Bengeo Quarry Continues to Threaten Hertford’s Landscape and Water

Bengeo Quarry Continues to Threaten Hertford’s Landscape and Water

Supporters of the Stop Bengeo Quarry campaign (SBQ) came together for a Summer Walk across Bengeo Field, as the fight to preserve the local landscape continues.  On Sunday 10th September Stop Bengeo Quarry hosted the event, which consisted of a walk to the Woodman pub in Chapmore End, where a day of live music and a barbecue took place for the community event.  More than 120 people attended during the day, to back the fight to Stop Bengeo Quarry, which is getting ready for its next round of campaigning to gain further support.

Adults, children and dogs gathered at the Old Oak Tree on the path at Bengeo Field to begin a day in aid of the green space between Wadesmill and Sacombe Road.  Supporters were invited to wear red for Stop Bengeo Quarry or green to celebrate our countryside, with prizes for the best outfits.  It was a fun day out for all the family, with activities for children along the walk, and a selection of fantastic live music at the Woodman pub, including local acts such as Baron Goodlove and Chloe Turner.  

The campaign now needs the support of the public again as the Bengeo Quarry applicant has appealed against Hertford County Council’s decision to reject the application.  The next stage in the process will require expert consultation which SBQ will need to raise funding for.  SBQ also needs to prepare for the possibility of the Bengeo Quarry applicant making another smaller application in the same area.  

There have been some promising developments in the Minerals Local Plan published recommendations by Hertford County Council, which suggest that neither Bengeo Field nor Rickneys would be considered as a “preferred area for quarrying”. However, the final decision will take until late 2018, so the issue is far from over.

 

Stopping Bengeo Quarry Is Not Over Yet

The Bengeo quarry applicant has now appealed against the rejection decision made by Herts County Council’s Development Control Committee in March this year. The appeal has been logged with Planning Inspectorate and HCC will be requested to defend their decision. We hope this will be a public hearing and we, the residents, will be able to have our views and the evidence presented by our experts. It does mean though that we are into the next stage of the process and we will have to consider experts, barristers, etc.

We knew that stopping the application in March did not mean the end of the campaign. Please show your support and help us raise the awareness and funds for the experts that we will be carefully considering to represent us at the appeal. We won before and WITH YOUR SUPPORT we are well positioned to stop it again. More detailed information to follow soon.

Field Could Be Dropped From Minerals Local Plan

The Bengeo Field could be dropped as a Preferred Area for gravel extraction when the next Mineral Local Plan is adopted in 2019.

Herts County Council will meet on Thursday 7th September to discuss recommendations for areas to be included in the forthcoming draft plan for the county. The Council’s planning team have proposed four options, recommending an option that does not include Bengeo Field or Rickneys. If endorsed, this would mean that these areas are not included in MLP, and are not “preferred areas for quarrying”!

The further formal process needs to go through a number of stages: The recommendation is submitted to the Environment Cabinet Panel of elected County Councillors. If accepted, the recommendation goes then to the Cabinet. If the Cabinet decide to endorse the recommendation then it officially becomes HCC DRAFT Minerals and Waste Plan (the key formal decision point). The draft plan then goes to full council towards the end of the year after which it is the official plan for the county until 2031. It is a slow process but it would mean that the future applications have much less chance for approval.

From the HCC document (available on the HCC website):
13. Recommended Site Option
13.1. Having considered the conclusions of reports and assessments undertaken, on balance the most appropriate option to take forward to the Draft Minerals Local Plan is Option 4. Option 4 comprises Furze Field, Hatfield Aerodrome, Land Adjoining Coopers Green Lane (all three being specific sites) and Briggens Estate (as a preferred area). This option would provide:
• The necessary tonnage to meet the plan requirement
• Flexibility in regards to timing of sites coming forward
• The identification of specific sites, preferred areas and/or areas of search (in order of priority) in line with national policy.

Summer Walk To The Woodman

Join us at the Old Oak Tree on the footpath at Bengeo Field alongside Wadesmill Road (B158) and Sacombe Road at 11 am. We will walk together to the Woodman Pub in Chapmore End arriving by midday. If walking is not your thing – meet us at the Woodman pub. There will be live music and BBQ at the Woodman between 12 – 4pm. There will be also some fun activities for children and adults along the walk and in the pub. Wear RED for Stop Bengeo Quarry Campaign and GREEN for our countryside (there will be a reward for best outfits).

