AN operation to extract gravel from land off Roeshot Hill at Hinton over the next 20 years has been given the go-ahead despite concerns about road safety and the environmental impact.
Local residents have reacted with anger to news that Hampshire County Council has approved the creation of a new quarry on 78 hectares of farmland close to a site on which 875 new homes are planned.
More than three million tonnes of material will be dug from the quarry, with up to 120 lorries a day operating at the site.
Mary Reader, of the Highcliffe Residents’ Association, told the A&T: “We are absolutely appalled that this has been allowed to go ahead. The fact that there are plans for over 800 houses to be built over the other side of the railway line means the amount of traffic generated from the two sites is going to be enormous.
“The bypass is gridlocked most of the time, so this is going to make it a whole lot worse. Drivers will be using other roads to try to avoid the jam on the A35, but there have been no road improvements built into the scheme.
“It is just going to be dreadful, especially if work is allowed on Saturdays during the summer when the road is exceptionally busy.”
Jim Biggin, of the Jumpers and St Catherine’s Hill Residents’ Association, said its members were also against the quarry.
“Our prime concern is that there is going to be a huge number of lorries using the A35 or the B3073 [through Burton]. This will mean a large amount of extra traffic going through west Christchurch on roads that are already full.”
The quarry will be operated by Bodorgan Properties Ltd, which is linked to landowner Sir George Meyrick and is based at the Meyrick Estate office,
Plans for the quarry were submitted in 2016, but HCC said it had taken nearly three years to reach a decision due to the “scale and complexity” of the proposal.
A concrete manufacturing plant, material screening and crushing facilities are to be built at the site, and there will also be a workshop, offices, a weighbridge and access link to the A35.
The government required HCC to identify land in its area suitable for gravel extraction, and Roeshot Hill was earmarked.
Work at the site, north of the railway line between Burton Common and Ambury Lane, is expected to begin soon.
Hurn Parish Council was strongly opposed to the plan, claiming it would lead to the A35 becoming “gridlocked”. The Alliance of Christchurch Residents’ Association had also objected, presenting HCC with a petition against it on the same grounds.
Cllr Margaret Phipps, chairman of Hurn Parish Council, said: “We believe that a routing for the lorries should have been imposed as a condition. As it stands, they are going to turn right, go through Christchurch and head out towards this way.
“The road is heavily congested as it is, and the number of lorries using it is going to make it a lot worse.”
But HCC says assurances from the company behind the scheme that only 10% of its lorry movements would be during the morning and afternoon rush hour should allay some of these fears.
A new access link for HGVs using the quarry will be built at the junction to the pick your own fruit farm next to the Cat and Fiddle pub.
Residents opposed to the plan claim this access link will compromise traffic safety on the busy A35. Bodorgan said there would be around 120 lorry trips a day, and a highways survey carried out for the council reported there would be “minimal” impact on traffic using the B3073 and A35.
As part of an agreement with the council, operations at the site will only be carried out between 7am and 6pm Monday to Friday, and 7am and 1pm on Saturday.
As each stage is completed, the quarry pit will be filled in and allowed to return to grassland, agriculture and woodland. Surveys on the potential for flooding, water contamination and impact on wildlife have been carried out. They showed there would be “negligible ecological” effects on wildlife because species were low in numbers, and their habitats would be improved following the return of the quarry pits to grass and woodland.
Bodorgan has also assessed the impact on the River Mude flowing near the site, which showed there would be no detrimental effects.
Around 69 letters of opposition were received during the planning process for the quarry.
One resident claimed: “There is great concern from individuals I have spoken with regarding at least 120 HGVs using Christchurch as their main route to Poole.
“I have walked and spoken personally to business proprietors through the length of the Bargates into the Fairmile, and the common response was of fear for their business properties being put under more strain. The concern was over the shaking of the foundations, and more risks of health problems due to being in a workplace next to road congestion every day.”
Another resident said: “The roads in question are often gridlocked, at any time of day, and the addition of 120 quarry lorries, with their attendant size, vibration, dust and pollution, would seriously decrease life quality for Christchurch residents.”
One furious homeowner, who lives close to the A35 in Highcliffe, said: “This area is adjacent to the New Forest national park and part of the green belt, with lots of public rights of way and areas of outstanding natural beauty. They should not be subjected to this type of development.
“Christchurch is a historic town with a large tourist economy. To bring over 100 heavy lorries through the town will kill tourist activity, let alone retail businesses which are already struggling.”