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More than 700 hectares of West Berkshire fields identified as potential quarries

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Council identifies sites in minerals and waste extraction sites consultation

MORE than 700 hectares of West Berkshire’s green fields could be swallowed up and used for quarrying after 22 sites were identified as ripe for extraction works across the district.

The sites have been listed as part of West Berkshire Council’s Minerals and Waste Sites Consultation released this month, with one on Thatcham’s doorstep the size of nearly 100 football pitches.

Some of the proposed sites include 33ha at Aldermaston Bridge, 22ha between Chieveley Services and Curridge, 37ha near Brimpton and a sweeping 126ha at Padworth.

The sites are in addition to one at Aldermaston Farm which already secured planning permission in 2013 and upon which preliminary works have begun.

The third largest plot – at Waterside Farm, which lies south of the River Kennet and near to Thatcham Town FC’s ground – has already attracted opposition and a local action group has been set up to oppose it.

If the Thatcham site gets the go-ahead, nine “pockets” of quarries would cover 57.9ha of agricultural land and extract some 125,000 tonnes of minerals each year for 12 years.

Objectors to the Waterside Farm plot had previously fought against siting a quarry there in the 1980s and again in 2014, arguing successfully that the impact on local amenity and added traffic was too great.

Now, in the wake of the fresh consultation, a newly-formed group – No Thatcham Quarry – is fighting the council again.

Group member David Hopley told the Newbury Weekly News: “It is our intent to fight this proposal by whatever means necessary.

“In so doing highlight the damage that St John’s College [site owner] and its agent Savills, is intent on inflicting on the environment, the eco-system, the neighbourhood, and the town.

“We have until August 5 to register our objections on the hope that we can remove Waterside from the draft.

“We would argue strongly the arguments put forward that resulted in the successful removal of Waterside from the current extant plan are as valid today as they were then.

“In fact, the impact of such a project, some 12 years in length, will be devastating to the environmental, recreational and eco-systems around Thatcham.”

Another campaigner, Richard Foster, who has lived in Thatcham with his wife for the last 30 years and helped in the campaign to remove Waterside Farm from the minerals plan in the 1980s, warned of an increased risk of flooding if plans went ahead.

He said: “During the 2014 floods much of Waterside Farm was under water, some of it several feet deep, and there was a steady flow through it of water that would normally have been taken by the River Kennet.

“We are in little doubt that if the farm had not provided that relief floodway, properties near the Kennet would have flooded.

“But the farmland also acted as a reservoir, retaining water that might otherwise have flowed on to flood properties in Reading, and downstream areas of population on the River Thames.”

A West Berkshire Council report accompanying the consultation said exactly how many of the proposed sites were needed to meet extraction needs was “not known” but estimated a demand somewhere between six and nine million tonnes up to 2036.

West Berkshire Council spokesperson Peta Stoddart-Crompton said: “The sites in the consultation document are not ‘preferred options’ they are just a list of the sites that have been promoted that we are seeking views upon.

“The consultation is aimed at everybody. At this stage no decisions have been made on which sites will or will not proceed into the next consultation.

“We have no control over when a planning application may come forward on any of the sites.

“At this stage the consultation remains live, so we have not considered any responses by any party to any site.”

Consultation responses will be accepted until August 5 and representations can be made via: http://consult.westberks.gov.uk/portal

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