Shinfield and Arborfield residents anger over short consultation period to study quarry plan documents

RESIDENTS fighting plans to turn countryside in Shinfield into a gravel extraction plant are angry that they have only been given 30 days to consider submitted plans.

And they are also furious that if they want a copy of a full set of documents sent to Wokingham Borough Council, they will have to pay £400 for the privilege.

They are calling on the planning committee to extend the consultation to a full 90-days to enable them to fully explore all the evidence submitted by CEMEX, who are behind the plans to turn Bridge Farm into a quarry.

The campaigners – Shinfield & Arborfield Residents Against Quarry & Cement Factory – argue that by placing the documents on the council’s planning website just before the school holidays parish councils will not be able to meet to discuss them, while the campaigners won’t have enough time to explore all 110 documents or take expert advice on them.

They also have concerns over their quality of life if the proposals go ahead, with air pollution one of the biggest worries.

Susan Tyldesley, who lives close to the proposed site on the A327 Reading Road, said: “How can it be right that a planning applicant can take all the time in the world to correct a massively flawed application (18 months) – yet WE, the people whose lives will be most affected, get 30 days to read 110 complex documents and respond?”

She argues that CEMEX’s application contains flaws, such as the air quality report, which “ which clearly states that the author cannot be held responsible for anything due to Cemex omitting information”.

The Wokingham Paper understands that the decision to hold a short consultation was made by the chair of the planning committee Cllr Wayne Smith, who wanted a speedy resolution. As such, the planning application would be considered at the September 11 meeting.

The proposal – application 170433 – would allow for the extraction of approximately 3.6 million tonnes of sand and gravel from 190 hectares of land at Bridge Farm, along with the installation of an aggregates processing plant, creating ready mix concrete, along with parking for HGVs.

After the gravel had been extracted, the plans would see the area restored for agriculture, lowland meadows and wetlands.

Campaigner Andy Hallett said: “The plans have come out at one of the busiest times of the year. A lot of people are actually on holidays, parish councils won’t be sitting to do their consultations and there’s a lot of documents.

“Cemex has had 18 months to bring back [to Wokingham Borough Council] the answers to its questions and they’ve produced more than 100 documents. Yet we don’t have a similar amount of time to respond to that, so it’s a race against time.”

He called for the planning committee to extend the consultation.

“They seem to have taken this to the very minimum. They could do more,” he added.

“We feel it’s about communication as well. A number of residents literally have no idea that this is even going on.

“It’s been good to see what a great turnout we’ve got here today.

“I’ve not met anyone apart from the landowner or developer that feel this is a good thing.”

Mr Hallett said: “This will be 10 to 12 years of living hell for any residents in this area. This production facility will be running six days a week, 52 weeks of the year.

“We feel there are strong arguments around the loss of wildlife, the increase in pollution, the increase in traffic – it’s simply an inappropriate site here.”

Mr Hallett urged residents to put their concerns over the application to the council.

“We ask you to, first of all, understand the application and its impact. We’d also like you to view the documents as best you can and make your response heard, both on the formal consultation and to your local councillors as well.”

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