PAGE attended the Oxford County Council Cabinet Meeting on 25 November in order to express our views on the latest Minerals Core Strategy submission to the Council. The outcome of the meeting was to overturn the decision by OCC agreed in November 2013 to use the rolling 10 year average of sand and gravel extraction for the County and use a figure established by a new group of consultants employed by OCC. This results in a staggering increase of 42% over the previously agreed extraction volume.
- The debate lasted for over an hour and was focused completely on the LAA (Local Aggregates Assessment). No discussion of the other policies under item 8 of the agenda.
- Speakers from Bachport, OUTRAGE, CPRE and PAGE all made their points in a co-ordinated way showing that the latest Consultants report is flawed, the process failed to include the local communities and the Cabinet should continue with the 10 year average producing a 2014 LAA of 715kta compared with the Consultants figure of 1015kta.
- Four County Councillors, all being members of the Cabinet Advisory Group for Minerals, provided their own strong feelings as to why the Cabinet should reject the Consultant’s report and revert to last November’s Cabinet decision to use the 10 year average deploying many of the arguments used by the earlier speakers.
- Discussions took place between the Cabinet members and the officers and in concluding the debate David Nimmo-Smith (sponsoring Cabinet member) stated the he was “between a rock and a hard place”. The key question being whether to propose the 10 year sales average or 10 year plus to allow for the additional housing, population and infrastructure growth in Oxfordshire. Having listened to the debate he continued to recommend 10 year plus. This was supported by 5 votes in favour, 0 against and with 3 abstentions.
- All the remaining Core Strategy papers including Community Involvement were also agreed to be taken to the full Council for approval without any discussion
- The Minerals and Waste Strategy will go to an extraordinary meeting of the full Council on 27 January.
- If and when adopted the Cabinet decision will significantly increase the amount of sand and gravel that can be extracted in Oxfordshire and unbelievably again put PAGE areas under threat of gravel extraction.
With the support of the Parish Council’s we intend to continue our fight by commissioning further work to explore the next steps for PAGE prior to the next OCC meeting on 27 January 2015.