Public Enquiry: Day 6

Day six of the public enquiry started with a number of strong presentations in support of the Stop Bengeo Quarry campaign.

Cllr Mari Stevenson spoke about the Bengeo Neighbourhood Plan and the engagement of community in planning of their environment, as well as appreciation of the green spaces in Hertford.

Steve Halsey spoke about the research into dust PM10 and the acceptable thresholds worldwide. He also questioned the methodology of the threshold assessment in appelants’ Health Impact Assessment.

Laura Wyer made a strong case from parents’ perspective and challenged the suggestions that there is no evidence that the Bengeo Field is used. She quoted some of the users of the field who walk from Chapmore End daily, walk children to school. She also referred to the online survey where majority of respondents said the footpath would be no longer used if there was a quarry alongside.

Simon Pickering talked about the impact of the extensive process on the community and the utter logical disbelief that an urban quarry in Hertford would be considered.

Nadine Cleland made a presentation on the standard requirements of the public consultation process and the complete lack of public engagement in this application.

Russell Norris expressed his exasperation with the ongoing procedure which allows for an exploitation of loopholes and weaknesses. He listed the examples of confusion and disruptive lack of clarity faced by the campaigners. He pointed out that this appears to be a strategy to make it as difficult as legally possible for the objectors to make a case.

Heston Attwell raised a number of vital grounds of objections focusing particularly on traffic and road safety, as well as on lack of community engagement.

Amber Verity explained the impact of ongoing quarry on children’s health – both physical concerns but also their ongoing anxieties, which parents cannot dismiss. She provided data of cases of children with asthma and the use of Bengeo Field through generations

Cllr Bob Deering stressed that the quarry concerns do not just affect Bengeo residents but also residents of Hertford and neighbouring villages. He stressed particularly acute concerns over dust and proximity to the school and the town. He also made the point that the current application is completely separate from the housing development on HERT4 and should not be in any way connected.

Nigel Braggins spoke of the devastation of the Rickneys Quarry and the lack of responsibility/accountability for the restoration. He also raised the issue of the ongoing process with no clarity on who the appellant is (RJD is non-existent) and the community determination to continue objecting any quarry applications in this area.

Dr Laura Horsfall explained about the health impact on the development of children’s lungs and the respiratory issues.

Ben Cave, of Ben Cave Associates, on behalf of the appellant, answered questions from County Lawyer David Forsdick, followed by the campaign’s barrister  Katharine Elliot and then Cllr Andrew Stevenson. Mr.Cave insisted that the amount of interest in particulates was so insignificant that it would make no difference to the health of either children or adults. He was unwilling to speculate on children who already had specific conditions. He was repeatedly pressed by the audience but he emphasised as strongly as he could that he believed there was no significant risk.

Ian Dix, speaking on behalf of the appellant, was cross questioned by David Forsdick on transport and public rights of way. He referred to the surveys of SBQ in his questioning and highlighted that the applicant had not done any quantitative research. He was cross questioned for some time by Councillor Stevenson and by members of the floor. Lack of community liaison by the applicant was again cited in questioning.

Tomorrow, Friday 11th May was originally scheduled to be the last day of the enquiry, but a further day has now been added. The eighth and last day of the enquiry will take place on Friday 18th May at County Hall.

Public Enquiry: Day 5

The public enquiry in to proposals for a quarry north of Bengeo resumed today following the bank holiday break.

Wednesday opened with County Councillor for Bengeo Andrew Stevenson speaking on behalf of local residents.

A Risky Operation in a Sensitive Area

He explained that as an elected County Councillor he represented the concerns and interests of about 12000 constituents and several hundred businesses in his division.

He considered the application by considering key issues:

  1. The need for this site and the new minerals plan context
  2. Housing needs in Hertford, East Herts and Hertfordshire
  3. Transport problems and the council’s Local Transport Plan
  4. Risk to water Supplies
  5. Risk to public health
  6. Impact on the Landscape
  7. Need for £2m bond to underpin any conditions

His conclusion was: “This is a risky operation in a sensitive area. There is no need for the minerals extraction and no need for the housing development the appellants have linked to it. There are no net community benefits at all from the restoration proposals. The operation poses serious and unquantified risks to Hertford’s water supply as well as a number of health risks. I have no confidence that conditions would be complied with and a £2m bond is a pre-condition for any conditions. This appeal should be dismissed. There are better places for quarries- even in Hertfordshire.”

