On Wednesday 19th February over 200 people attended the Residents Against Gravel Extraction (RAGE) public meeting to voice their concerns about the proposal to build a sand and gravel quarry between Spencers Wood and Swallowfield.
It was standing room only at the meeting, kindly hosted by Mark and Kim at the Mill House Hotel and Restaurant in Swallowfield. Residents heard from the Leader of Wokingham Borough Council John Halsall, as well as Swallowfield WBC Councillor Stuart Munro, Swallowfield Parish Councillor Jonathan Wheelwright and former landowner Rory Waterer. Chaired by local resident Corinna Bull, attendees had the opportunity to hear about some of the potential impacts of developing a sand and gravel quarry close to a residential area, and less than 400m from Lambs Lane Primary School.
The Public Meeting was front page news (and pages 2 and 3!) of The Wokingham Paper:
Residents are now being encouraged to respond to the Joint Waste and Minerals Plan consultation by Monday 23rd March. Details of the consultation, and how to respond can be found here:
Some of the reasons residents may like to include in their objection are:
Air Quality: There is an increase in suspended particulate matter near sand and gravel extraction sites, and dust from a quarry can cause visible dust plumes and dust soiling. Particles up to 10 micrometres in diameter are fine enough to be breathed in and can cause detrimental health effects. Larger particles can cause soiling and staining damage when they deposit onto property and trees. Intermediate-sized particles may travel up to 400m. Lambs Lane Primary school is only 370m away, with Wise Owls Nursery 550m, Warren’s Croft Play Area 600m and Swallowfield pre-school 750m.
Noise: Quarries cause an increase in noise pollution. Guidance says that total noise from operations should not exceed 55dB, with occasional temporary levels of 70dB. (29dB is the average background noise for UK countryside). The World Health Organisation defines 55dB as the level that can cause health issues for a community.
Traffic: This proposal would increase traffic congestion from HGVs on Basingstoke Road and at Junction 11 of the M4. Access to the site is proposed via the B3349 Basingstoke Road, which is a narrow, twisting country road on a hill with central double white lines and a single narrow pavement. It would be almost impossible for a large vehicle to join the B3349 heading towards the M4 without crossing these white lines into the busy oncoming traffic.
Villages: This belt of green farmland provides a distinction between the settlements. Further urbanisation would lead to the creation of a single large conurbation covering Three Mile Cross, Spencers Wood, Shinfield, Swallowfield and Riseley. This must be avoided, and the individual character of the villages retained. Bordering the site is a well-used public footpath.
Flooding: The proposed site is prone to flooding, with the southern edge of the site classified as flood zone 2 and 3a. By adding the inevitable hardscaping and roadways that will come with a quarry it would reduce the area able to absorb this additional water and increase the likelihood of flooding elsewhere along the River Loddon, including in built up areas. It would also result in unknown changes to the natural drainage system.
Ecology: The River Loddon Site of Special Scientific Interest runs along the southern edge of the proposed site. It is a very sensitive ecosystem, which acts as a movement corridor for a variety of wildlife, including Protected Species such as Barn Owls, Red Kites and Great Crested Newts. The River Loddon itself is home to Loddon Pondweed, which is very sensitive to inputs of chemical pollutants. Badgers and water voles are known to live in the area, otter spraint has been recorded, and there are recent records of sea trout being identified in the water.
Archaeology: The site is also an Area of High Archaeological Potential. There is a WW2 pillbox and anti-tank ditch within the site, part of a pattern of artefacts set along an historic defence line. Three listed buildings are near the site, as well as the Scheduled Monument of Sheepbridge Court which is one of very few moated sites in Berkshire.
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