Gravel pit threat persists

PMZ23-map-300Millions of tons of gravel and aggregate sit below our local Green Belt, and Surrey County Council have parts of north Weybridge earmaked as Potential Mineral Zones, labelled PMZ22 and PMZ23.

Quite rightly, these sites have been rejected at successive reviews of which PMZs to excavate, for access and landscape reasons. But Surrey has to  meet targets for gravel extraction, and has regular PMZ reviews, so residents of Weybridge are wise to be vigilant in safeguarding our local landscape.

When we reported on this topic eight years ago, Surrey’s latest PMZ review said access for HGVs getting onto Walton Bridge was one of two major issues preventing gravel extraction in PMZ23. Would it be sceptical to wonder at Surrey’s motives for proposing a huge cloverleaf junction with Walton Lane in their replacement Walton Bridge plans at the time (very handy for gravel lorries)?

Happily, after pressure from local groups, prominently PP&DRA, a Public Inquiry roundly rejected Surrey’s plans for covering the riverside with a big junction, and demanded that the riverside amenities at Cowey Sale be retained and enhanced. The resulting redesigned smaller new bridge and excellent riveside amenities are things the whole community can be proud of — great work by the bridge team.

Surrey’s subsequent 2009 PMZ review said the new bridge (with its improved T-juntion) would make bridge access from PMZ23 easier, but the increased significance of the riverside amenity now made thousands of gravel lorry journeys along the riverside Walton Lane at Cowey Sale an unacceptable issue.  So access for gravel removal could only be possible via the river.

The other — highly important — reason for rejection is the landscape value of the current Green Belt.  Surrey recognise that there would be a medium term significant adverse effect on local landscape character and the setting of Weybridge.

One matter of some concern is how up-to-date the information which Surrey use in their reviews is. The 2009 update made no mention that the land earmarked for PMZ23 is designated a Strategic View from historic Oatland Park.  No mention that there is a Health Club and Riding School on the land potentially to be dug up (SCC only recognise one dwelling).  No mention that part of PMZ23 is Exchange Land, given over to public use as part of the Walton Bridge post-Public Inquiry planning consent.

Surrey County Council image of PMZ23

SCC image of PMZ23


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