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We are a group of concerned residents who oppose plans for gravel extraction in Bengeo, north of Hertford.
In March 2016, Hertfordshire County Council received a planning application to open a quarry in the beautiful fields between Sacombe Road, Wadesmill Road (B158), and St. John’s Wood. The site is south of the now defunct Rickney’s Quarry, which was mothballed in the 1990s.
The proposal was for the extraction of gravel over a fifteen year period (later reduced to ten years).
Following a year long campaign, the County Council’s Development Control Committee refused planning permission on 22nd March 2017.
A second planning application was also submitted, following the failure of the first to win planning permission. The County Council refused planning permission for this second application on Thursday 26th April 2018.
A Public Enquiry in to the applicant’s appeal opened on Tuesday 1st May 2018 at County Hall. After sitting for 8 days the enquiry was adjourned and resumed for three days on 23rd October 2018. Following the completion of hearings, the Planning Inspectorate is expected to make a recommendation to The Secretary Of State, James Brokenshire, in the coming months.
In the meantime, the owners of Rickneys Quarry to the north of Bengeo Field, have submitted an application to extend the site, with the access road being potentially used to access Bengeo Field. Please see the News Section about this and sign our petition against the proposals.
We will continue to oppose plans for gravel extraction in Bengeo.
For more information please visit our Facebook page at
“On behalf of Bengeo School, I would like to reiterate our opposition to the proposed excavation of sand and gravel at the proposed Bengeo quarry. The possible dangers to health from particles of silicates in the air could be particularly threatening to children who have asthma. The suggestion from the Public Health Service to surround the school with dust monitors is neither practical nor manageable. The role of a school is to educate children, not to monitor dust levels. We continue to support the Stop the Bengeo Quarry campaign and would like to thank all of those involved for their commitment and determination to support the best interests of individuals and families who live in Bengeo.”
Mrs Julie Starkiss, Headteacher of Bengeo Primary School
Our petition against the Rickneys Extention is still available online and we would encourage everyone to sign it. We expect a final decision to be made by the County Council at the end of March. In thge meantime we continue to campaign against quarrying in Bengeo.
The petition is active until 24th January 2019.
Renewed quarrying at Rickney’s presents a significant threat to the water-supply boreholes at Wadesmill Road.
A new Minerals Local Plan is being prepared for Hertfordshire. An area north of Hertford was designated as Preferred Area No.2 in the previous plan. It is proposed to remove this area from the new plan.
An application to quarry sand and gravel from the southern part of Preferred Area No.2, in Bengeo Field, was rejected by Hertfordshire County Council on 22 March, 2017, on a number of grounds. An appeal has been made by the applicants, on which a decision is now awaited from the Inspector and the Secretary of State.
During the final session of the hearing of the appeal at County Hall in October 2018, the possibility emerged of a future application to quarry north of Hertford, using the access road previously used during operations at Rickneys. It is not yet clear whether any such future application would include both operations at the Rickneys site, and operations in Bengeo Field using a northern access via Rickneys.
Hanson have submitted a planning application to re-open the old quarry south of Chapmore End.
The abandoned site is immediately north of St.John’s Wood and Bengeo Field. The site access road joins the B158 Wadesmill Road around 600 metres north of the proposed access road for the Bengeo Field quarry.
The Rickneys site closed in 2001 but Hanson have in the past submitted further applications to extend the operation, the most recent being in 2013 when they asked to extend the timeframe to 2017. This application was approved by the County Council but no formal Planning Decision was issued after a failure to agree Section 106 conditions associated with the plan.
Hanson have now amended this planning application, changing the date to 31st December 2021.
At the Public Inquiry in to the proposed Bengeo Field quarry, the applicant (Ingrebourne) made it clear they have negotiated with Hanson to use the existing access road for Rickneys, thereby overcoming any highways issues regarding the earlier proposals to access the site further south adjacent to the Revels Croft Farm entrance.
The Rickneys planning application therefore brings the Bengeo Field Quarry one step closer, although the Secretary Of State has yet to rule on the plans overall following this year’s public enquiry.
