The seventh day of the public enquiry saw the welcome appearance of Mark Prisk MP, in support of the campaign against the Bengeo quarry.
However, the day started with statements from and cross-questioning of the appellants representatives Robert Sellwood (on planning) and Richard Flatman (on landscape).
Mr.Sellwood commented that it was only in the last few weeks had the appellants had heard from Hertfordshire County Council that building houses would not sterilise the land. He also explained that East Herts District Council saw reprofiling as a condition of building the houses. This could only happen if the minerals were extracted first. Cross questioning focused on the issue of sterilisation. Mr Selwood admitted to Andrew Stevenson that HERT4 represents only 0.1 percent of new houses needed in Hertfordshire.
Richard Flatman started by giving an explanation of the strategy for landscape. In it he addressed one or two of the concerns that had come up during the course of the inquiry like care for hedgerows. He also explained some of what they try to achieve and the “benefits” of the landscape changes. One of the key points they wanted to draw out was that the new landscape mimics the old in that they will try to recreate an undulation.
David Forsdick vigorously cross questioned Mr. Flatman. One of the main thrusts of his argument was that every benefit that was in the current proposals could also have been delivered in a preferred area two compliant proposal. Mr Flatman sought to cast some doubt on the original Inspectors report by saying that all of the field was equally sensitive. A point that seemed to argue in the favour of not having a quarry. Other questions concerned the accuracy of drawings. Councillor Stevenson asked if Bengeo field would have a slope down with trees like the edge of Waterford Heath. Mr Flatman said it wouldn’t be the same but didn’t deny that there would be a bank. John Howson sought to show that a human element should be factored in when assessing the landscape based on the criteria used by Mr. Flatman.
Mr. Flatman admitted that this was the case, he also admitted that people feelings with regards to the landscape should be a factor taken account of in the inquiry. The Inspector asked if the new field would be a profiled hollow rather than a hill Mr Flatman admitted that this was the case.
Later in the morning MP for Hertford & Stortford, Mark Prisk addressed the enquiry. Mr.Prisk stated that he strongly opposed the application on a number of grounds, including impact on community, air quality and water, and proximity to local homes and school. The Appellant’s barrister asked Mark Prisk if he is aware that the HCC Director of Public Health is not objecting the application subject to agreement on the conditions. Mark explained that he is aware, but also is aware of independent consultants on water and is also here to voice the public feelings on air quality, as these views need to be taken into account.
The Public Enquiry has now been extended by two days, with additional hearings now scheduled for Friuday 18th May and Monday 21st May at County Hall.