Other Witnesses

There then followed presentations from witnesses speaking in support of the appellant, covering noise, air quality, transport and rights of way. We also heard from the County Council’s planner for Hatfield and 3 public speakers – Ben Penrose, Veronica Fraser and Cllr Margaret Eames-Petersen, who represents Hatfield North.

Further witnesses spoke on before of the appellant – Jethro Redmore of Redmore Environmental spoke about dust and air quality. He said that dust meets regulations and does not pose a risk to human health. Cllr Stevenson cross questioned him particularly on the lack of quantification in his responses. The campaign’s Dr. Adams also questioned him.

James Sutton for Ingrebourne Valley spoke about operational matters and said that the company specialised in  restoration and took a pride in following best practice and delivering more than larger companies.  There was questioning from the campaign’s barrister Katharine Elliot about water risk. He was also questioned about possible deals with Hansen which he referred to Mr. Douglas Symes.

Finally Nigel Braggins raised the issue of who the applicant actually was and the Inspector asked for clarity on this as the Secretary of State will need to know. It was pointed out that the application was in the name of RJD and this could potentially be an issue as RJD no longer exists.

Ian Dix spoke about Transport and Rights of way. On transport he asserted that the planned route was safe. On rights of way he asserted that the access road would not disturb users and only crosses one path whereas the Rickney’s Road crosses two (apparently making it worse) he did not mention how many people may be likely to cross the two different roads. Cross questioning was postponed for tomorrow.,

Tomorrow sees presentations by 10 public speakers, including Cllr Mari Stevenson & Cllr Bob Deering, along with witnesses for the appellant.

Public Enquiry: Day 4

Day Four of the public enquiry into the County Council’s refusal of planning permission for a quarry north of Bengeo marks the halfway point in the process.

Much of today’s morning session was taken up with public speakers, including Stop Bengeo Quarry campaigners Andrew Smith (Traffic and truck movements), Aska Pickering (strength of SBQ campaign support), David Adam (Air quality), School Govenor Libby Mountford (Impact on school), Headmistress Julie Starkiss (Impact on school), Suzanne Bray (Parent and local resident), Tanya Needham (First hand Experience of quarrying), Thalia Weston (Parent of child with cystic fibrosis), John Howson (Landscape and ecology), Robert Chandler (Cycling), Anu Palmer (Amenity and location), Mark Lynch (Landscape, Bengeo Neighbourhood plan) and Bryan Lovell (Water risk). Other speakers were Terry Mansfield , John Barnes, Alan Burgess and Kelly Martin.

There were also presentations in support of the campaign from Councillors Steve Cousins and Andrew Stevenson.

Later in the day, the appelant’s water consultant Christopher Leake of Halfren Water Ltd was cross questioned by the campaign’s barrister Katharine Elliot. He stuck firmly to the line that the quarry would be safe in terms of water supply. He claimed that because Affinity Water thought one metre of gravel left above the chalk is sufficient at Rickneys one could imply that one metre is sufficient at Ware Park. The discussion later moved on to hydrocarbons.

In the afternoon the Inspector visited the site along with county council planning officer Felicity Hart and the campaign’s John Howson, together with the appellant’s representatives Douglas Symes and Richard Flatman.

. The Inspector spent most of his time examining drawings and identifying the locations of various working areas and features of the quarry application. Due to the gorgeous there were plenty of people out on the field, including joggers, dogwalkers and cyclists. The inspector will be making a further private visit next week.

The Enquiry resumes again on Wednesday 9th May with more public speakers and witnesses appearing in support of the quarry.

Public Enquiry: Day 3

We are now in to the third day of the 7-day Public Enquiry in to the proposed Bengeo Quarry.

The morning of the third day was taken up with further questioning of the County Council’s planning officer Felicity Hart.

