Fears proposed quarry site in Hatfield could pollute water

PUBLISHED: 18:55 28 November 2018 | UPDATED: 18:55 28 November 2018

Potential quarry sites have been discussed by Herts county councillors.

Potential quarry sites have been discussed by Herts county councillors.

Archant

Quarrying at a site in Hatfield – earmarked for mineral extraction by the county council – could pollute the water supply, it has been claimed.

The Hatfield Aerodrome site is one of three ‘specific’ sites included in Hertfordshire County Council’s draft Minerals Local Plan.

It’s been estimated that eight million tonnes of sand and gravel could be excavated there.

But, at a meeting of the full county council, fears were raised that mining at the site could release a bromate plume that could then pollute the water supply.

Cllr Margaret Eames-Petersen, Labour councillor for the Hatfield North division, said the plume was currently being held back by a natural ridge.

And she said there were fears that quarrying in the area would disturb the ridge and the water supply could become contaminated.

In addition Liberal Democrat councillor Nigel Quinton, a professional geologist, said there was uncertainty around the risk from the bromate plume that had not been adequately understood.

He said it was possible to draw the distribution of the plume in different ways.

“This is a common problem in my profession,” he said.

“But I do think this needs to be looked at again.”

The draft Minerals Local Plan is designed to offer strategic guidance on when and where mineral extraction development may take place in the future.

The county council has a statutory duty to ensure enough mineral sites are available to maintain a steady and adequate supply.

In practical terms, in Hertfordshire that means earmarking sites that will provide around 1.39million tonnes of sand and gravel a year.

‘Specific sites’ are those where resources are known to exist, landowners are supportive and the proposal is “likely” to be acceptable in planning terms.

Nevertheless applicants wishing to mine on any of the sites would still have to go through the planning process.

In addition to the Hatfield Aerodrome site, the two other ‘specific sites’ in the draft Plan are also in Hatfield.

These are the Hatfield Quarry/Furze Field and Hatfield Quarry/land adjoining Coopers Green Lane sites.

Concerns were also expressed at the meeting that all the ‘specific’ sites in the Local Plan were concentrated in Hatfield.

Cllr Eames-Paterson said there was general agreement that this was “disproportionate”, given there were other suitable quarrying sites available.

Meanwhile one additional site – The Briggens Estate (Olives Farm), near Stansted Abbotts – has also been specified as a further ‘preferred area’.

Cllr Eric Bukmaster – who represents the division with The Briggens Estate – said he appreciated the need to make minerals available in the county.

But he said the cumulative effect of a quarry at Briggens Estate needed to be considered alongside the impact of construction in nearby Gilston.

And he went on to vote against the Plan, because he said he felt “morally-bound to take the lead from those I represent”.

Nevertheless on Tuesday (November 27) the meeting of the full council agreed that the draft Minerals Local Plan should go out to public consultation.

Executive member for growth, infrastructure, planning and the economy, Cllr Derrick Ashley said authorities that had an exploitable supply of minerals had a statutory duty to ensure supply was available.

He said any specific applications would still have to go through the planning process, even for sites identified in the Plan.

And he said the draft Plan would go through a formal process and public inquiry before going to the Secretary of State.

The public consultation process – to determine whether the draft Plan is “sound” – will last for 10 weeks, and is expected to start on January 14.

Then the Plan will be submitted to the Secretary of State for independent examination, which will involve an independent Planning Inspector holding an ‘Examination in Public’, where the Plan will be assessed in terms of ‘soundness’.

At the end of the process – which is expected to run until summer 2020 – the county council will be able to adopt the Plan, with or without any modifications suggested by the Inspector’s report.

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