We would therefore urge everyone opposing Bengeo Quarry to also oppose any extension of Rickneys.
The deadline for comments on Hanson’s planning application is Monday 14th January 2019 (originally the deadline was 21st December 2018 but this has now been extended).
We’ve been very fortunate to have been represented at the Public Enquiry by our barrister Katharine Elliot.
Katharine has worked hard in support of the campaign and spoke eloquently at the enquiry on our behalf.
For those that were unable to attend the final day of the enquiry, we are making available Katharine’s closing submission.
The final day of the public enquiry at County Hall heard the closing statement from the parties involved in the enquiry.
For The Campaign, barrister Katharine Elliot gave a strong case outlining the reasons why the proposal is not acceptable on the grounds of the contamination risk to the chalk aquifer and air-quality related health impacts. The conclusions are:
County Councillor for Bengeo, Andrew Stevenson was next to make his statement. He said: “There are many reasons why this appeal is unsound. The primary reasons are the loss of a landscape of outstanding value to the whole community of Hertford and the absence of any real need for the sand and gravel it would produce in Hertfordshire. There are many secondary factors that add up to further reasons why this application is unsound on any scale.”
“It is reported to me by parents that this long drawn out decision process has already had negative impact on the school with a decline in application numbers due to the widespread publicity about the threat of the quarry”
“The proposed access road is unacceptably close to the Sacombe Rd roundabout compared to te access road specifies in the 2007 Local Minerals Plan.”
“The impact of the HGV traffic on the local transport system would be severe and would run counter to the new local transport policy of putting sustainable transport first within town boundaries.”
“It is quite misleading to suggest that there is any sense of urgency for East Herts for minerals to be developed to meet housing obligations.”
“The special significance of Bengeo Field landscape to the 29,000 people of Hertford in general and the 7,000 residents of Bengeo in particular make these plans especially damaging to the community.”
“I conclude that there is an unquantified risk that air quality will be sufficiently badly affected by the contribution from the quarry that there will be a significant adverse affect on the population health as a whole within about 400m.”
“The operating company is relatively inexperienced for a site of this sensitivity and complexity and has not demonstrated sufficient financial assets to be able to cope unforseen events.”
“In light of the information available, it would be highly irresponsible to permit a quarry at this location. The Council’s decision to refuse was sound and on good grounds. This appeal should be rejected.”
In his closing speech on behalf of the county council, David Fordsick QC said: “It is entirely clear that faced with the reasons for refusal, the appellant intended to drop the 1.75mt scheme. The 1.75mt scheme was only resurrected when the procedural impossibility of what the appellant proposed was highlighted. The Appellant sought, in this appeal, to substitute the 1.25mt scheme rather than try to respond to the criticisms of the 1.75mt scheme. It was only to keep this appeal alive that the 1.75mt scheme was resurrected.”
He continued: “In any event, the 1.25mt scheme should be refused – it too is in clear breach of MP3 and PA2 and other policies. It provides a road right through the middle of the area specifically excluded from the allocation, it is inappropriate development in the middle of the Green Belt with obvious and significant landscape and visual harm.”
“The justification for the breaches of PA2 both schemes to be only that joint working with Hanson to deliver a PA2 compliant development was AND IS not possible in time consistent with delivery of housing envisaged in the recently adopted District Plan. That argument has fallen apart at each stage – first joint working is being pursued and can deliver a PA2 compliant scheme incorporating the access, an extension to Rickneys Quarry, the Rickneys Quarry extension and Ware Park; second, there is no sterilisation effect on the facts; and there is no timing problem.”
In their closing statement, the Appellant claimed that: “Stop Bengeo Quarry’s concerns on water and health are not shared by statutory experts, The Environment Agency and Director of Public Health. All of the potential harms raised by all parties are temporary and reversible.”
The Government Inspector is expected to make a recommendation to The Secretary Of State later in the year, with a final decision expected in 2019.
Day 10 of the public enquiry started with Mr Symes (representing the Appellant) giving his evidence.
