The Planning Inspectorate’s Public Inquiry, which started on the 1st of May, has now been adjourned until after the summer due to the many health concerns raised by members of the public.
An appeal against the decision by the county council to refuse planning permission for the application to extract sand and gravel from the land (known locally as Bengeo Field) at Ware Park, Wadesmill Road, Hertford was made by RJD Ltd and Gowling WLG Trust Corporation Ltd to the Secretary of State.
From the start of the Inquiry, the Stop Bengeo Quarry (SBQ) group raised the issue of the lack of public consultation about the appellant’s Health Impact Assessment (HIA), submitted just a few days before the proceedings began.
This late submission meant that Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) had little opportunity to follow standard procedure with new evidence and were therefore unable to open it for consultation with the public. The late submission of the HIA meant that HCC were unable to consult health experts and the decision was made by HCC Public Health to withdraw their objection.
This also meant that SBQ (as Rule 6 party) focused its attention exclusively on the possible contamination of Hertford water, believing that the other health issues would be raised in the Inquiry by HCC.
Aśka Pickering, Chairperson of SBQ said: “The appellant’s late submission of their Health Impact Assessement and the unexpected withdrawal of the HCC public health objection left residents without 1) an opportunity to respond to the HIA or 2) an opportunity to have their own health witness expert at the appeal.”
“We are delighted that following our request the Inspector has agreed to adjourn the inquiry until October to allow both SBQ and the public the opportunity to produce evidence in response to and submissions on the conclusions of the appellants’ Health Impact Assessment. This is the only way that residents can be given a fair opportunity to share their views.”
Hertford residents found the HIA did not address their health concerns. During the Public Inquiry, the Inspector heard the health concerns of local people and the potential impact of dust on the lungs of children. Parents of young children living locally spoke of the number of young children with asthma and allergies who are affected by air quality. Amber Waight, speaking at the hearing, explained that: “17% of local children under 10 years (360 children formed part of the survey) had been prescribed at least one type of inhaler, a significant proportion 2 or more, in their childhood and 8% of the same population had been hospitalised due to breathing issues.”
Mrs Waight added: “Within the local community, it has also emerged that there is a child with cystic fibrosis; a child who has a tracheostomy (a breathing tube through the neck) and another a candidate for a tracheostomy.”
Doctor David Adam, a local resident and parent, has a PhD in environmental science and is an editor at the Science Journal ‘Nature’. Dr Adam, speaking at the inquiry as member of the public told the Inspectorate that: “the Health and Safety Executive in the UK carried out some tests on the impact this dust (Respirable Crystalline Silica dust) has on air quality outside the boundaries of working sand and gravel quarries, just like the one the developers propose for Bengeo Field.”
“The results will be published next month… They measured respirable crystalline silica in a rural location, just like Bengeo Field, and in samples downwind of five working quarries in the UK during hours of operation. In a fifth of cases, the level of this carcinogenic dust in air outside the quarry was 150 times greater. How were these quarries chosen? ‘Because they employed good dust suppression techniques.'”
Kelly Martin, a parent from Buckwells Field and a member of SBQ told the inspector: “My sole purpose, my one and only purpose of joining this campaign was my children, all of our children… Their school is 350m away from the proposed quarry, that makes our house probably 200m away. The playing field that my children play on daily off Sacombe Road is even closer than that. As I’m sure you can work out for yourselves, my children will pretty much be living and breathing the pollution from this quarry 24-7.”
Although Herts County Council may commission their own independent expert report, the SBQ campaigners are keen to do the same. Aśka Pickering said “we would also like the report to reflect and consider health impact in a wider context, including healthy living and activities as well as impact on mental health.”
This of course requires funding and there will be a number of fundraising events in the pipeline. In the meantime, however, if you wish to support the Stop Bengeo Quarry campaign, please donate to 1) NatWest bank account: Stop Bengeo Quarry Group, sort code 60-10-39, account number 14189135 or 2) https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/stop-bengeo-quarry (5% charge applies).