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:
- It is agreed between the parties that the proposed development could have an unacceptable adverse impact on the chalk aquifer and consequently the public water supply at the Wadesmill Rd PWS. The proposed development can therefore not be permitted unless the Appellants can demonstrate that appropriate measures can be imposed to mitigate that impact. The mitigation measures proposed by the Appellants are wholly insufficient to mitigate the serious potential impact of pollution on the Chalk aquifer. Planning permission for the proposed development – whether the original or the amended scheme – should therefore be refused.
- As to air quality, the Health Impact Assessment has been unable to demonstrate that the health impact for vulnerable groups of the local community arising from short term peak concentrations of PM would not be unacceptable for the purposes of the policy framework. On this basis, planning permission should also be refused.
- By way of a final comment on the Appellants’ attitude to the acceptability of the impacts of the proposed development on the local community, Mr Symes has on various occasions commented that you would not want to put new houses in the immediate vicinity of an active quarry. This is a reference to Hert4, a housing development to be delivered on the property of the landowner of Ware Park. The logic behind these comments is obvious. People will understandably be unwilling to buy properties and put their keys in the door of Hert4 houses when they know that they will be suffering the impacts from the quarry. Reversing this logic from Mr Symes, how can it reasonably be said that it is any more desirable or acceptable to put a quarry in the immediate vicinity of existing homes and a thriving primary school?
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.