He explained that in his view, requiring the payment of a bond (as a condition of planning approval) is not appropriate in this application as the government does not support bonds – only in exceptional circumstances. He claimed to represent a “good company” which will deliver restoration. This is for landowner and the tenant to legally agree, and the local authorities to monitor.
Mr.Symes was cross-examined by the campaign’s barrister – he agreed that the the measurements for the water pollution concerns are not defined clearly at this stage. He accepted he understood the community’s concerns about the restoration (“Rickneys is a poor example of my industry”). When asked about the lack of community engagement he stated that the community could have reached him. He added: “What benefit would there be for me to talk to community if it is clear they don’t want me there”. The absence of landowners through the processes has been pointed out, especially as the local community is asked to rely on the reassurance that the private agreement between the landowner and the quarry organisation will deliver restoration.
Mr Symes also confirmed that the appelant regard this appeal to be about the second (smaller) planning application for extraction of 1.25 m tonnes and not original application for 1.75 m tonnes.
The final day of the public enquiry is Thursday 25th October. It will start at 10am (rooms upstairs) and will focus on: discussion of conditions (in case the application is approved), and the closing statements by the campaign, Cllr Stevenson, the county council & the apellant. There is lunch break at about 1-1.30. The hearing is planned to finish at 4pm.
The Public Enquiry in to the proposed quarry in Bengeo resumed this morning with questions for the Stop Bengeo Quarry Campaign’s Health Impact Assessment/Air Quality expert Mr Roger Barrowcliffe.
Stop Bengeo Quarry approached numerous experts in this field to represent us but many declined due to the difficulty in winning cases like these on health grounds. Roger has decades of experience in air quality and is currently Vice-Chair of the Institute of Air Quality Management. He agreed that these cases are hard won but felt there were some important uncertainties in the evidence submitted by the appellant to highlight to the inspector. This he did with credibility and clarity during questioning by SBQ’s barrister. The main points covered included the following:
Roger did well under cross examination, which included some rudimentary calculations by the appellants barrister. The Campaign’s barrister was quick to point out that these weren’t included in the expert reports. For reasons undisclosed, Ben Cave was not recalled by the appellants and therefore much of the discussion has focused on air quality and not the wider health issues.
Later in the day, Prof Sokhi – speaking for the applicant – said that it was important to look at the large data to determine the impact of the quarry on the health of population. He agreed that there is uncertainty in any models for assessing the impact. He told the enquiry that he believes there is no need to consider the hourly short-term peaks of increased concentration of the pollution – and that he believes the approach to considering annual average approach is a better option. However, it was pointed out that WHO and other organisations use the hourly peaks and it is not unusual to do so.
Prof Sokhi accepted that the receptors will be used to alert residents about unacceptable levels of pollution so local residents would be aware when they would need to avoid being outside for periods up to 24hrs. The Campaign’s barrister pointed out this would impact on health quality life style of local population.
Another argument was made by The Campaign – that there is a high level of asthma (46) in the school 340 m away from the proposed quarry cases. Prof Sokhi believes that it is impossible to assess the impact based on small number of population, based on the used methodology.
It was put to him that there are vulnerable groups who would have higher level of exposure to pollution – such as children with asthma, going to Bengeo Primary School, and residents of Bengeo living closely to the quarry would have multiple vulnerability, which has not been taken into account in HIA.
We heard that Prof Sokhi provided his evidence based on the review of Ben Cave’s Health Impact Assessment. He was asked to confirm that the HIA made an assumption that the quarry operator would use brand new equipment (rather than older/well used equipment). It was put forward by The Campaign’s barrister that there was no guarantee by the current applicant or future operators that new equipment would be used.
Based on the HIA Prof Sokhi believes that there is a small risk of health impact “at least on annual basis”. He explained that he is reviewing the data to determine if “the health changes can be contributed as resulting from the quarry”.
The Public Enquiry in to the County Council’s refiusal of planning permission for a quarry in Bengeo re-open next Tuesday (23rd October) at County Hall for three days.
Come and join us any time you can please, wearing red if you want to.
