Wiltshire Council has agreed to extend by a month its consultation period over plans to open new quarries for sand and gravel throughout the county after criticism of a lack of publicity.
John Brady, cabinet member with responsibility for planning, returned from holiday into the midst of a political storm.
Families in Bromham and Chittoe, near Devizes, Studley and Compton Bassett are furious at proposals to open quarries on prime agricultural and horticultural land in their area.
Villagers in Bromham have formed a campaign to fight the proposals and recruited their Wiltshire councillors, Jonathon Seed and Philip Brown.
Coun Brady said: “My major concern is the criticism that the consultation process has not been adequately publicised.
“As a result, we have extended the consultation period until the end of October and the council’s magazine will shortly be going out with a large piece on the consultation process. The council employed consultants to come up with a list of potential sites for mineral extraction throughout the county and council officers decided to put them all into the consultation document.
“Just because the sites are in the document doesn’t mean they will definitely appear on the draft that will go before councillors for their approval.
“That is the whole point of a consultation, finding out what people want. It’s not all bad news. Mineral extraction in the north and south of the county resulted in the creation of lakes, which the RSPB say are excellent for wildlife.”
The appearance of certain sites in the document came as a surprise to some landowners.
The Marquis of Lansdowne has written to the Gazette about sites on his land within the Bowood estate. He said: “There are no current proposals to pursue a planning application on any of these sites.
“It is unfortunate that the council published its report without first informing the estate or the parish council.”
Mr Brady responded: “I quite understand Lord Lansdowne’s position. On reflection it was probably a mistake not to inform the parish councils earlier.”
But one Bromham villager who is backing the council is kitchen designer Mark Wilkinson. He said: “I know it has upset a lot of people round here but I can’t see any overriding problems.
“The situation with councils these days is that they are looking to save and make money and this is the perfect way of doing it. I don’t see in the greater scheme of things that the environment will be greatly harmed and the money generated will benefit the local community.
“I had a quarry on my land and it was a great resource for wildlife. On an ecological basis, what do we use that land (the proposed site) for now? Beef and corn. We have more than enough land for beef and corn.”