A PLAN on how much gravel in Oxfordshire should be dug over the next 16 years has been backed by county councillors today.

Residents’ groups opposing the Oxfordshire Minerals and Waste Local Plan lobbied councillors at the meeting, claiming there had been insufficient consultation, but the proposal to approve the plan was agreed.

This means proposed figures for extraction will rise from 0.715 million tonnes a year to 1.015 million tonnes a year, until 2031, and new gravel extraction sites are likely to be needed, with Cholsey near Wallingford and Culham near Abingdon likely options.

Wallingford county councillor Lynda Atkins proposed an amendment suggesting the plan should be deferred until there had been further consultation but the amendment was lost, and a majority of councillors then agreed to back the plan.

It will now go before an examination in public before it can be adopted.

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Ms Atkins told the meeting: “While the council did consult community groups in 2013 about the Local Aggregates assessment - a key plank of the Draft Plan, which determines the targets which underpin the entire document - it chose not to do so in 2014.

“We managed to consult other minerals authorities, minerals producers and the LEP but we couldn't, it seems, manage to consult the very people who sent us here as their representatives." 

The Independent county councillor said after the meeting: “This decision means new gravel sites will need to be found, with Cholsey and Culham the most likely.

“I will work with residents’ groups to oppose the plan as it goes through all the different processes.

“The examination in public could take place as early as the autumn or next year.”

John Taylor, a spokesman for OXAGE (Oxfordshire Against Gravel Extraction), questioned the data used to calculate the Local Aggregate Assessment figure of the amount of sand and gravel that would be needed.

Fellow campaigner Julie Hankey said: “The council has failed to consult the community in accordance with its statement of community involvement.”

Cabinet member for the environment David Nimmo Smith said backing the plan was long overdue.

He added: “We do need a strategic plan – this is not going to be a site allocation document.

“If we did not adopt this now it would leave us vulnerable to speculative planning applications.”