The schedule for remaining days of the enquiry are:
Tuesday 23rd October: Health witnesses and evidence in chief from Mr Symes representing the appellants
Wednesday 24th October: Mr Symes’ evidence cross examination and conditions for Section 106
Thursday 25th October: Closing submissions
You can come any time during the day. We need the Inspector and the appellant know that the residents of Hertford will not stop campaigning to Stop Bengeo Quarry.
Runners, walkers and spectators braved the early morning chill and heavy rain on Sunday to take part in the Bengeo Field Fun Run. The event was organised by Stop Bengeo Quarry (SBQ) campaigners to demonstrate the community’s unwavering determination and support for Hertfordshire County Council’s (HCC) decision to refuse planning permission for an urban quarry within Hertford Town Council’s boundary.
The Public Inquiry, to consider the appeal by the applicant, against HCC Development Control Committee’s unanimous decision on 22nd March 2017, to refuse planning permission for a quarry at Bengeo, was adjourned earlier this year in controversial circumstances. The Planning Inspector adjourned the Public Inquiry on 18th May to enable campaigners time to obtain expert health advice. During the already extended Inquiry in May, members of the public questioned the applicant’s health expert about their claim that the proposed quarry would have no health impact on children attending Bengeo Primary School, or on vulnerable members of the public living in nearby homes, or on the safety of motorists using the busy Wadesmill Road.
As reported by The Mercury at the time, the Planning Inspector ruled on 18th May, that the late submission by the applicant of their 95 page Health Impact Assessment had materially prejudiced Stop Bengeo Quarry’s case. Since then, campaigners have raised £10,000 through a series of appeals and initiatives like this Fun Run, to help fund the next stage of their legal battle against the applicants, in support of the council’s previous decisions to refuse two successive applications (22nd March 2017 and 26th April 2018).
The Public Inquiry is due to reconvene at County Hall 23rd-25th October. SBQ campaigners are appealing for a high turnout of people living and working in and around Hertford, who are increasingly concerned about the risks and potential health impacts of Bengeo Quarry. When the Public Inquiry concludes, the Planning Inspector will write a report and make a recommendation based on his findings to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire. The Secretary of State will then make the final decision, either to uphold Hertfordshire County Council’s refusal, or to over-rule the Council’s two previous decisions and allow the quarry to go ahead.
Aska Wisniewska-Pickering, said on behalf of Stop Bengeo Quarry “We have won every key stage of this marathon battle on behalf of the whole community, to preserve Hertford’s open, rolling countryside and protect the health and wellbeing of children and other vulnerable residents from a gravel pit in close proximity to a Primary School, play area and people’s homes. A quarry in this location poses numerous unacceptable risks including; up to one hundred additional lorry movements during busy times of the day onto a hazardous section of the B158; detrimental impact on air quality, and a serious risk to Hertford’s water source. Many of Hertford’s residents are still unaware that 6 million litres of their fresh drinking water are pumped every day from the chalk aquifer underlying Bengeo Field, via two nearby boreholes. The quarry would also disrupt use of a footpath and bridleway that has been in public use for hundreds of years. This Public Right of Way provides the only safe pedestrian, cycle and equestrian access from Hertford to Chapmore End and the rural communities to the north of town.”
We have now formally submitted our response to the applicant’s Health Impact Assessment.
Photo: Paul Crowley
In the summary we state: ” The decision-making framework used by the HIA is not scientifically or professionally recognised and therefore these conclusions on the health impact from reduced air quality (AQ) represent judgments by Ben Cave Associates (BCA) based on evidence commissioned by the appellants. The limited scope of the literature reviewed, the absence of quantifiable risk data, the omission of specific vulnerable groups, and the reliance on highly questionable AQ models for PM leads us to question the reliability of these judgements.”
Our response is also critical of the desk-based methodology used in the assessment: “The absence of crucial evidence based on observations on site invalidates the conclusions of the HIA on these fundamental issues of pollution of air and groundwater. ”
The full response is 24 pages long and can be read by clicking the link below.