Last chance to stop quarry at former Hatfield Aerodrome?
PUBLISHED: 15:03 17 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:34 17 September 2020
After years of campaigning and numerous cancelled meetings by Hertfordshire County Council, a decision is imminent on whether to build on the former Hatfield Aerodrome site.
The plan by Brett Aggregates to extract up to eight million tonnes of sand and gravel from Ellenbrook fields, off Hatfield Road, has been opposed by the two lower-tier councils – Welwyn Hatfield and St Albans – and the town council of Hatfield. Colney Heath parish council, Smallford Residents Association and Ellenbrook Area Residents Association due to water, flooding, environmental and health concerns.
Ellenbrook and Smallford residents urged the county to vote against, saying: “The latest coronavirus pandemic has really highlighted how important this area of green space, intended to be a community asset as a country park, actually is, and the lack of any other decent accessible open space around here.
“For those who live in and around Ellenbrook Fields it has been a really important area to exercise safely and enjoy a brief moment out of the house during this lockdown. This has provided a vital role in maintaining not only physical wellbeing but the mental wellbeing of the community and help to prevent the spread of the virus by allowing us space to social distance.
“It is so apparent that had we not had this open area we would not have been able to exercise safely.”
And now a HCC meeting next Thursday will decide the fate of the land, which was promised for the use of local residents as a country park under a S106 agreement, and has been found to have the carcinogenic compound Bromate.
That’s because a ‘bromate plume’ – attributed to a leak from a former chemical works in Sandridge – flows close to the site and there are fears that any disturbance by the quarry could impact on the flow of that ‘plume’ and could lead to contamination of the drinking supply.
The county council has also been hesitant to make decision as it wants the Environment Agency to answer questions, saying its no show at previous quarry meetings were “an absolute disgrace”.
Councillor Michael Muir said in December 2019 it was the most difficult decision, in his 16 years on the committee, and he couldn’t make the decision on “one-sided evidence” from Brett Aggregates, the proposed developer.
EA said in a July 2020 letter nothing should be extracted from the existing plume of bromate and bromide and if the developer meets the requirements it has no objection.
Arlington, who is subject to the S106, has said it is not stepping away from development of the Ellenbrook Park Preservation Trust if a quarry is built on the park.
A spokesman said in 2019: “It was intended that the establishment of the Ellenbrook Park Preservation Trust takes place once the landscape management document works were completed, in order that the land was then leased to the trust and Arlington pay a commuted sum for its ongoing management and maintenance.”
Previously, the former MP for St Albans Anne Main raised the issue with the government, before the election when she lost her seat to Daisy Cooper, who also opposes the quarry, saying: “There is a risk that the quarrying process could draw the bromate plume onto the site and contaminate the water supply used by locals.”
Mrs Main called ignoring these concerns “irresponsible and cavalier” in light of what happened in Camelford, Cornwall on July 6 1988. A leak there caused contaminated water to be used by the local population, affecting their health.
She added: “Bromate is a known carcinogen, but very little research is available to make sense of the potential health consequences for residents.
“It is my opinion that possible exposure to this noxious product is an intolerable risk for the local population.”
Brett Aggregates, which hopes to build the quarry, told this newspaper in November 2019 that the site was identified in the county’s own minerals local plan for a number of years. It also stressed that this location is the subject of a planning application currently being decided by HCC.
A spokesperson said: “[It] is supported by a full environmental assessment, and as part of this process we have provided the authorities with the latest environmental studies, including assessments on groundwater quality.”
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