Monday, 23 October 2017

Extended quarry will cause more lorry journeys

LORRY traffic through Henley is expected to increase after a quarry near Playhatch was granted an extension.

LORRY traffic through Henley is expected to increase after a quarry near Playhatch was granted an extension.

Oxfordshire County Council agreed on Monday to allow building firm Lafarge to expand its operations at Sonning Works.

The company, which owns the plant on the B478 Playhatch Road, can now extract 1.86 million tonnes of sand and gravel at an 81.5-acre field off Spring Lane.

It will carry out the work over 15 years while replacing the soil with inert waste, which includes substances such as drywall and concrete.

The process will double the number of lorries visiting the site every day from about 40 to 80. There will be about 15 extra vehicles collecting sand and gravel and 25 more dropping off the waste.

Lafarge says up to six of these lorries would travel via Henley each day but insists the increase is “not considered significant”.

However, town councillors claim it will worsen Henley’s problems with air pollution because many heavy goods vehicles already use the town as a rat-run.

They had urged the county council to ban lorries visiting the quarry from passing through the town and were supported by Henley’s county councillor David Nimmo Smith. Duke Street already has the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide in South Oxfordshire. The gas, produced by petrol and diesel engines, irritates the lungs and is toxic in high concentrations.

Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak and Dieter Hinke, chairman of the town council’s planning committee, criticised the county council’s decision.

In a joint statement, they said: “Residents are fed up with HGVs coming through Henley and this will only add to the problem.

“With 400 new homes to contend with, it is ludicrous to approve a scheme for HGVs which makes congestion worse and increases toxic pollution in the town.

“It also passes through two conservation areas with the resulting vibrations causing damage to buildings. Henley is a small market town with natural constraints such as the river and the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

“Ramming large, heavy, polluting HGVs through our streets is shocking. Does the county council ever visit Henley before decisions are made?”

The county council used to have a liaison group which persuaded hauliers to avoid passing through small towns like Henley. Instead, the drivers stuck to motorways and major trunk roads including the M40 and the M4.

Cllr Nimmo Smith pledged to try to revive the group.

He said: “We do not mind HGVs if they have a reason to be here but we don’t want to be used as a mechanism for getting from point A to point B. The air pollution in the town centre remains stubbornly high and much of that is down to HGVs.

“Encouraging more lorries to come through the town will also cause even more congestion to Henley’s medieval road network. I recognise that there is an economic need to dig sand and gravel but these access issues need to be addressed.

“We have been talking about this for umpteen years but have not come up with a definitive solution,” said Cllr Nimmo Smith. “Sadly, we do not have a magic wand — as long as those lorries have a valid tax disc they have the right to use any public road.”

Shiplake, Sonning and Eye and Dunsden parish councils objected to Lafarge’s scheme, as did the Henley Society, the Sonning and Sonning Eye Society, the Chilterns Conservation Board, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and a number of residents.

However, the county council’s officers recommended approval.

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