In accordance with his prior declaration of interest, Councillor Richard Baxter-Payne left the meeting during the determination of this item.
Councillor Wallace Redford introduced the report and moved the recommendations. In doing so, he explained that as the Local Planning Authority for Minerals, the council was required to prepare a plan for the steady and adequate supply of minerals. The Minerals Plan had been through several consultation stages with residents and stakeholders since 2015 and, following an Examination in Public, which was overseen by a Government Planning Inspector, it was now in the final stage of the plan process: plan adoption. Councillor Redford also noted that Cabinet had received a letter from Barford Parish Council opposing the Plan, specifically in relation to the Wasperton site and, although the consultation had closed, a response was being prepared.
Councillor Jo Barker seconded the motion and reserved her right to speak.
Councillor John Holland noted that concerns from residents of Barford and Wasperton were not new and had been brought up at the outset of the process. Local residents were now receiving help from their MP who was promoting a Bill to restrict quarrying close to homes, which this plan would allow, and Councillor Holland did not believe any residents of Warwickshire should be subjected to. He also had concerns about the environmental impact and sustainability.
Councillor Sarah Boad referred to the original consultation from 2018, noting that the plans had moved on since then as it had taken some time to move the through the required process. Residents from her division and the Parish Council had been in contact with her and she was somewhat reassured by the comments of Councillor Redford but she considered that the suggestion that objections could be submitted during the planning permission process was missing the point somewhat. Councillor Boad considered that the Plan was unsatisfactory.
Councillor Jan Matecki noted that a lot of consultation had taken place but it had been based on the prevailing facts at the time, and the position at the time of the meeting was different and the Plan was now out of date. It had been asserted that objections to developments could be raised through the planning process but he considered it would be difficult to argue against the Plan. Reflecting on a recent report to Regulatory Committee, Councillor Matecki noted that the current production of sand and gravel at Dunton Quarry (200,000 – 250,000 tonnes per year) would outstrip that anticipated at Wasperton and he was questioned whether the Wasperton site was, therefore, required. Councillor Matecki went on to highlight the risks to health and the environment and suggested that a cautious approach should be adopted while further information was sought.
Councillor Jonathan Chilvers noted the need to produce a significant amount of sand and gravel to produce cement for houses and infrastructure. However, he considered that a realistic approach to how much needed to be extracted was required since most sand and gravel came from the sea. He noted that the target amount had been approved as sound by government but levels of extraction were projected to overshoot the target. He suggested that more consideration needed to be given to how to balance the costs of environmental degradation with the need to build infrastructure. To this end, it would be important to look at a reduction in the use of cement and more effective use of recycled aggregate so that as much cement would not be needed in future.
Councillor Isobel Seccombe noted the evolution of the Plan over time, including the reduction in the number of sites that were included since the initial draft. She noted that a seven year supply of sand and gravel was required. This supported development in the local plan. She considered that it was important to provide materials as close to any development taking place as possible and this meant that not all sites identified in the Plan might come forward, but instead would be utilised as required to reduce road mileage. Sand and gravel could only be quarried from certain sites and the sand and gravel quarried would be used across the West Midlands, where there was a requirement for sand and gravel. Councillor Seccombe went on to suggest that a sense of realism about the model of extraction was required and extraction was now much better managed than in times gone by and there were requirements for the environment and safety that would be met. She considered that it would be important, when sites came through the planning process, for there to be a clear policy in place for operators to work with local community groups to manage the impact on them. She concluded that it had been a long process to adoption and there had been extensive consultation providing opportunities for engagement with all parties. It was now at the point where a Plan needed to be delivered before one was imposed.
Councillor Will Roberts stated that the Council should not ignore the environmental impacts of siting a quarry so close to the two villages of Wasperton and Barford. He also emphasised that the debate had concentrated on the part of the document which focussed on the extraction of sand and gravel but had not considered the elements relating to the extraction of fossil fuels, which he was deeply concerned about and did not align with the declaration of a climate emergency.
Councillor Martin Watson considered that this was an emotive topic for those affected. He acknowledged that quarry sites were not welcomed by local communities but considered that the recommendations of the Inspector had been built into the plan which offered some reassurance.
Councillor Jo Barker explained that she had commenced her career in minerals and had spent a lot of time with sand and gravel quarries. She pointed out that, during the years that she was involved in quarrying, huge strides had been made in the mitigations that were made against the hazards to those living close by, and the process of reinstatement would minimise the amount of airborne particles that caused concern. Importantly, there had been considerable consultation and it would go through planning again, and whenever any sites were put forward, any new points or research could be considered and taken into account through the planning process. Councillor Barker was confident that the process the Plan had gone through would enable it to stand up to scrutiny. She acknowledged that there was a balance between having to build and the duty to have sand and gravel supplies, not just for Warwickshire, but for national infrastructure against carbon emissions. She considered that dredging for sand, as had been raised in the debate, was not just thought to be disastrous environmentally but also the sand produced required more work before it was usable due to the high salt content. In conclusion, Councillor Barker asserted that there was a statutory duty to provide sand and gravel not just for Warwickshire but for regional and national infrastructure. Referring back to section 4.1 of the report, Councillor Barker highlighted that minerals were a finite resource that could only be worked where they were found and the closer to where they are used, the better it was for the environment.
In reply, Councillor Redford emphasised that the Council was required to produce the Plan and had gone through a long consultation process during which there had been opportunities for interested parties to put forward comments and objections. The Planning Inspector had asked for some modifications to the Plan which had all been investigated and completed, and the Planning Inspector had found the Plan to be sound. Councillor Redford noted that there were some small points on the Plans to be redrawn, which the Inspector was aware of, and those changes were in progress. Sand and gravel extraction could only happen where it was found and the Plan stated that endeavours would take place to ensure that the environmental impact was kept to a minimum. There was no further consultation on the Plan and the planning process would apply when sites came forward in the future.
A recorded vote was held. The results were:
Councillors Jo Barker, Brett Beetham, Margaret Bell, Parminder Singh Birdi, Peter Butlin, Jeff Clarke, John Cooke, Andy Crump, Yousef Dahmash, Piers Daniell, Peter Gilbert, Clare Golby, Brian Hammersley, Dave Humphreys, Marian Humphreys, Kam Kaur, Jack Kennaugh, Justin Kerridge, Christopher Kettle, Sue Markham, Chris Mills, Jeff Morgan, Bhagwant Singh Pandher, Daren Pemberton, Wallace Redford, Isobel Seccombe OBE, Ian Shenton, Jill Simpson-Vince, Tim Sinclair, Richard Spencer, Heather Timms, Mandy Tromans, Robert Tromans, Adrian Warwick and Martin Watson (35)
Councillors Sarah Boad, Barbara Brown, Jonathan Chilvers, Jackie D'Arcy, Tracey Drew, Bill Gifford, John Holland, Caroline Phillips, Will Roberts, and Jerry Roodhouse (10)
Councillors Judy Falp and Jan Matecki (2)
At the time of the vote, Councillors Richard Baxter-Payne and Sarah Feeney were not present in the Chamber.
1. Adopts the Mineral Local Plan 2018- 2032 and its Policies Map, with all the Main Modifications recommended by the Examination Inspector and the Minor Modifications proposed by the Strategic Director for Communities, as a development plan document in accordance with section 23(5) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004; and
2. Authorises the Strategic Director for Communities to take the steps required by Regulations 26 and 35 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012 and any other steps consequential upon or necessary to give effect to the adoption including making the formatting, cartographical and typographical corrections described in paragraph 5.4 of the report to the final Plan to be placed on deposit.
Councillor Richard Baxter-Payne returned to the Chamber.