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News  »  Submission by the Baldons Parish Council to the consultation on the proposed mineral extraction site at Nuneham Courtenay

   Submission by the Baldons Parish Council to the consultation on the proposed mineral extraction site at Nuneham Courtenay    15 March, 2020

The Baldons Parish Council met on 9th March 2020, where the proposed removal of 3.8 million tonnes of extracted material from land on the edge of parkland surrounding Nuneham House was discussed.


The Council strongly objects to use of this land for the following reasons:

1.  Conservation

The significance of the Nuneham estate, according to its own website ‘spans many different spheres including heritage, economy, and landscape, ecology, environment and community, all of which inter-relate and are of high importance’.  Given this statement, it is hard to imagine any good reason for destroying such an area for mineral extraction. 

There are notable, iconic, sites of historical significance that will be scarred by the extraction.  For example, walking along the Thames path, past Radley College boathouse, the Grade 2 listed Nuneham House can be seen on the hill.  This view, which can still be enjoyed today, was painted by a young JMW Turner in 1787. 

The Oxford Greenbelt Way, used by a large number of walkers, enjoys uninterrupted views towards the city. Similarly, standing in the Grade 1 listed grounds of the Retreat, there are ancient views towards the dreaming spires of Oxford.  These special open spaces with their wide-reaching views will become an eyesore for decades.  

The city and the surrounding areas are, justifiably, proud of their heritage and large number of significant buildings and historic sites.  The consultation for Oxford’s plan for 2034 refers to the importance of preserving the sites and views.  Therefore, proposing to extract gravel from an extensive Romano-Britain archaeological site of ‘immense importance makes no sense.  

The proposed extraction site The extraction site will run along the banks of the Thames.  On the opposite side of the river is the Thames Path, 180 mile footpath which connects the Cotswold hills to the sea.  The section of the path from Iffley Lock down to Abingdon, passes through peaceful meadows and unspoilt landscapes.  For over 2km this will be ruined by the noise and damage caused by the extraction. 

At a time when central and local government are making such strong statements about the importance of open spaces to the mental wellbeing of the population, it would appear that there is little justification for gravel extraction from this site.

The County Council’s own vision for promoting a ‘rich and natural landscape for thriving communities’ seems at odds to this present proposal. 


2.  Environment

The extracted minerals will be transported from the site to its various destinations by large diesel lorries.  The access road will, at some point, have to join the A4074 and it is assumed that the lorries will be required, through a traffic management plan, to turn left towards Heyford Hill to join the Ring Road.  The A4074 is simply not suitable for such an increase in heavy traffic.  In addition, the increase in diesel fumes while the lorries wait to join the Ring Road will create considerable pollution for the new houses being built at the Heyford Hill junction.   The impact of waiting traffic on the health, particularly children is now well documented.  The County Council should also be mindful of the High Court’s decision to grant a further enquiry into the death of Ella Kissi-Debrah under article 2 of the Human Rights Act and the ‘right to life’ in terms of air pollution.

All the houses in Nuneham Courtenay which line the A4074 are listed buildings.  In addition to these cottages, the village has a number of other important listed buildings.  Large lorries travelling through the village will create excessive dust and air pollution which will put the health of the residents at risk.  At the same time, the vibration from the vehicles will, in time, have a deleterious effect on the buildings.

Provision of mineral aggregate for housing and infrastructure is the main reason for the extraction.  Given the availability of recycled aggregate from sites such as the demolished power station at Didcot; the Baldons Parish Councils questions the County Council’s assertion that minerals must be excavated for the various developments and that alternative, environmentally friendly sources of aggregate are freely available.

Excavating such a large area will have a profound effect on biodiversity and cannot be supported.  A recent study has reported that the meadow is rich in wild flowers, including snakeshead fritillaries and other meadow flowers.  These plants along, with the ecosystem they support, will be lost if the excavation goes ahead.


3.  Individual wellbeing

The wellbeing of the local and wider community seems to have been overlooked.  Since 1993, the Global Retreat Centre has welcomed thousands of people from across the world.  Its courses and grounds have provided a peaceful space where individuals and groups can come to ‘restore balance and focus in their life”.  The proposed extraction site will come within 400m of the Centre’s boundary and the noise, dust and visual impact will be seriously detrimental the peace and tranquillity of this special, world renown centre.  There is no obvious way that this negative effect can be mitigated.  Creating safe places for people to reflect and recover from the stresses of modern life is also part of the County Council’s vision when it refers to support services that enhance the quality of life in our communities.

The important role of open spaces with aesthetic beauty and peace, in contributing to the mental wellbeing of the population has already been mentioned.  This was acknowledged by Public Health England in its evidence review “Improving access to green spaces (2014)” and in a more recent paper in the British Journal of Psychology (2017). Scarring an area of natural beauty seems to clash why government policy.

In its vision statement, the County Council states that it wants ‘Oxfordshire to be the envy of England for its quality of life, with our rich rural and natural landscapes’.  By proposing this site for mineral extraction, the Council is acting contrary to its aim as the extraction will reduce the richness of the landscape and reduce the quality of life for its communities.

For the reasons outlined above, the Baldons Parish Council strongly objects the proposed site for mineral extraction and urges the County Council to consider alternative sites.


 Tom James

Clerk to the Baldons PC

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