Objecting to the extraction of sand & gravel at Whitehall Farm
CPRE Surrey has written in support of CPRE members, Residents Against Gravel Extraction (RAGE) and Stroude Resident Association objecting to the Cemex application to extract sand and gravel at Whitehall Farm in Egham, a site identified in the Surrey Minerals Plan in 2011 as a preferred site.
The consultation has caused great alarm for those living and working in and around Egham, and for very good reason. In our view there are planning, environmental, economic and legal constraints that make it highly unlikely that extracting and processing sand and gravel from this part of the Thames Valley in the Green Belt, could or should ever be permitted.
The Surrey Mineral Plan safeguards sites to protect them from other forms of future development. Safeguarding this farmland carries no presumption that it will be quarried. There may be a case one day that makes mineral working viable, as well as environmentally acceptable, but not as things stand today. Given the proximity of residential development, Great Fosters Hotel (Grade I listed), the nearby Air Quality Management Area and Heathrow Airport, it is arguable that Whitehall Farm has already been rendered unsuitable for excavation.
Currently it is good quality agricultural land, rich in biodiversity and providing public access and recreational benefits for local residents. The roads are unsuitable haulage routes, there is the risk of flood and the cumulative impacts of this and other forms of development, mineral or otherwise, in the area. Surrey, as the Mineral Planning Authority (MPA), has to consider the significant adverse impacts arising from the workings of minerals at Whitehall Farm and act in the public interest. Working this site as Cemex propose would be intolerable for people living and working nearby.
There may be commercial demand from the building industry, but will Surrey County Council be satisfied that there is an overriding need to destroy Whitehall Farm? The council is committing public money to the Thames Valley Flood Scheme, where huge quantities of sand and gravel will be dug out to alleviate flood risk. There has to be an evaluation of what this mitigation project will produce before any realistic assessment of the need to win and process the minerals at Whitehall Farm can be made.
In the ten years since the Minerals Plan our understanding of the effects of global warming, brought about through industrial activity and greenhouse gas emissions, threatening the natural world upon which all forms of life depend, has reached the point where it is at the heart of every informed discussion and decision. The impacts of any industrial activity and exploitation of natural resources must be viewed in the context of climate change and our commitments to expediting a net zero carbon economy.
Ref: SCC Ref 2021/0023/RU.2/0597 Whitehall Farm, Stroude, Egham.
This response was written by Kristina Kenworthy, Chair of CPRE Surrey and Environmental Lawyer