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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Discover Walk Film

More than 150 people came to join the Bengeo Field Discovery Walk organised by Stop Bengeo Quarry campaigners.

The walk was organised as a treasure hunt trail with a map leading friends and families along the by-way across the field, past the lonely oak tree, St John’s Wood and around the edge of the field past the old Rickney’s quarry.

Interviewed for the film made of the day, Mark Lynch, one of the co-founders of the Stop Bengeo Quarry campaign, said, “This quarry will destroy a magnificent open space, which is the only open space we have North of Hertford. It’s ridiculously close to the local school and, as many people have said, you wouldn’t put a school next to a quarry so why on earth are they putting a quarry next to the school?”

The support for the walk underlines the importance of this area for the local community. If the proposed quarry goes ahead the Bengeo Field as we know it will be destroyed. It is a place which brings the community together at weekends and throughout the week – loved by families, ramblers, cyclists, dog walkers, horse riders – and is a link between local communities in Chapmore End, Crouchfields and Hertford.