Public Enquiry Opens

A Public Enquiry in to the County Council’s refusal to grant planning permission for a quarry north of Hertford opens today, Tuesday 1st May 2018.

The enquiry is taking place in The Council Chamber at County Hall in Hertford and runs for Tuesday 1st to Friday 4th May, and from Wednesday 9th to Friday 11th May.

The agenda has yet to be confirmed but typically the appellant & their witnesses will be heard first, then the County Council & their witnesses, then Rule 6 parties & their witnesses (Stop Bengeo Quarry and Andrew Stevenson). We do not know when the public speakers will be asked to speak – normally it is outlined by the inspector based on the availability of the speakers.

At the Development Control Committee last week, the County Council highlighted conflicting information from expert speakers and statutory consultees, particularly with regard to health. Dr.David Adam also spoke on behalf of the campaign to highlight a new study by the HSE into the behaviour of crystaline silica in the atmosphere.

Fundraising at The Bengeo Club

Bengeo residents flooded into The Bengeo Club on Sunday 15th April in support of the campaign to stop the Bengeo quarry. The fundraising effort raised £450 with the sale of teas/coffees, a raffle and homemade cakes.

Children painted rocks, designed posters, and penned poems to express their concern for their environment and to protect their local school. In particular – they mention the dust pollution, the water supply and the wildlife around the much loved Lonely Oak in the centre of the Bengeo Field. More than 250 people visited Bengeo Club for the event, including Cllr Andrew Stevenson, Cllr Peter Ruffles, Cllr Sue Dunkley, and Cllr Linda Radford.

Aska Pickering, the Chairperson of Stop Bengeo Quarry campaign said: “The support of the Hertford community is truly amazing. We have been campaigning for over two years now but the support to stop the quarry just on the border of Hertford grows stronger. The event provided the campaigning residents a chance to discuss the latest developments and forthcoming events, as well as enjoy delicious cakes.”

The children will further demonstrate their passion to protect Hertford from any quarry proposals on Tuesday in Bengeo Primary School where they will present their posters and create a NO in the school’s playground.

The latest quarry proposal will be considered by Herts County Council on 26 April at 10am. The Planning Inspectorate’s inquiry to the appeal against HCC’s refusal of the previous application will start on 1 May at 10am. Stop Bengeo Quarry are calling for all supporters to join them on these days in the County Hall.

Latest Support from Mark Prisk MP

Local MP for Hertford & Stortford, Mark Prisk, has again written to the County Council stating his objection top the proposed quarry north of Bengeo.

In his letter to Planning Officer Felicity Hart, he writes: “I am writing to reiterate my objection to this application. Many of the underlying problems with the previous application, which the council rejected, remain with this application: the impact on air quality; traffic generation; the risks of pollution to the water supply. I understand the applicant has sought to provide additional information concerning soil contamination; a cumulative impact assessment and a Non- Technical Summary.”

He continues: “I support local residents’ views that these are inadequate and fail to satisfactorily answer concerns related to the original application. The desk-based soil contamination study fails to provide a full survey of surface chalk which would be the minimum required in these circumstances. The impact assessment is incomplete, lacking as it does any account of the impact on the landscape or Green Belt land. The NTS has several omissions or contradictions, not least over the increase in traffic.  Most significantly, the applicant has still not addressed the threat to Hertford’s water supply. Given this I wish to record my strong objection to this second application for a quarry on this site.

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.

County Council Refuses Planning Permission

The County Council’s Development Control Committee have unanimously voted to refuse planning permission for the quarry north of Bengeo.

Councillors lined up to voice their concerns about the application. Cllr Andrew Williams said: “I am overwhelmingly of the view that we should reject this application”. Cllr Muir commented: “I came to this meeting this morning with an open mind, but listening to the speakers including Dr Lovell, I find I cannot support this application, for all the reasons we have heard”. Cllr Peter Ruffles also opposed the plan: “I support the local member Andrew Stevenson, the landscape structure is the number one reason for rejecting the application. I cannot support this application.”.

Campaign chair Aska Winiewska-Pickering expressed delight at the decision: “I think it is safe to say that today’s outcome exceeded our expectations. We would like to thank absolutely every single person who has joined the Stop Bengeo Quarry campaign today and throughout the past year. There are so many people who supported this campaign in so many different ways. We have all worked together and across diversified groups in our community, sharing the purpose of protecting our health, our water, our landscape. And today we should celebrate that we have achieved what we wanted. We stopped this Bengeo quarry and also became a stronger community willing to give their time and energy to protect the health and environment of future generations. Thank you”

County Councillor Andrew Stevenson has long supported the campaign and spoke against the plans during the meeting. Following the decision he commented “It was unusual that the committee was so strongly against the plans.” Cllr.Stevenson was also critical of the Environment Agency for their weak response to the plans. Local MP Mark Prisk has also written to the agency and the government to voice his concerns about what is regarded as an inadequate response.

The Campaign will now focus on ensuring that the fields north of Bengeo remain Green Belt land for the enjoyment of the community.

Final Rally Says ‘No’

More than 150 people turned out on Sunday 12th March for the final rally of support for the campaign to stop plans for a gravel extraction quarry in Bengeo getting the green light.

Residents from Bengeo and further afield, including many families with children at nearby Bengeo school, gathered at the Wick park and walked to the field at the heart of the proposals.

On Friday, the group were delighted to hear that planning officers at Hertfordshire County Council were recommending that the proposals were turned down.

Key to their concerns are air pollution caused by the dust produced during the extraction process and road congestion caused by the HGVs travelling to and from the plant each day.

Aska Pickering, who chairs the campaign committee group, said: “After almost a year of campaigning and gathering support, we were delighted to hear of the planning officers’ recommendations. However, the decision will be made by the Development Control Committee on 22nd March, so we wanted to give the campaign one last push and demonstrate how much the community cares about saving the Bengeo Field from becoming a quarry.

We are very concerned  about the risk of water contamination, the risk of harming health of the children at Bengeo Primary and all local residents who would be exposed to dangerous dust particles. We are worried about the implications to the traffic and road safety. And finally we want to protect this iconic Hertford landscape and Bengeo’s much loved amenity.”

Over 3,000 people have shown their support for the campaign, with nearly 2,000 people signing the latest petition and a further 1,331 writing objection letters.

The campaign group is urging local residents to demonstrate their support on 22nd March at County Hall, Pegs Lane from 9am, with the Committee meeting starting at 10am.

Protesters being filmed from the air

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