A GROUP of villagers are campaigning against one of Oxford’s wealthiest colleges, who is planning to open a huge quarry on its land.

Campaigners in Barford, in south Warwickshire, said that a proposed 220-acre quarry similar in size to the village will expose them to “toxic fine particulate silica dust”, which could cause “permanent damage” to their lungs.

They are also concerned the quarry, roughly the size of 110 football pitches, will “destroy high-quality agricultural land and scar the landscape”.

The proposed land at Wasperton Farm is owned by St John’s College, and for the last six years, people in Barford have campaigned against Warwickshire County Council’s Minerals Plan, which could see the sand and gravel quarry open on the edge of the village.

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The college has requested that the council include the site in their minerals land allocation plan which will allow developers to extract vast quantities of sand and gravel from the site.

Now a “response document” issued by Smiths Concrete, a subsidiary of the giant Hanson minerals conglomerate, is hoping to “allay the group’s fears” and “address the issues raised by local people”.

A spokesperson for Smiths Concrete said: “Securing permission for a new sand and gravel quarry at  Wasperton Farm would provide over one third of Warwickshire’s sand and gravel needs for 10 to 15 years, vital for use in construction and other sectors.

“Restoration at sand and gravel quarries can happen quickly and we plan to use a progressive approach at Wasperton Farm.

“Some areas would be fully restored in just three or four years and over half the site would be fully restored by the time mineral extraction has finished.”

However, the group raised concerns over land restoration and air pollution from the mining process and from the lorry movements entering and leaving the site.

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A spokesperson for the group said: “This large 220-acre site, twice the size of Barford, which has rich fertile alluvial soil currently generating at least two salad crops per year, will never be restored to the same level of fertility again with the consequent loss of food production at a time when the nation needs more than ever to be able to feed itself.”

Malcolm Eykyn, one of the committee members against the quarry, said, “We cannot lie down after six years of vigorous campaigning and let this quarry damage our lives. Smith’s Concrete will profit from this scheme for years to come.

“They will protect their workers’ health to comply with HSE regulation while our unprotected residents will face risk to health and loss of amenity for much longer.

“This gross intrusion into our lives is an unjustified and unnecessary invasion into our community by a giant company.”

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This story was written by Anna Colivicchi, she joined the team this year and covers health stories for the Oxfordshire papers. 

Get in touch with her by emailing: Anna.colivicchi@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @AnnaColivicchi