The following address was made to Hertfordshire County Council’s Development Control committee on Wednesday 22nd March 2017 by John Howson.
“The view and the sense of openness to the countryside is unexplainable, it draws you in, (it) makes you happy.”
“The field attracts people to Hertford due to its natural beauty.”
“It is a fantastic view whatever (the) season. A lovely unspoilt open space.”
“In fact it is PRICELESS.”
These are not my words just a tiny number of the 417 respondents to our landscape survey conducted in February to research public views on the landscape of this field.
Let us not pretend (as the developers report suggests) that you can quarry a field and somehow preserve landscape. You cannot. Quarrying devastates landscape.
The question is not: “Will quarrying harm the landscape?” The question is rather: “Is this a landscape so worthy of preservation that quarrying must be ruled out not just now but forever?”
We believe it is. So why?
We hired our own landscape consultant, who produced a powerful report, in it he said:
“Owing to its strategic location, the site forms an important visual and physical connection between local nature reserves and surrounding residential communities. It is situated within a network of public rights of way which provide walking routes connecting local communities with nearby woodlands.”
Our case backs up the HCC landscape officer’s report, which recommends refusal.
So what makes the field so special? The field lies within the Stoney Hills landscape area. It has two distinct undulations and a central dry valley. The field is an east facing part of the Rib valley visible throughout the surrounding area.
Any quarrying would have a profound negative effect – not just on the landscape but also on the local economy. For example, from the three Lakes golf course at Westmill Farm, it is a prominent part of the view. A view that people pay to enjoy.
We know how much people value the landscape of this field because we carried out the research. We spoke to “users” of the field. The survey illustrates the popularity of Bengeo Field as an amenity. The field contains a heavily used public right of way.
(391) 95% of respondents of the survey feel this is a special or very special landscape worthy of preserving.
(370) 89% of respondents live within 15 minutes of the field.
3% travel above 10 miles use the field, illustrating an appeal beyond our local area.
The field is also an established part of the local ecology home to brown hare, badgers and (red listed) skylarks.
North of the field lies St. John ’s Wood – a precious local woodland. It is an important ecological resource – home to badgers, bats and owls and many other species.
As the Woodland Trust points out any quarrying, is likely to affect the hydrology of the woodland altering groundwater and surface water quantities. The Woodland Trust recommends a 100 meter protective buffer zone.
The developer’s report pays lip service to conservation. It fails to address many of the issues raised by the Woodland Trust. It also ignores the field’s huge amenity value. It ranks down the landscape value of the field.
However, this is not just about the developer’s report. This is about our beautiful Hertfordshire of which we should be proud. It is about preserving an ancient piece of landscape – “the gateway to Hertford”. A place where it is highly inappropriate, even unthinkable to have a quarry.
I want to give a final quote from the survey: “walking in the field is a restorative work-out for mind, body and soul”. It is much more than that. This field is the soul of Bengeo used and enjoyed by countless generations since the iron age. It all comes down to one very simple thing is this a landscape worthy of preservation for future generations. The answer must be YES.
I appeal not just to all of you here today to vote against this proposal. I appeal to the developers to remove forever the threat of quarrying from this lovely field.