We are delighted to have received James Brokenshire’s letter upholding Hertfordshire County Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for a quarry on Bengeo Field, north of Hertford.

In his decision, the minister has backed our views on the threat to water supplies, loss of amenity and the impact on local residents.

Campaigners spell out our objection to a quarry in the field beyond

In the three years of campaigning against the quarry, we have been determined to present rational, fact-based arguments against gravel extraction on the site.

We have had the support of our local MP Mark Prisk, councillors, businesses, experts and most importantly the residents of Bengeo, who’ve been getting in touch to express their delight:

“I just wanted to say a massive heartfelt thank you for all you and the rest of the SBQ campaigners have done. Today was a massive win for the whole community and makes me feel so proud to be part of it.”

“Your commitment and dedication has not gone unnoticed as is an inspiration to us all. My daughter was so passionate about the campaign and it’s taught my children you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it and stay strong and for that I can’t thank you enough.”

Reaction on Facebook was also swift:

“Fantastic news. Many congratulations to everyone who worked so hard”

“On behalf of myself, my family and friends – who have often taken great pleasure on this beautiful place – thank you”

“Well done to all especially those who appeared at the hearings”

“Incredible news. Thank you to all involved. Our community rocks!”

Campaign lead Aska Wisniewska-Pickering said: “We are all utterly delighted with the news and the decision by the Secretary of State to refuse the appeal. After 3 years of campaigning against the quarry proposals in Hertford, we achieved the result we so much hoped for. None of that would have been possible without the huge support, community collaboration, engagement, and expertise of the residents, Councillors, and parents of the Bengeo schools. I can’t describe how lucky we are to have the expertise and incredible commitment among the Stop Bengeo Quarry campaigners. We hope that this appeal decision by the minister will set out an important milestone and a ‘material consideration’ in determination of any other case on the area. This will be important for the pending decision by HCC on the adjacent Rickneys quarry extension.”

One of the campaign’s key experts, geologist Dr Bryan Lovell said: “I’m delighted that the geological evidence we presented convinced both the Inspector and the Secretary of State of a real threat to our water supply if quarrying at Bengeo Field had gone ahead. This result is a triumph for the local community and the Stop Bengeo Quarry group, superbly led by Aska Wisniewska-Pickering.”

John Howson, one of the key campaigners, who led on environmental concerns, stated: “This is an amazing decision. In his report the Inspector has paid close attention to the arguments we repeatedly made on landscape and amenity issues, and has come down in our favour. It is a complete vindication of our position and a reward for the hard work put in by so many members of our community and lovers of Bengeo Field. We want to thank those who took part in two landscape surveys and one monitoring exercise. The Inspector refers directly to this evidence in his report.
I am particularly pleased that the Inspector’s report recognises the unique position of Bengeo Field in our local landscape as the last unquarried field adjacent to the Molewood Estate. He has also recognised that it is the very openness of the field that gives it especial beauty.
It is also very satisfying that the loss of agricultural land has been recognised as a factor. SBQ has argued from the very beginning that the field would be seriously degraded as an agricultural resource and we are delighted that the Secretary of State and the Planning Inspectorate agree.”

In their letter, the ministry was unequivocal about objections to the quarry:

“The Secretary of State has carefully considered the Inspector’s analysis at IR375-388. He agrees with the Inspector that while not subject to any designation given to landscape, the appeal site is a landscape resource and visual amenity of considerable importance because of its proximity to the urban area, and the fact the appeal site retains its natural landform makes it important in its local context. For the reasons given, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the operational development to extract, screen, stockpile and transport sand and gravel would have an adverse effect on the character and appearance of the area of major significance, albeit of a limited duration.”

“The Secretary of State has gone on to consider impacts following restoration. He agrees with the Inspector … that the restored landform would give the landscape an artificial crumpled appearance, and that the proposed low-level restoration would not be appropriate in the landscape context which applies here. He further agrees … that appellants’ hedgerow and tree planting would be the wrong landscape strategy for the appeal site and that the cumulative impact of the appeal scheme, over time, adds to the overall harm to the landscape resource. He therefore agrees with the Inspector at IR388 that on restoration the scheme would have an adverse effect of moderate significance. Overall the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector’s conclusions that the appeal scheme would have an adverse effect on the character and appearance of the area of substantial significance (IR388), which carries substantial weight against the proposal (IR433), and would not be accordance with MLP Policies”

“The Secretary of State has carefully considered the Inspector’s reasoning and agrees with his analysis. Overall the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the appeal scheme would have an adverse effect on the living conditions of residents and on the amenity of the area which carries moderate weight against the proposal and would not accord with MLP Policy 18(viii) or with the aim of the NPSE to avoid significant adverse impacts on the quality of life”

“the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector’s analysis of the risks from the development to the hydrogeology, including groundwater pollution, harm to the aquifer and the public water supply. He agrees with the inspector’s conclusion that the risk of contaminating groundwater would give rise to an adverse effect of moderate significance, which should given substantial weight because of the implications for the public water supply. He further agrees with the Inspector at IR420 that in the absence of an appropriate mechanism and planning condition to safeguard the aquifer, the proposed development would pose an unacceptable risk to groundwater pollution, and so would conflict with MLP Policies …and would have an unacceptable adverse impact on the natural environment”

Some document references and Minerals Planning Policy numbers have been removed from the above to improve readability

Whilst we are mindful of the applicants’ right to take the minister’s decision to the High Court, we are confident, as we always have been, about our case against the quarry.

We would like to thank everyone that has offered us support – be it knowledge, financial, moral or logistical. You all helped us achieve this fantastic result for the community.