Wicklesham Quarry SSSI: under threat of industrial development

by Anna Hoare

Wicklesham Quarry SSSI: under threat of industrial development

by Anna Hoare
Anna Hoare
Case Owner
Conservation Target Area, "one of Britain's richest palaeontological localities", and host of endangered plants and animals.
on 20th May 2017
pledged of £20,000 stretch target from 28 pledges
Anna Hoare
Case Owner
Conservation Target Area, "one of Britain's richest palaeontological localities", and host of endangered plants and animals.

Please help me stop Wicklesham Quarry SSSI being turned into a logistics/ industrial estate. 

Hundreds of people have signed my online petition to Protect Wicklesham Quarry from Development (link below)Local people want to save this unique site for its own sake, and for the enjoyment of future generations. In October 2016, the generosity of supporters of Wicklesham Quarry helped me raise £10,265 to make an application for Judicial Review. The High Court hearing will take place on 14-15 June 2017, and I need to ask for your help to raise £20,000 to fund the full hearing. 

Natural England calls Wicklesham Quarry Site of Special Scientific Interest "one of Britain's richest palaeontological localities"It has over 150 "very rich and unusual species" of fossils, many of which are known to occur nowhere else. Its naturalised ponds have breeding colonies of Great Crested Newts, a European Protected Speciesas well as toads, smooth and palmate newts. It is part of West Oxfordshire Heights Conservation Target Area, and Wicklesham tetrad has eleven rare plant species.* The quarry lies outside the town of Faringdon in an area of high landscape value, the Midvale Corallian Ridge. 

Environmental policies should ensure Wicklesham Quarry's protection, and the Quarry's planning conditions state it must be restored to agricultural use. Yet Faringdon Council has allocated it for heavy industry and warehousing (B2/ B8) in the recent Neighbourhood Plan. By adopting the Neighbourhood Plan, the Vale of White Horse District Council has approved this policy - even though since 2008 it has consistently rejected the landowner's proposals to turn it into an industrial site. The District Council has stated it is "far in excess" of Faringdon's needs, and its location in open countryside outside the settlement boundary makes it unsuitable. Four independent reviews** have found that turning Wicklesham into an industrial site is unjustified and/ or unsustainable. 

The famous 'Faringdon fossils'

Wicklesham Quarry's fossils have been in museum collections since 1699, making it one of the earliest documented palaeontological sites in Britain. It is a "type site", which means Faringdon has given its name to Faringdon Fossils, the Faringdon Greensands, and Faringdon Sponge Gravels - reflecting the Quarry's unique geology. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee, principal adviser to government, states that no alterations of a permanent character should be permitted to a SSSI of this class.*** 

Climate change science

SSSI sites like Wicklesham Quarry are part of our shared natural heritage, and living laboratories for scientists. They may even have a contribution to make towards our own survival on earth. Recently, fossil Foraminifera have come to play a key role in climate change science. In 1986, M.A. Wilson discovered one new genus and three new species of Foraminifera at Wicklesham Quarry! Professor Wilson has stated: 

"I am very much in favor of the highest level of protection for this site that is possible." "Industrial build-up of any kind on the base of the quarry will make future access to the thick extent of gravels beneath the quarry floor very difficult, if not impossible. It will also restrict access to the remaining quarry faces. I’ve been to many geological SSSIs in England and by far the best neighbor for these sites is agriculture, not industry."

A 20 acre industrial/ logistics site at Wicklesham Quarry would destroy Faringdon's valued landscape setting, and its unique and irreplaceable site of geo and biodiversity would be lost for ever under warehouses. If Wicklesham Quarry SSSI cannot be protected, then no nationally designated site is safe.

The Judicial Review will examine the lawfulness of the Neighbourhood Plan, and test the strength of the environmental policies and planning conditions that should protect Wicklesham Quarry from development.

 Barrister Pavlos Eleftheriadis, and solicitor Linda Felton of Fortune Green Legal Practice will be representing me. This is what my barrister says:

"The case raises many important points of principle of environmental justice. It will allow the court to examine how far a Neighbourhood Plan can depart from the strategic choices of the broader Local Plan, what effect a Biodiversity Action Plan has on planning policy, how exactly environmental assessment informs such a process, as well as the role and weight of restoration and aftercare obligations when quarrying operations come to an end."  

This case - like Wicklesham Quarry itself - has many unique aspects, and I hope the judgment of the High Court will help other communities trying to protect the environment, and to prevent quarrying being exploited as a back-door for industrializing the countryside. 

The next steps - Judicial Review

I need to raise £20,000 to meet the costs of preparing document bundles, paying court fees and the fees of my barrister and solicitor. Adverse costs are restricted under the Aarhus Convention to £5,000. Will you make a donation to help me fight this important case?

Since 2014 local people have campaigned to Protect Wicklesham Quarry from Development using our own resources. Aimee Harris raised £47 for leaflets and a poster that I displayed on market day with a petition, and in Faringdon public library. Thanks to Aimee, dozens of people heard about the campaign and signed up to support it. 


To help me launch this new appeal local people raised £1,824 through a fundraising supper and auction! Donations to CrowdJustice of £1,000 or more will be refunded pro rata if I win the case and costs are awarded.

With your help, I believe I can succeed in protecting the rare, natural diversity and scientific assets of Wicklesham Quarry for future generations. 

Please make a donation today and help me save this unique site before it is too late! 

Thank you for reading my appeal.


* Wicklesham tetrad, an area 2km square with the quarry at its centre, was surveyed in 2000 for: C. D. Preston, D. A. Pearman & T. D. Dines, eds. (2002): New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora.     Oxford: Oxford University Press.        (Supported by DEFRA)

** URS Ltd Employment Land Reviews 2008 & 2013; The Vale of White Horse District Council Core Strategy 'Preferred Options' Consultation and Review 2009; In Faringdon Neighbourhood Plan's Sustainability Appraisal  2014, Wicklesham Quarry scored worst out of eleven sites.

*** Joint Nature Conservation Committee 2004: 'Disused quarry, pits and cuttings. ESCC Code: ED'. Common Standards Monitoring Guidance for Earth Science Sites. ISN 1743-8160 (online)

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