Live music in the Woodman

Simon Cragg
Garden Room
Beth Hedges
Chloe Turner
Baron Goodlove
The Greyhound Factory

Donations are welcome from walkers but are in no way compulsory. There will be Barbeque.

After the successful rejection of the previous proposal of the Bengeo quarry by County Development Control Committee, the Stop Bengeo Quarry is now preparing to the imminent appeal against this decision, as well as any other new quarry applications, and the expected consultation for Minerals Local Plan (and selection of “preferred arrears” for quarrying). Thanks to outstanding support from the local community we managed to achieve a lot. To give us the best chance of stopping the quarry in Bengeo Field and Rickneys’ for good, we need to raise funds for consultants and legal advice.

Let’s have a field day….

Chapmore End Joins Campaign

Press Release from Chapmore End Association

It is with great pleasure that the residents of Chapmore End announce that they have formed an alliance with the Stop Bengeo Quarry campaign.

Chapmore End is a small hamlet of around 30 houses and although we have had a lot of success fighting gravel extractions for more than 30 years, we are still fighting to protect our environment.

We know the developers intend to appeal against the HCC Committee’s decision to reject the Bengeo Field quarry proposal. In addition, they are also expected to submit a separate new application. Also imminent is a public consultation and decision from HCC regarding the Minerals Local Plan, which will identify the preferred areas for mineral extraction. And with the future of Rickney’s quarry still uncertain, we believe it is important that we make every effort to join forces with the residents of Bengeo and other local areas.

The residents of Chapmore End have been very impressed with the way Bengeo and Hertford residents have come together to fight against gravel extraction close to their school and houses, and we are confident that both communities will be able to work very successfully together in the future.

Terry Mansfield CBE and Russell Norris will represent Chapmore End at the Bengeo Steering Group committee and enjoy working with such talented people who care about the environment and the community we live within.

Lapwing Breeding on Bengeo Field

This article has been submitted by Diana Howarth

I have been monitoring bird species on my regular walks across Bengeo Field and have noted that this year there have been at least two pairs of Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) in the north western part of the field.  Also known as the peewit, this striking bird with a distinctive crest usually appears in large flocks, but has been in recent decline.

Photo of Lapwing

The uncultivated area of stony ground with low covering of vegetation in the highest part of the field is an ideal habitat for these ground nesting birds.  They lay their eggs, looking like stones, in a small scrape on the ground where they are camouflaged from predators.  The fluffy striped chicks run around and learn to sit still when the crows are about making them almost invisible.  At least one pair have bred four chicks successfully and reared them into strongly growing juveniles.  I last saw these juveniles and the breeding pair on Friday 23rd June.

Lapwings are a threatened species and are listed in the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for UK Birds because numbers have declined over 80% since 1960. The Red List is an assessment based on the most up-to-date evidence available and criteria include conservation status at global and European levels and, within the UK: historical decline, trends in population and range, rarity, localised distribution and international importance.

In addition, I am pleased to say that the skylarks have bred successfully and now number more than 12 in all.

We must not lose an important habitat such as Bengeo Field.

Neighbourhood Plan Community Meeting

Hertford Town Council, the Bengeo Neighbourhood Area Plan Steering Group and local Residents’ Associations would like to invite the community of Bengeo to participate in creating a neighbourhood area plan for Bengeo.

Attend this first community meeting to find out how Bengeo Neighbourhood Area Plan can influence where you live and work, and to have your say on: • future residential development • countryside and open spaces • roads, cycleways, and parking • shops, community centres, health provision • heritage and culture • anything else you think is important.

This is an important, long-term community project that will shape the future of Bengeo and local knowledge and expertise provided by the local community will be critical to its success.
Residents, businesses and local organisations – please come along to the meeting to share your views and find out how you can get involved!

Campaign Film

This film documents the Stop Bengeo Quarry campaign from its early days to the refusal of planning permission by the County Council.

Campaign to Protect Rural England Rural Living Awards 2017

The SBQ campaign has been put forward for the CPRE Rural Living Awards 2017 – Community Award. We believe the campaign has met all the main criteria: * give added value to community life * have something innovative about them * used by all areas and ages of the community * bring the community together * vibrant * provide for continuity. We also meet some of the Environment Award criteria: * promote access to the countryside * celebrate Hertfordshire’s landscapes * enhance the countryside for all to enjoy. Further details about the award can be found here.: http://www.cpreherts.org.uk/awards/rural-living-awards/item/2408-2017-rural-living-awards-get-underway

Please find below an extract from the application for the award explaining the reasons for nominating Stop Bengeo Quarry.

