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Damning response from residents to gravel pit plans
Objections and anger grow as the public voices their opposition to proposed quarry at Palmers Farm, Wootton.
The serious concerns of residents regarding plans to extract almost a million tons of aggregates by strip-mining agricultural land have been ignored, say members of the pressure group WAGE (Wootton, Whippingham and Arreton Against Gravel Extraction).
A WAGE spokesperson commented “We were dumbfounded by Wight Building Materials’ recent press statement claiming measures had ‘addressed the issues raised locally’ regarding site traffic, the proposed route for HGVs and potential environmental impact of this development. That is not the case.”
Although the planning application 22/00654/FUL states gravel trucks will not meet each other along Brocks Copse Road or Alverstone Road, there is no mention of other lorries, vans and farm vehicles or the safety risks to horse riders, walkers, and cyclists. A proposed reduction in the speed limit wouldn’t negate these risks, due to the very limited width of these roads. The applicant’s suggested improvements to off-road routes would only apply to a limited section of the Isle of Wight Coastal path, which runs right along Brocks Copse Road. This road also forms part of the popular Round the Island cycle route.
The planned quarry site is next to a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), ancient woodland and a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation. Similar proposals to relocate protected species to new habitats have ended in disaster in other schemes. A 2010 survey commissioned by the Isle of Wight Council concluded that Palmers Farm would be among the least favourable sites for gravel extraction on the Island.
“Wight Building Materials acknowledge there will be water run-off into Kings Quay which is a designated ‘Ramsar site’, a wetland area of international importance for birds, where seals and sea eagles have been spotted” the WAGE spokesperson added. Land in the area contains zinc, lead, nitrates, arsenic and mercury which will be washed into Kings Quay along with spilled oil, diesel, rubber particles and other pollutants from the site.
“We cannot understand why a full, independent Environmental Impact Assessment has not been carried out. I will be calling on the Isle of Wight Council to request this immediately, considering the impact on the Isle of Wight’s UNESCO biosphere status” said ward councillor Daryll Pitcher.
One local resident directly impacted by the plans adds “This is a quiet rural area, and I hope people make their voices heard. The assessments commissioned by Wight Building Materials admit that there is uncertainty in the calculated site noise levels, and any mitigation of dust and particles is dependent on ‘diligent adherence to measures’ on the site.”
Residents wanting to submit their objections to the proposed gravel pit have just over two weeks to do so, using the Isle of Wight Council’s planning website or writing in to the planning department. The deadline for public comments is Monday 16th May.
Members of the public can also attend the Wootton Parish Council meeting which will discuss the gravel pit planning application at 7pm on Tuesday 3rd May at Wootton Community Primary School.
Archive: WAGE First Meeting
WAGE – Wootton, Whippingham & Arreton Against Gravel Extraction held their first official meeting last night (Thursday 18th) at Lakeside Park Hotel, Wootton Bridge. The campaign group has been formed in response to the proposal from Wight Buliding Materials (WBM) to excavate nearly a million tons of gravel from the rural location of Palmers Farm.
Responding to WBM’s recent press release Bob Holt, Chairman of WAGE described it as little more than PR spin. “This proposal by Wight Building Materials suggests that it will safeguard untold numbers of jobs. In reality there will only be two people working on the site itself. All other jobs would be secure and in fact if sea dredging was used then even more jobs would be created in the supply chain. St. George’s Down does not only process gravel, it supplies the island with tarmac and many other products none of which are affected by this proposal.”
Regarding Palmers Farm Bob said WAGE have severe concerns regarding the site’s location. “It is in the wrong place, there is no good access route. The suggestion that Brocks Copse Road, even if substantial modifications are feasible, can handle 50 lorries a day for ten years is absurd, neither is using Palmers Road possible. After Brocks Copse the lorries are supposed to head back into Wootton to turn at the Cedars onto Station Road. That is madness and will cause severe disruption at one of the busiest and least safe island junctions. You cannot widen Brocks Copse because the area is abundant with wildlife. The habitat for badgers, bats, squirrels, invertebrates, mice and other rodents cover the road and farm but apparently WBM are somehow going to evict them for ten years. Perhaps they will do it by text message? In all seriousness this is a large site and the disruption will have a big impact on the flora and fauna of this scientifically important area.”
WAGE have also questioned the need for this site to be developed. “By their own admission Palmers Farm is only “one” of the deposits available. We suggest they look at other less impractical areas first.”
Bob was also present at the public meeting where WBM first showed it’s plans to what has been described as an incredulous audience. “Nobody could believe it” says Bob. “Resident after resident got up to challenge Steve Burton on the details but he had few answers, he seemed out of his depth. The idea that they are “consulting” locally is a sham, they are not listening at all. They couldn’t even be bothered to take notes during their meeting. Steve Burton says that WBM are bringing people with them, I would say it was more like taking people for a ride.”
Local Member Cllr. Daryll Pitcher has also weighed in on the debate. “I was shown these plans soon after being elected in May. It was instantly obvious how disruptive this would be and how impractical the access issues are and I pushed for a public meeting to take place. I am very concerned about the highways issue. Island Roads acts as the advisor to the Isle of Wight Council on Highways matters for planning but they are owned by the same company (Vinci) as Wight Building Materials. I have written to the Council’s Chief Executive to ask him to ensure that this is handled in a transparent and impartial way. I do not want the Isle of Wight Council to suffer reputational damage due to a conflict of interest.”