|The latest news|
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There is also a link to Hansard, for a report on the parliamentary debate on the 'virtual quarry'.
What's it about?
Over the summer months of 1998 Railtrack plc gave details of plans to construct what they term a 'virtual quarry' on a Green Belt site close to the heart of Oxford's historic city, only half a mile from Christchurch College, on a site painted by William Turner and made famous by Matthew Arnold in 'The Scholar Gypsy'.
There is nothing 'virtual' about the effects this quarry will have on the local area. The threats are very real. Railtrack claimed that because of 'permitted development rights' they did not even have to secure planning permission for the quarry. Local residents and the County Council vigorously opposed the plans. This culminated in the County Council finally issuing an Article 4 Direction, which, if approved by the Secretary of State, would remove Railtrack's inviolability and force them to seek planning consent for the proposed development. This consent would almost certainly be denied, because of the noxious nature of the development, poisonous dust, noise, degradation of the environment, and so on.
However, to circumvent the application for an Article 4 Direction, Railtrack simply went ahead with the quarry as fast as possible. It is now set up and running, drowning the tranquil area of south Oxford with noise, and, as soon as dry weather intervenes, with dust. The children of Grandpont Nursery School, the closest school to the site, can expect a regular ingestion of granite dust with their morning playtime.
Railtrack assert that they operate an environmental policy. This is what it means in practice:
Select a Green Belt site.
We have been unable to stop this happening in Oxford. The matter was referred to the Secretary of State, who now has been advised by civil servants, that since the development is already in place, and a change of use has occurred, that he cannot ratify the Article 4 Direction. He has fianlly decided in favour of Railtrack, using spurious legal arguments to pretend he is on the side of democracy, whereas in fact he is only concerned with bending over backwards to assist an already rich corporation. Do you think it is right that private companies should be able to sidestep local democracy in this way and flout all planning laws? Please help us if you can.
|The Legal Issues|
|How you could help|
|The environmental issues.|
|Some specimen letters to the Minister and our local MP|
Below is a photo of Hinksey lake, now threatened by the quarry. The view is taken from Hinksey Park, looking across to the quarry, which is on the other side of the lake, in this photo hidden by a bank of willow trees. The lake is a site of Local Importance for Nature Conservation (SLINC). We think that both it, and the viability of the surrounding park, will be destroyed by the loading and unloading operations.