A legal first has brought to an end years of uncertainty for residents in five parishes who could potentially have had a quarry in their back garden.
In what is believed to be the first of its kind in the country, the secretary of state for communities and local government has issued a prohibition order against quarrying on land around Shenington with Alkerton, Wroxton and Balscote, Epwell, Shutford and Hornton.
It brings to a close a planning permission which was granted in 1957 for open quarrying on land around the villages. The permission ran until 2042.
The land the order affects is around 122 hectares – the equivalent of 170 football pitches.
The order does not affect the existing quarry at Wroxton but it prohibits the mining and working of minerals in the affected area.
Oxfordshire County Council had been considering a review of the old permission since 1997 and in 1998, informed the applicants that an environmental statement was needed, but one was not provided.
New powers were introduced nationally in 2008 to allow councils to resolve applications of this kind.
In October 2008 the council told the applicants the planning permission would be suspended unless it was confirmed an environmental statement would be received in relation to any application for the site.
No confirmation was received so the permission was suspended.
The county council started its review of the permission in August 2011 when one of the applicants, The Needler Trust, submitted an environmental statement for part of the site. The case was reviewed under current environmental impact regulations and it was concluded the council was under a duty to serve a prohibition order.
The order was made in December 2013, but an objection was raised. A public inquiry was due to take place but the objection was withdrawn.
The prohibition order was confirmed on January 14 by the secretary of state.
David Nimmo-Smith, Oxfordshire County councillor for environment and economy, said: “I know this is an issue that has vexed local people and councillors in this area of Oxfordshire for a long time and we are happy to have concluded a long and difficult process to bring resolution to the situation.”
The Shenington with Alkerton Minerals Action Group has played a key role in obtaining the prohibition order by making the county council aware of the legislation which demonstrated it had a duty to make the order.
Julian Philcox, chairman of the Shenington with Alkerton Minerals Action Group, said they were ‘delighted’ with the outcome.
“It would have been open quarrying,” he said. “It can be noisy and dusty and it would have rocked several villages. It covers a huge area.
“It has been like a sword of Damocles which would have been hanging over everyone for 30 years.
“Even if they never quarried, every time the council looked at potential renewable energy sites they always look to existing permissions first.”
He thanked county council planning officer Kevin Broughton for listening to the group’s concerns.
Although some of the sites in the affected area have been quarried in the past, there are no quarries in operation in the area covered by the order.