Ms.Hart defended the need for a measured and balanced planning decision. Following on from exchanges about landscape and rights of way the appellant’s barrister, Isabella Tafur, challenged the planning officer on her understanding of minerals planning policies.

The Campaign’s consultant hydrogeologist Professor Rick Brassington was next to be cross-examined on water issues. The appellant’s barrister challenged photographic evidence provided from the nearby Rickneys quarry. With regard to contingencies that might be put in place to deal with any threat to the local water supply, Prof.Brassington commented: “The measures are not sufficient for quarrying in Rickneys or Bengeo Field”.

Finally, RJD’s water expert was cross-examined by the Campaign’s barrister Katharine Elliot.

Public Enquiry: Day 2

Welcome to our roundup of the highlights of Day 2 of the public enquiry at County Hall.

The morning saw cross questioning of the County Council’s mineral planner about gravel reserves. Significant time was also spent on discussing housing development, with the County Council asserting that housebuilding would not prevent future gravel extraction.

The Council’s Landscape Officer later set out the landscape objections, with questioning by the appellant’s barrister focusing narrowly on trees. The Inspector picked up on this and tried to draw out a wider Landscape judgement. The Landscape Officer said that the quarry would change the character of the area overall.

Finally, planning officer Felicity Hart gave her witness statement in which she outlined the reasons why she had refused the application, focusing particularly on the matters of the Green Belt and openness. She said that the field was a part of what Hertford was as a place and contributed to its character as it is at the gateway to Hertford. She also mentioned the amenity value of the field and how it was extensively used. She mentioned the potential harm to the health of the people of Hertford if they felt they could not use the field.

In her cross questioning the appellant’s barrister sought to examine the issue that regarding the quarry as an extension of Rickneys by asking if such an extension was realistic and could ever have happened given land ownership issues. Ms.Hart said it could and she didn’t see that land ownership had anything to do with it – this was about access roads.

The barrister then appeared to give a rebuttal to the suggestion of a joint collaboration between RJD and Hansens by saying that such a partnership, even if it existed, would need to go through formal processes which took a lot of time and was unlikely to happen until 2019.

Lastly the barrister tried to find a scenario whereby Ms.Hart could agree to a quarry. It was established that she could see such a situation if the whole quarry was in Preferred Area 2 (as defined in the current Minerals Local Plan). The Planning Officer was also question on a technical matter in the MLP and where there was room for interpretation, but she was very firm despite repeated questions and attempts to get her to take a different line in insisting that it was her job to make a balanced judgement.

Tomorrow will see discussion about the risk to the chalk aquifer and water supplies, as well as amenities and rights of way issues.

Public Enquiry: Day 1

The Public Enquiry in to the County Council’s refusal of planning permission for gravel extraction north of Hertford has opened at County Hall.

The first morning was taken up with procedural issues and the opening statements of each party.

During the afternoon, the County Council’s noise consultant addressed the enquiry and was cross-examined. This was followed by the Council’s representations on gravel supply and the Minerals Local Plan.

Highlights from the afternoon included:

Noise

  • HCC assert that Sacombe Road and The Orchard would face unacceptable noise levels for the first application of 1.75 million tonnes.
  • Sacombe Road would face unacceptable sound levels for te second application of 1.25 million tonnes
  • The County Council’s witness was challenged on his criticism of the applicants research, sound levels of machinery and calibration of equipment. The witness gave solid responses in our opinion.

The Minerals Plan & Existing Supplies of Gravel

  • Existing approved plans will supply over 13 years of gravel
  • Housing development south of the proposed quarry site will not prevent future extraction
  • Existing approved plans provide sufficient diversity of gravel supply in terms of numbers of companies and sites

The Appellant (RJD Ltd) and the land owner are are working with Hanson on a third planning application with access via the existing [mothballed] Rickney’s quarry. However, any such application is outside the scope of the current enquiry.

If you would like to speak at the enquiry, you can still register.

Public Enquiry Opens

A Public Enquiry in to the County Council’s refusal to grant planning permission for a quarry north of Hertford opens today, Tuesday 1st May 2018.

