Oxfordshire Quarry Application Approved
THE family-owned business of Smith and Sons (Bletchington) has welcomed yesterday’s (13 January) decision by Oxfordshire County Council’s Planning and Regulation Committee to grant conditional permission for its plans for a major extension to the Gill Mill Quarry at Ducklington on the outskirts of Witney.
The new permission will enable the site to supply a further five million tonnes of sand and gravel to help meet local needs over the next 25 years. In doing so, it will protect the future of an existing operation that supports 40 jobs directly and many more indirectly and which also recycles local building waste as aggregates.
The council’s approval for the company’s proposals is also significant in terms of what it means for biodiversity and tourism. The plans continue and expand the site’s programme of progressive restoration for nature uses and have been widely welcomed in terms of their substantial potential contribution to Oxfordshire’s biodiversity targets. New nature conservation habitats will total over 120 hectares and will include extensive reed beds.
In the future, tourists will be attracted by self-catering eco-lodges that are planned overlooking the newly created reedbeds and which will help the long-term funding of the biodiversity programme.
The plans also provide for improved access to the countryside for local people and visitors alike with some 11km of new paths and bridleways. Whilst these will be provided over the long life of the quarry development, in the short term Smiths will also provide new paths along the Windrush Valley linking into their Rushy Common Nature Reserve and the Tar Lakes recreation area. Associated with this Smiths will be working with the parish council at Ducklington to provide new parking places in the village for walkers attracted to the new paths.
On completion of mineral extraction, the restoration design also provides for a complex of lakes for water-based recreation activities which are provided for the benefit of the local community.
Smiths is also making a substantial financial contribution to the Lower Windrush Valley Project which aims to secure wider benefits to the wildlife and landscape of the Windrush Valley below Witney, including increasing public access. With Oxfordshire County Council, Smiths has been a founding partner of the project over the past decade.
The new 97-hectare extension to Gill Mill quarry lies to the north of the existing processing plant and is bordered by the A40 to the north, the eastern arm of the River Windrush to the west and Cogges Lane to the east.
Over the life of the current extraction operations at Gill Mill, land that has been quarried has been progressively reinstated to new beneficial afteruses. This has included the Rushy Common Nature Reserve in Cogges Lane which was opened in 2012; and the popular neighbouring Tar Lakes which features circular walks designed with wheelchairs in mind.
The project has been led by Smiths planning and estates manager, Martin Layer. “We are obviously delighted that the county council has accepted our case and are grateful to the many local people and organisations who have contributed to the debate and to the ideas that have emerged as a result,” he said.
He added: “Whilst maintaining an essential local industry and the local jobs that it provides, this is a project that will undoubtedly deliver substantial benefits for wildlife and the community while protecting all that is best in a beautiful area. It demonstrates very well that quarrying can have highly positive impacts beyond the essential materials that it provides. ”
Gill Mill Extension
We have submitted a planning application to Oxfordshire County council to extend our Gill Mill Quarry.
The application would provide a further 5 million tonnes of Sand and Gravel reserves and extend the life of the quarry by 14 years. The new reserves will help secure 40 jobs directly at the site and many more indirectly in the local economy.
The proposals have been developed over several years influenced by technical assessments and comments from the local community and stakeholders. The application reviews the working and restoration proposals for the existing quarry together with the new extension area. The proposed working and restoration plans can be found by clicking here:
- Download Working Proposals
- Download Restoration Masterplans
(Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view PDFs.)
The extension area lies to the north of the existing permitted workings and quarry operations will continue in the same manner as at present. The restoration proposals include revision of the existing working areas to present a comprehensive masterplan for the whole site. The scheme includes extensive biodiversity benefits with large areas of new habitats of reedbed, woodland and lowland meadow. In addition there are areas for public water based recreation and an extensive new footpath network opening up this part of the Lower Windrush Valley for the first time. An eco-tourism development of sustainable self catering accommodation has been included, providing a long term economic basis to support the management of the new habitats.
The application is accompanied by a full Environmental Statement, which has been prepared by a team of technical experts covering many fields including ecology, archaeology, groundwater, flooding and traffic. A copy of the Non Technical Summary of the Environmental Statement can be found by clicking here.
Oxfordshire County Council’s website has a full copy of the planning application submission. Following consultation comments on the proposals Smiths have provided Oxfordshire County Council some additional information for the extension planning application at Gill Mill. The information is essentially providing additional detail and some points of clarification and does not change or amend the proposed scheme. Click on the OCC link below to see the Oxfordshire County Council’s planning application web page which includes details of the additional information.
We welcome any comments you may have on our proposals and you can use our feedback form to let us know your thoughts.