BRIMPTON residents are rallying against plans to quarry 1.3m tonnes of gravel from two sites in the village and have asked landowners to put people before profit.
Manor Farm and Boot Farm have been listed as preferred sites to be quarried in West Berkshire Council’s Minerals and Waste Location Plan, which seeks to guide the delivery of four million tonnes of construction aggregates to meet the needs of West Berkshire until 2036.
Approximately 700,000 and 600,000 tonnes could be extracted from the two Wasing Estates-owned sites respectively over six years and 12 years.
More than 60 residents turned out to voice their concerns against the proposals at a parish council meeting on Tuesday.
Parish councillor Charles Brims said it was unfortunate that both sites had been put forward, despite the parish council’s objections in a call for sites last year.
Residents heard that the operational hours would run from 7am until 6pm, with Mr Brims saying that around 40 to 50 lorry movements would be generated each day, approximately one every eight minutes.
Furthermore, the amount and quality of the gravel had not been surveyed.
Resident John Hartz then laid out the case for objection, having waded through 1,000 pages of documents.
He said that sites with easy access to the A4 and A34 had been excluded in favour of “sending lorries along narrow country lanes and past primary schools” and that Brimpton would be surrounded by HGV traffic
Mr Hartz said that the council was ignoring its own policies and that its methodology was flawed as the district had enough surplus aggregates, but Brimpton was being dug up anyway.
And he said that, based on a moderate cut of the profits, the landowners would make £13m over 11 years while Brimpton suffered with pollution and environmental effects.
Mr Hartz’s wife, Catherine, said that the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England had been surprised to discover that the council had not surveyed the area properly.
She added that ancient woodland surrounded the Manor Farm site and that dropping the water table would kill off the land.
An emotional plea came from Michael Bowden, whose family had farmed the land since 1901, and who said that they had “suffered from gravel”.
He said that digging and replacement of land had left it at a very poor grade and not suitable for growing crops.
Mr Bowden said that while the sites identified were not high grade farming land, they were perfectly capable of growing crops, while the impact on wildlife from disturbance to hedgerows needed to be considered.
He said: “It will be the end of my livelihood farming there.
“The rest of the farm has suffered already and it can’t suffer anymore.
“I know planners don’t take emotive comments, but these are mine.”
The state of the roads was also picked up by qualified HGV driver Jonathon Pinnock, who said that the roads were not suitable for HGV vehicles.
“The roads can’t cope,” he said. “They are designed for horse and cart, not for 30-tonne tipping lorries.”
West Berkshire’s councillor for Brimpton, Dominic Boeck (Con, Aldermaston), said it was a good thing that West Berkshire Council didn’t have all the answers.
“It’s a good thing they are asking for consultation and that you all make your own comments on the consultation in as much depth and detail as you want to,” he said.
Mr Boeck said that the council was a plan-led authority and would be in the hands of developers if sites were not identified
Land agent for Wasing Park and Estates Tim Malpas said that Wasing had no intention to be faceless and wanted to gauge public reaction.
He said that no decision had been made and it was an on-going process.
Mr Brims said that the parish council would object in the strongest possible terms and urged residents to respond to the consultation.
Visit http://info.westberks.gov.uk/mwlppo for the consultation.