Stop Bengeo Quarry campaign group has been very successful in energising people of all ages to fight the application and encouraged use of the field – so successful that HCC’s Development Control Committee voted unanimously to reject a slightly reduced version of the original application, at a packed meeting at County Hall on March22nd 2017.

The field in question – Bengeo Field – has a footpath across it which links Bengeo and the whole of Hertford with the villages of Crouchfields and Chapmore End. For generations it has been used and enjoyed by walkers, joggers, cyclists, dogwalkers, and birdwatchers. lt is home to skylarks, brown hares and badgers and it was our aim, not only to preserve the space for future generations, but to foster in local people a love of this piece of countryside and the wildlife which inhabits it.

Stop Bengeo Quarry worked in various ways to raise awareness of the gravel application and to harness the enthusiasm, energy and expertise of hundreds of people – and to raise money for the campaign. Among other things, we held three public meetings; distributed posters for display in windows; organised a Fun Day on the school fieldj programmed family field walks to musical events at a Chapmore End pub; held photo- and cake-making competitions; adopted “The Lonely Oak”, a single oak tree in the middle of the footpath as a symbol of the campaign and, days before the DCC meeting, we encouraged children, parents and grandparents to spell out “NO” with their bodies in a field over-looking the site. We used a drone to photograph this and it made the front page in the Hertfordshire Mercury.

Crucially, we used social media in the form of the Stop Bengeo quarry Facebook and website to communicate with our supporters, to collect their campaign ideas and to publish photos and short films of our events and of the changing beauty of the field during the year. This site attracted over 3,000 followers, many of them local, but also others who had moved away from Hertford and still had fond memories of the field and the activities they had enjoyed there during childhood. Our website was visited more than 11,000 times before the March decision was made.

We were fortunate to find, within the community of Bengeo, several experts who made an enormous contribution to our campaign. These included a graphics designer, a professional photographer, a retired BBC film maker and a distinguished geologist who understood and explained to local residents, to school children and to the councillors on the Development Control Committee, that the proposed excavation would present a threat to the safety of Hertford’s water supply.

We made many new friends and we all learned a lot – not least, how much we loved and valued the beauty of the field.

Minerals Local Plan Review

We understand that potential 23 areas for working quarry have been submitted to Herts County Council. The HCC will now select the cull of preferred areas for public consultation, which is now expected to take place around October. Our ambition is to have the entire Stoney Hills area (i.e. from Bengeo to A602) excluded from MLP. We believe all the arguments against the previous Bengeo quarry proposal (including landscape protection, local amenity of the area, and the risk of water supply pollution) apply against making it a preferred MLP area for extracting gravel. However, if the land goes through to the public consultation, we will respond as strongly as we have done before.

Photo of Rickney's Quarry Rickney’s Quarry in 2016

Local District Plan and HERT4 developments

The East Hertfordshire District Plan consultation has been finalised earlier this year. The Secretary of State has appointed an inspector to carry out the independent examination of the Plan. She will determine whether the Plan has been prepared in accordance with the relevant legal requirements and that it is ‘sound’ i.e. positively prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national policy.

At the same time two Statements of Common Ground relating to HERT4 have been made available on the EHDC website:

  1. between EHDC and Kler Group in respect of the Bengeo Nursery site (part of HERT4) for 50 houses.
  2. between EHDC and Gowling WLG Trust in relation to the rest of HERT4 for 100 houses.

Bengeo Neighbourhood Plan has been set up in collaboration with local Residents’ Associations (MRA, LoBRA, WERA) and Town Council representatives. It is going through the approval process and we will share further information as soon as possible.

» Statements Of Common Ground

Potential appeal against the Bengeo quarry decision

The applicant has up to six months to appeal to Inspectorate against the HCC Development Control Committee’s decision about the Bengeo quarry proposal. As far as we know no appeal has been lodged. However the Gowling WLG Trust (also the applicant for the Bengeo quarry) states explicitly in their Statement of Common Ground (section 6.6) that they intend to appeal against the quarry decision: “This application was refused by Hertfordshire County Council on the 22nd March 2017. The Applicants will be submitting an appeal against this decision to the Planning Inspectorate as well as commencing negotiations with HCC on a revised scheme to extract minerals in accordance with its designation as a Preferred Area.

It will be another busy year it seems.