We Stopped Bengeo Quarry!!

A huge congratulations to Bengeo! We pulled together as a community to fight proposals to dig a quarry in Bengeo – and we won!!

On 22nd March proposals were unanimously turned down by HCC’s Development Control Committee held at County Hall. This was largely due to the overwhelming support from local residents who worked hard to form a united front and campaign against the proposals. Everyone who has supported the campaign has made a huge difference. You have helped protect your local area, environment and quality of life, as well as safeguard the health of future generations. Thank you!!

What next?

While this is a huge victory for Bengeo and Hertford, we will continue to fight to protect our community and surrounding environment. The next step in our campaign is to ask for the area to be removed from the Minerals Local Plan, which is expected to be open to public consultation in second half of this year. This should help to safeguard the area from future gravel extraction proposals.

Work is also underway to produce a Neighbourhood Plan – a document which reflects the views of the residents and allows the community to express their aspirations and vision for their local community. This would then be taken into account when future planning applications are made.

And, once again, THANK YOU!

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.

Presentation Document

All members of the County Council’s Development Control Committee have now received our concise document highlighting the main concerns raised by the campaign.

The document addresses some of the main issues in response to the revised quarry application, covering: traffic and road safety, landscape and amenity, ecology, dust and health, water contamination, and archaeology.

» Read our presentation document here

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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Campaign Updates MP Mark Prisk

Members of the Stop Bengeo Quarry campaign and County Councillor Andrew Stevenson met with local MP Mark Prisk on Friday 10th March, ahead of the HCC meeting which will decide whether the planning application will be approved.

Right to left Libby Mountford, School Governor for Bengeo Primary School, Mark Lynch,Chairman of Bengeo Neighbourhood Plan, Mark Prisk, MP, Andrew Stevenson, County Councillor, Tanya Needham, and Aska Pickering, Chairman of the Stop Bengeo Quarry campaign.

Mark Prisk has been an active supporter of the campaign from the beginning and re-emphasised that he shares the campaigners’ concerns about water contamination, air pollution also the loss of landscape and amenity.

Mark and Andrew are both particularly concerned about the risk of water contamination and believe that the Environment Agency’s advice that the quarry operator should simply monitor for pollution is seriously flawed. They intend to write again to the Environment Agency to stress this point and to present the highly critical geological assessments the campaign has received.

Stop Bengeo Quarry campaign members raised the point that our local community has suffered the blight of quarrying over a very long period of time and that it seems far too easy for quarry operators to ignore their commitments, particularly in regard to restoration. We also agreed the current minerals landbank was more than sufficient to meet demand and as a consequence there is no need for another quarry.

Finally, we examined what could be done to prevent future quarrying applications being submitted in relation to this site in Bengeo, possibly by presenting a strong case when the new Minerals Local Plan is consulted on in the summer. The top priority at present, however, is to ensure that the current quarry proposal is refused.

Photo by Steve Beeston Photography

Planning Officer Recommends Refusal

County Council Planning Officer Felicity Hart has recommended that councillors refuse the planning application for the proposed Bengeo Quarry.

In her 47-page report to the Development Control Committee, the planning officer highlights a range of reasons for recommending refusal, including:

  • Inappropriate development of the Green Belt
  • Impact on landscape
  • Workings outside the area identified by the County Council as preferred for gravel extraction
  • Highways issues
  • The current landbank of gravel exceeds that required by law
  • Inadequate Health Impact Assessment

On behalf of the Campaign, Aska Wisniewska-Pickering commented: “It is absolutely fantastic news about the HCC Planning Officer’s recommendation to reject this awful proposal to have a quarry just on the edge of Hertford. What is important now is that the HCC Development Control Committee make the final decision to reject it.

Constituency MP Mark Prisk also welcomed the news: “I am pleased that HCC’s planners have rejected this application. They have made it clear that the application breaches several key policies and that with existing resources in hand there is no need for this scheme to proceed. I hope this will now mean that the planning committee will now also reject the application, reflecting the strong views of our community in Bengeo.

The Development Control Committee will meet at County Hall on Wednesday 22nd March at 10am to discuss the application and make a final decision. The meeting is open to the public.

» Read the Planning Officer’s Report here

This item was updated at 18:11 10/3/17 to include comments by Mark Prisk.

Landscape Survey Results

We now have the final results of our Bengeo Field Landscape Survey, showing evidence of how much it is used and liked.

Some Facts

The survey attracted 417 respondents.

14.5% of respondents used the field 3 times per week or more, whilst 69% of respondents used the filed once per month or more

95% of respondents thought the view over the field either special or very special

The most valued elements of the view were the distinctive natural undulation (76.5%) and the view down to the Lonely Oak (72.5%).

Most valued use of the field:

  • Walking in green space 75%
  • Enjoying open green space 75%
  • Away from housing and development 65%

Most common activities:

  • Walking 84%
  • Part of longer walks 52%
  • Dog walking 36%
  • Mountain biking 24%

Other activities:

  • Horseriding
  • Playing with children/grandchildren
  • Wildlife photography
  • Gathering mushrooms, hazel nuts and berries
  • Bird watching
  • Nature exploration
  • Picnics

New Conditions Sought by Environment Agency

The Environment Agency has issued an additional response to plans for a quarry north of Bengeo.

In a letter to the planning authority, they request an additional condition to any planning approval, requiring the applicant to provide a scheme for repairs to the water borehole in Wadesmill Road, before any quarrying takes place. The condition would also require the applicant to provide “a programme for future maintenance, schedule for repairs and a contingency action plan”.

» Read the Environment Agency’s letter here

The County Council is expected to make a decision on the Bengeo Quarry later this month.