made this happen.
Both areas can now look forward to the coming winter with more confidence.
Seacourt Park & Ride
As reported previously we opposed the application by Oxford City Council to extend this P&R into the flood plain. The application did not, in our view, show that flood risk would not be increased. We believe that a revised application will be advertised at some point and we will scrutinise this with care. The timeframe for this is currently not clear.
Local MPs
Following the elections this year we have two new MPs, Anneliese Dodds for Oxford East, and Layla Moran for Oxford West & Abingdon; we are in the process of meeting and briefing them on flood related matters. Both MPs are supportive of the need for a flood scheme.
OFA Steering Group

South Hinksey ‘barrier-ready’ works all but complete

In South Hinksey, the works designed to make deploying temporary defences, should flooding threaten, quicker and easier, are almost complete.

Three flap valves have just been installed on pipes which connect into field ditches. These non-return valves will allow water out from within any temporary barrier but not allow it back in from the flooded area outside.

Elsewhere wide garden gates have been installed, reinforced fences built, and removable fence panels fitted.

A very few minor snagging items remain, but the scheme is otherwise complete and fully ready for temporary barriers. Many thanks to the Vale of White Horse District Council for funding and to the Environment Agency for organising the work – not least to engineer Magnus Williams who has managed the scheme from its inception to its completion. Thanks too to farmer Nick Frearson, and to the horse owners for their cooperation during the works.

OFAS: drilling a borehole

Oxford FAS ground investigations: a borehole being drilled this afternoon in South Hinksey.

The A-frame percussive drill dug 9 metres down, below the alluvial layer, the gravel layer and 5 metres into the clay.
The capped pipe is a monitoring site where the changes in ground water depth over time can be observed.

OFAS: ground investigations under way

Digging a test pitTest pit being dug at South Hinksey, 24 September 2015

Test pits are being dug and boreholes drilled over the flood plain below the Botley Road to examine what the ground consists of. Evidence of significant archaeology is also checked for. The information will be used to inform the modelling and planning for the Oxford FAS.

‘Drilling for Oxford’s relief channel begins’  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-34287878

‘Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme: ground investigation work begins’  https://www.gov.uk/government/news/oxford-flood-alleviation-scheme-ground-investigation-work-begins

South Hinksey sewer flooding

We held a meeting on 20 August 2015 to discuss this, especially in relation to possible temporary bunding of the village at time of river flooding.

Representatives from Thames Water (TW), the Environment Agency (EA) and of OFA from South Hinksey met. We had an interesting and fruitful discussion. These actions were agreed:

Thames Water (TW) to initiate a clean of the box culvert north of the village (by today, 27 Aug, this has already been ordered) and update us further on the work that has been, and still is being, done to considerably improve the pumping station at Littlemore.

TW will consider OFA’s suggestion of a sewer bypass for the village, as part of the ongoing Oxford Catchment Study.

Adrian Porter for OFA will fit a chain and handle to the existing non-return flap valve on the Manor Road surface water outlet to enable manual override if necessary.

The suggestion of a memorandum of understanding between the EA and TW, as to how sewer flooding would be dealt with at times of fluvial flooding, especially if a temporary bund were deployed, will be taken forward by the EA.

Many thanks to Thames Water and the Environment Agency for meeting with us and their very positive approach to the problems.

South Hinksey groundwork – update

South Hinksey: groundwork for temporary flood barriers

Permissions have to be obtained, plans drawn and contracts agreed, so it will be a time till diggers appear. Funding is thanks to the Vale of White Horse District Council. Execution is shared between the Council and the Environment Agency.  Surveying has begun. Work on the ground is now expected to begin in September.

South Hinksey barrier-ready groundwork given the go-ahead

South Hinksey’s community demo last October sought financial support for groundwork so we would be able to use temporary flood barriers to protect the village. Great news that our Vale District Council has agreed to pay for this groundwork – needed to level the land, and provide for crossing a field ditch.

Permissions have to be sought, plans drawn and contracts agreed, so it will be some time till diggers appear. Surveying has already begun.

While the Environment Agency cannot promise barriers till the day, the omens are good. The ground will be ready, as will our community team to put the barrier up.