Soft sand quarrying plan a ‘bolt from the blue’ for Steyning

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Plans to quarry soft sand near Steyning has come as a ‘bolt from the blue’ for residents.

The draft Joint Minerals Local Plan has been put together by West Sussex County Council and the South Downs National Park Authority, and sets out a vision for how minerals will be produced, supplied and transported in the county until 2033.

The document, which has been published for public consultation, allocates around 16 hectares of agricultural land at Ham Farm near Steyning to provide 850,000 tonnes of soft sand, with materials exported by road. The site would be returned to its previous use after excavation.

Lib Dem campaigner Jamie Counihan, who lives in the Bramber Castle division, explained that he and other residents were in the process of setting up a campaign group to fight the site’s allocation in the draft minerals plan.

He said: “This plan has come like a bolt from the blue for the few locals that already know about this and we are shocked and dismayed by West Sussex County Council’s choice of location.”

Mr Counihan argued that since the site was so close to Steyning it was ‘not suitable’ for a quarry, would generate air pollution affecting residents and visitors, while lorries might have to travel through Storrington, which is an Air Quality Management Area.

He went on to argue that backfilling would not restore the site to the ‘current pristine agriculutral conditions’.

According to the draft minerals plan any development at Ham Farm would have to accord with a number of development principle to be approved.

These include carrying out a landscape and visual impact assessment taking into account any impact on the South Downs National Park and Wiston Park, any access should avoid the ancient woodland, screening of the site would have to be ensured, a flood risk assessment should be carried out if required, and an assessment carried out of the cumulative impact associated with other development.

According to the site selection report on the county council’s website the Dudman Group is listed as the potential operator of the site north of the A283, which was promoted for inclusion in the plan as part of the 2014 site nomination process.

The sustainability appraisal conclusion states that Ham Farm is ‘acceptable in principle’ as minor negative impacts on health, the historic environment and air quality were weighed against minor positive effects on the local economy and the conservation of mineral resources.

John O’Brien, WSCC’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “This draft plan set out our vision to provide the right way forward for mineral production in West Sussex.

“We feel it safeguards resources, protects our environment and meets the need for minerals to support economic growth in future years.

“It will give residents, and the industry, greater certainty about where mineral development can take place in the county.”

He added: “We want to find out what communities, businesses and other stakeholders think and whether they agree our draft plan is realistic.

“So please take the opportunity to comment and respond.”

Trevor Beattie, chief executive at the South Downs National Park Authority, said: “We’ve worked in close partnership with West Sussex County Council to develop a draft plan that recognises the importance of the National Park’s protected landscapes whilst meeting the local and national need for minerals.

“We hope that both communities and the industry will take the opportunity to look at and comment on our draft plan.”

To respond to the consultation, which closes on Friday June 17, visit www.westsussex.gov.uk/mwdf

For more information email mwdf@westsussex.gov.uk or call 01243 642118.

A petition against the site allocation, which has already gained more than 390 signatures can be viewed at https://www.change.org/p/save-steyning-stop-the-quarry-planned-for-the-edge-of-the-village

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