VOCAL opponents to a proposed quarry site near the grave of Lawrence of Arabia rallied at the Dorset County Council offices.

Woodsford and Tincleton parish councillors, residents and a representative of the T. E. Lawrence Society spoke at a meeting of the Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole Minerals and Waste Policy Joint Advisory Committee at County Hall yesterday.

They were united in opposition of proposed plans for a quarry site near Moreton.

There were four speakers against the proposal – Woodsford parish councillor Tony Meader, Moreton parish councillor Nigel Hill, vice chairman of the T.E. Lawrence Society Alan Payne and chairman of Frome Residents Against Mineral Extraction (FRAME) Clarice Wickenden.

Tony Meader claimed that because the county council combined reserves of sand and gravel, the need for the quarry was exaggerated.

He said: “The Government sets a minimum allowable landbank of seven years. The county’s aggregate assessment shows that there is currently only a five year Poole formation sand landbank, well below the seven year requirement, and a 13 year gravel landbank.

“While the government does not set a maximum landbank, we believe that almost doubling it just for gravel is excessive.”

He also expressed concerns that the quarry could have an impact on village life for a quarter of a century.

He said: “The communities downwind and across the River Frome include many bed and breakfasts, and the internationally-renowned Sculpture by the Lakes.

“They depend on a tranquil environment. Quarrying activity will be visible across the river and introduce the harsh mechanical noise of machines, the clanking of bulldozer tracks and digger buckets and the noise of reversing alarms.”

Five-hundred people signed the petition Let Lawrence of Arabia Rest in Peace after the proposals were raised.

Alan Payne, who works as a planning consultant and is chairman of a community land trust, said: “The starting point for assessing the proposed designation is that it abuts the Moreton Conservation Area where both local and national policies make it quite clear that priority should be given to preserving what is defined in policy as a heritage asset.”

He said: “It was at 11.30am on May 13, 81 years ago that T. E. Lawrence had his fatal accident and it would be a fitting day for members of this committee to re-consider the proposed design.”

The recommendation made by officers was that the committee note these petitions and the fact that officers will take them into consideration in future plan preparations.

Trevor Badley, Dorset County Council minerals and waste policy manager, said:

“Dorset County Council is in the process of producing draft plans for the Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole plans for mineral sites and waste sites.

“This process adheres to national guidelines and policies from the Mineral Planning Authority and also Government planning policy. One of the strict criteria is that we ensure that we have at least seven years' worth of permitted aggregate in the ground, which can be extracted and used.

“The production of the plans includes several consultation stages and the next phase for residents to raise concerns is between 26 May and 21 July. We are going through the process and welcome comments and input along the way which we will take into consideration. At the end, the Plan will be examined by an inspector and the three councils will have to decide if they wish to accept the inspector's recommendations.

“We acknowledge that there may be minor inaccuracies in the draft assessments that have already been carried out and these will be corrected as part of the consultation.

“We are about to commission an assessment of the traffic impacts along the B3390, of all the various levels of development (quarries and houses) that have been proposed.

“If any of the sites have a planning application prepared for them, there will be a very detailed assessment carried out. If this picks up any impacts that cannot be mitigated or overcome, the site would not be developed even if it is in the plan.”