Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Battle For Paices Wood

Peaceful Paices Wood
On Saturday 6th June local LibDem activists met naturalists and conservationists from Berkshire's Wildlife Trust and Ornitological Society on a pleasant country walk around Paices Wood Country Park.

Paices Wood is a former gravel extraction site comprising extensive woodland, grassland and several lakes near Aldermaston, in the shadow of AWE.

Following exhaustion of commercial quarrying in the 1980s the site was restored and landscaped, however access became restricted due to increased security requirements through Youngs industrial estate after 2000.

A gravel pit at Paices Wood
The owners campaigned for a dedicated entrance to the park, and planning permission was eventually granted in September 2010, with funding from the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF).

The new entrance to Paices Wood was officially opened in May 2011 by Newbury's Conservative MP Richard Benyon, ironically only weeks after ALSF was scrapped by Defra Minister Richard Benyon - a move heavily criticised by the Minerals Product Association.

An undisturbed gravel site nearby
The fund was stopped despite changes which increased the total levy by £15m/year in 2011 to more than £300m/year, having being used to channel about 7% of levy income (£10.8m from 2009 to 2011) back to communities to pay for conservation, community and other sustainability projects.

Given the recent application for new gravel extraction in the area, residents will be concerned about the loss of a vital environmental fund to mitigate problems with nothing to replace it.

Meanwhile, Paices Wood is one of nine sites under consideration by West Berkshire Council to transfer management repsonsibility to BBOWT, as the ruling Conservatives seek to cut expenditure and rein in budgets.

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