The enquiry is taking place in The Council Chamber at County Hall in Hertford and runs for Tuesday 1st to Friday 4th May, and from Wednesday 9th to Friday 11th May.

The agenda has yet to be confirmed but typically the appellant & their witnesses will be heard first, then the County Council & their witnesses, then Rule 6 parties & their witnesses (Stop Bengeo Quarry and Andrew Stevenson). We do not know when the public speakers will be asked to speak – normally it is outlined by the inspector based on the availability of the speakers.

At the Development Control Committee last week, the County Council highlighted conflicting information from expert speakers and statutory consultees, particularly with regard to health. Dr.David Adam also spoke on behalf of the campaign to highlight a new study by the HSE into the behaviour of crystaline silica in the atmosphere.

Planning Permission for Quarry Refused

Stop Bengeo Quarry Group are delighted that Hertfordshire County Council have unanimously and unambiguously rejected the revised Planning Application.

Aska Pickering chair of Stop Bengeo Quarry said: “This is amazing news. It is wonderful that the committee so firmly rejected this dreadful quarry proposal. We were all heartened by the robustness of the committee’s response and the strength of their support. It is testament to our many volunteers and the incredible amount hard work and effort that has gone into fighting this proposal over a period of two years. We now need to redouble our efforts to fight against the quarry in the Public Inquiry which is to take place between the 1st and 4th of May and the 9th, 10th and 11th of May. We have been preparing for this Public Inquiry for months. So please come along if you possibly can to give us your support”

The proposal was rejected on 5 key grounds:

  1. Inappropriateness of the development in the Green Belt. Case Officer Felicity Hart said in her report that “any benefits of mineral extraction… do not clearly outweigh harm to the Green Belt and any other harm, including harm to landscape, rights of way, noise and health.”
  2. Harm to the landscape, in particular damage caused by the construction of an access road
  3. Negative impact on users of the much loved and used public right of way. The report said that “the development would impact on the use of the local rights of way network and could therefore have an adverse effect on health and wellbeing”.
  4. The proposed development includes land outside the preferred area – in particular for the access road
  5. The proposal has not demonstrated that noise would not have a detrimental impact on nearby residences

Additionally, two advisory notices were added to the refusal the first on concerns over dust and secondly over concerns of contamination of Hertford’s water supply. These could not be given as grounds for refusal as doing so would have involved further meetings which the timescale would not permit, given that the public inquiry is opening on the 1st May.

The committee also expressed surprise and some annoyance that the applicant did not attend the meeting for a second time.

Stop Bengeo Quarry are delighted that we will now be working with Hertfordshire County Council to stop a quarry that is both damaging to the local environment, to the Green Belt and to the health of local residents.

Families Spell Out NO to Quarry Plans

School children, parents and teachers gathered on Bengeo Primary School’s playing field on Tuesday to show their opposition to a planned nearby gravel pit.

A drone camera flew overhead and filmed the protestors holding up posters that spelled out a huge NO. They wanted to highlight just how close the proposed quarry would be to their school.

School governor Libby Mountford said it was “disappointing” that, after last year’s unanimous rejection of the application by Hertfordshire County Council’s Development Control Committee, Bengeo residents were having to renew their campaign against the pit.

“We shouldn’t have to do this all over again. The idea of excavating 1.25 million tonnes of sand and gravel – which we do not need – from a beautiful field so close to a primary school of 500 children and to so many people’s homes, is preposterous,” she commented.

Campaigners believe that the dangers of silica dust in the air and the extra heavy lorries on the B158, plus the potential threat to the purity of Hertford’s water supply, make for an overwhelming case for rejection.

They hope to fill the Council Chamber at County Hall this coming Thursday 26th April, when councillors will discuss and vote on the new application. Coaches will leave The Avenue shops at 9.00am (priority for senior members of the community) and at 9.15am from Bengeo School (priority for children).

An appeal against last year’s rejection of the application of a plan to excavate 1.75 million tonnes from the same field starts at County Hall on Tuesday May 1st at 10.00am.