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Gravel campaigners take protest on rails
PROTESTERS have vowed to fight on against a proposal to extract five million tonnes of gravel from fields between Wallingford and Cholsey.
About 200 protesters rode the Bunkline railway, which runs between the two communities, to raise money to fund their battle.
Campaigners have now raised £22,000 towards a £30,000 target to cover legal costs.
Members of Communities Against Gravel Extraction (Cage) joined forces with volunteers who run the railway on Sunday to stage the demo.
It was the latest protest by residents who fear the planned gravel pit will damage the town as a tourist destination.
The protest was called Murder by the Bunkline as Agatha Christie lived with her second husband in Winterbrook and is buried in St Mary’s Church, Cholsey.
In March, the county council’s cabinet agreed its minerals and waste plan and Cage is hiring a legal team to put the group’s case at an examination in public in the Autumn.
Cage chairman Henry Thornton said: “I think it’s extraordinary that the county council is still planning to go ahead with these plans. Everyone is determined to fight these proposals all the way.
“There were more than 150 people taking part in the demonstration with a wide range of different age groups.
“People came along about 11.30am and stayed for a few hours, with families gathering at each end of the Bunkline.
“Some funds were raised on the day but this was more about raising awareness.”
Cholsey Parish Council chairman Mark Gray added: “This was a very good-natured demo with people chanting ‘stop the pit’.”
Cage solicitor Adrian Hatt said: “The county council’s latest consultation period on the waste and minerals strategy finishes on July 16 and we have more than 1,000 email contacts confirming people’s support for the campaign.”
According to the waste plan, 1.2 million tonnes a year could be dug in Oxfordshire, from the Lower Windrush Valley, Eynsham, Cassington, Yarnton, Sutton Courtenay and Caversham, with Cholsey replacing Sutton Courtenay from 2020.
Cabinet member for growth and infrastructure Lorraine Lindsay-Gale said earlier that Cholsey was a suitable site because of a lack of constraints, closeness to developers needing gravel and good transport links.