CAMPAIGNERS fighting plans to dig up a large swathe of Moors Valley Country Park for aggregates say Hampshire County Council has got its sums wrong over the projected need for soft sand.
The Friends of Ringwood Forest (FoRF), which is running the No2PurpleHaze campaign, has drafted a 24-page response to the county council’s draft Minerals and Waste Plan for the next 20 years.
In it, the group claims the council has either “miscalculated” or “at worst, vastly inflated” the need for soft sand across Hampshire and Dorset, saying the demand for the aggregate is dwindling as builders turn to recyclable materials.
Campaign leaders are now confident their latest challenge could pay off and lead to the plan being withdrawn from the draft. Their challenge comes after thousands of people signed petitions against the plan, horrified that 700,000 square metres of the well-used beauty spot was earmarked for quarrying.
The plan would entail the hole then being filled with non-hazardous landfill before being restored, and the process would take decades.
FoRF organised demonstrations and a mass mail-out bankrolled by a concerned local businessman, and met with the inspector scrutinising the plan, but the site remained in the county council’s draft.
Now the group says it has “grave concerns” that the quality of soft sand in the earmarked land might not even be suitable for construction, and it has ongoing concerns about whether the water table lies above the sand at the site, as the council says, or below, as Tarmac says. And there are fears that disturbing the water table could have serious consequences for the nearby Ebblake Bog.
In addition, the group says no fixed buffer zone between the site and nearby properties in Verwood has been established, and screening has not been promised.
Campaign chairman Sarah Sumner said: “If Purple Haze is withdrawn from the plan that would have serious implications for the council’s calculations and the whole plan may have to be re-drawn, and years of work will have been wasted.
“But even if I didn’t live in Verwood I would not want this site used for quarrying. It’s too precious.”
Councillor Spencer Flower, leader of East Dorset District Council and local member for Verwood, said in his online blog: “This site is situated on a fairly narrow strip of land between the B3081 Verwood to Ringwood road and Moors Valley Country Park, only a few hundred metres from Verwood.
Vandalism “Also within 500 metres of the proposed minerals extraction site is Ebblake Bog, which is internationally designated as a SSSI site of great environmental importance.
“Many have told me that they see this proposal, if it gets the go ahead, as an act of environmental vandalism. It would be difficult not to agree with them.
“From all the evidence it would appear that despite the assumptions made by the Hampshire authorities the soft sand mineral is of poor quality and unsuitable for the building industry it was intended for, unless of course it is washed beforehand.
“This is very likely to have to take place on site, significantly adding to the damage to the hydrology and in particular Ebblake Bog, which will be lost forever, with potential to also damage the River Crane and the Moors River, which is also has international SSSI designation.”
Councillor Mel Kendal, executive member for environment and transport at the county council, said: “At this stage in the formal consultation process, it would not be appropriate for us to comment on representations made in relation to Purple Haze.
“The independent planning inspector will consider all comments on the draft changes to the plan.
“Our role, at this stage, is to collate all the comments and send them to the inspector after the closing date of December 17.”