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.