Councillor Hannah Banfield, outside the Tarmac plant off Hennef Way
Councillor Hannah Banfield, outside the Tarmac plant off Hennef Way

Local Labour Councillor Hannah Banfield has raised concerns about the handling of a major expansion to a local asphalt plant and the associated lorry traffic in Banbury by the Conservative-run County and District councils.

The plans involve a substantial expansion of the Tarmac asphalt plant on Waterworks Road (off Hennef Way), and a more than than four-fold increase of the number of lorry movements, up to 400 per day.  The application has been submitted twice to Oxfordshire County Council as the planning authority.  In the latest attempt, both OCC and Cherwell District Council (as an observer) were poised to allow the development with loose conditions on the number of lorry movements.  Tarmac withdrew the application, reportedly due to uncertainty over anticipated demand from HS2 project, before Hannah or environmental campaigners were allowed to speak in the debate.

Councillor Banfield (who represents Banbury Grimsbury & Castle on OCC, Banbury Cross and Neithrop on Cherwell District Council, and Banbury Town Centre on Banbury Town Council) has highlighted several concerns about planning oversight.

There are not unreasonable concerns that 400 thirty-two-tonne articulated lorries travelling along Hennef Way daily would generate huge dust and air pollution, at a location where air quality is already the worst in the entire county and one of the worst in the UK.  Hennef Way has a nitrogen dioxide reading nearly double the safe legal limit. In this context, the response of the Cherwell Environmental Protection Office was particularly concerning, admitting a ‘moderate adverse impact’ on pollution but proposing that Tarmac be asked to pay for ‘off-setting measures’, or further monitoring. The proposed off-setting measures are unlikely to be much comfort to Grimsbury residents close to the Tarmac plant who will be directly affected by the air quality and noise issues. “Some of my constituents’ homes are only 75 metres from the Tarmac plant and others have gardens backing on to Hennef Way,” said Councillor Banfield.

Furthermore, parking for this huge lorry fleet is likely to be an issue. According to the Banbury Guardian, Oxfordshire’s principal transport planner, Joy White, said in an April report that Tarmac had not identified places for overnight parking for its lorry fleet, either on its site or in a nearby compound. The repercussions of the decision could have substantial effects on traffic across Banbury.

There is also some concern that the county council has attempted to minimise the publicity drawn to the proposal by advertising it in the Oxford Times rather than the local Banbury papers.

Hannah told the Banbury Guardian, “I believe the company will not drop this [proposal] and will return with a new application. They are clearly intent on being able to make more lorry journeys than highways officers have stipulated and that would be catastrophic.”

Despite the size of the planned expansion, and the associated environmental impact, there is little evidence that the proposal will help create new jobs. The original application in 2019 mentioned just 2 new jobs; the more recent application made no mention of jobs at all. Councillor Banfield noted, “I understand that we are all very worried about employment opportunities for our community at this very difficult time, but Tarmac didn’t give any positive growth numbers for employment opportunities in their submitted planning application. Tarmac would have highlighted the favourable employment opportunities within their application if there were any.”

The pollution and traffic concerns would be significantly lower if the Conservatives had ensured transport infrastructure across Cherwell actually kept pace with the rate of development. Councillor Banfield concluded:

“Since being elected on to the County Council in 2017 I have personally written to Victoria Prentis, our elected MP, calling for support and funding for a ring road for Banbury as the traffic congestion and subsequent air pollution levels within my elected division are unsafe and illegal. The response I received back from Mrs. Prentis which was printed within the Banbury Guardian was, to be honest, very dismissive.

I have politically lobbied Oxfordshire County Council for more funding for Banbury road infrastructure as we have not had any real spend on significant road infrastructure for about 20 years. Subsequently, the County Council are now investigating the opportunity within my division for north-facing slip roads on to the M40 which may help to alleviate the traffic congestion on Hennef Way.

Next year the Tramway project within my division should come to completion which will alleviate traffic congestion within the Cherwell Street and Bridge Street locations.

Until the necessary road infrastructure has been implemented and we can see the air pollution readings on Hennef Way at a safe and legal level, I will carry out my elected duty and protect the health of my constituents.”

This story has also been reported in the Banbury Guardian here.

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