Council officers are doing "background work" on potential quarry sites – despite having temporarily paused the development of their minerals and waste plan, it has emerged.

The county council has a statutory duty to ensure sites are available for the extraction of minerals, such as sand and gravel.

The latest draft of the council’s waste and minerals plan includes three sites earmarked for the future extraction of sand and gravel.

But when councillors turned down an application for a quarry at Hatfield Aerodrome –  one of the three identified sites – work on the draft plan was paused, while the council waits to see if that decision will be appealed.

At a budget scrutiny session on Friday, January 26, executive member for sustainable economic growth Cllr Stephen Boulton confirmed the pause.

Welwyn Hatfield Times: Cllr Stephen BoultonCllr Stephen Boulton (Image: WHBC)

But director of place and growth Colin Haigh told councillors that some background work was still ongoing.

Outlining the current position, Cllr Boulton told the meeting: “As you know the planning committee refused the last planning application for the minerals working at the Hatfield Aerodrome site.

“Officers anticipate decisions will be appealed – although we have not actually heard about that yet, as far as I know.

“We will delay the minerals plan until we know about that.”

Local authorities are required to have a steady and adequate supply of aggregate by maintaining a ‘landbank’ of at least seven years for sand and gravel.

Cllr Boulton reported that officers believed that the land supply will fall below that required.

But he said they anticipated it would take time for operators to submit any speculative planning applications.

“So I think we are in a slight limbo situation at the moment, until we know the outcome of that appeal, if it is going to happen,” he said.

Welwyn Hatfield Times: Hertfordshire County CouncilHertfordshire County Council (Image: Google Maps)

“And I think we will need to look at the minerals plan once we know that.

“I think it would be premature to do so at the moment, but certainly once we know we will get on with it.”

Meanwhile Mr Haigh highlighted the work that was ongoing.

“To reassure councillors, my officers are doing some background work on other potential sites, depending what happens,” he said.

“We also do an annual monitoring of how much we are extracting from active sites, so that we know we have as much supply as possible to accord with that seven-year supply rule.”

Councillors asked about the minerals plan as part of a scrutiny of budget plans for the county council’s sustainable economic growth portfolio.

Green Party Cllr Ben Crystall had asked how the council would be addressing risk of delays to the waste and mineral plan.

According to the latest draft of the plan, the Briggen’s Estate has the largest potential workable mineral reserves of around 8.8million tonnes.

Welwyn Hatfield Times: Ellenbrook Fields, HatfieldEllenbrook Fields, Hatfield (Image: Harriet Pickard)

The 86.6-HA Hatfield Aerodrome site has an estimated workable reserve of eight million tonnes.

And the site ‘adjoining Coopers Green Lane’, Hatfield has a potential workable reserve of 3.52 million tonnes.

Brett’s application had sought permission to extract around eight million tonnes of material from the Hatfield Aerodrome site over a period of 32 years.

The application also included plans for a new access on to the A1057, an aggregate processing plant and other facilities.

In turning down the application the council’s ‘decision notice’ gave eight reasons – pointing to the impact on the Green Belt, heritage, residential amenity, landscape character, biodiversity, public access, the highway and groundwater.

An earlier application by Brett Aggregates to quarry the same site – which had also included a concrete batching plan –  was turned down in 2020.

Brett had appealed against that earlier decision to refuse, which led to a nine-day Planning Inquiry, in 2021. But ultimately the Planning Inspector dismissed the appeal.

The latest draft of the council’s ‘waste and minerals plan’ had been subject to public consultation in autumn 2022.

In the following stages of the process the plan would need to submitted to the Secretary of State and would face further examination as part of the approval process.