Hatfield quarry: Fight not over yet
Deborah Price, Local Democracy Reporter
- Credit: Google
Campaigners have welcomed the Planning Inspector’s decision that the application to build a quarry on the former Hatfield Aerodrome site should not go ahead – but warn that the fight is not over.
Brett Aggregates had appealed to the inspector after their application to extract up to eight million tonnes of sand and gravel from the site over a 32-year period was refused by Hertfordshire County Council.
But on Tuesday (January 25) the appeal was dismissed by Planning Inspector John Woolcock.
Campaigners have welcomed the inspector's decision – after what they see as a ‘David and Goliath’ battle. But with a further application to quarry the site yet to be determined, they say the battle is not yet over.
“This proves we were right to fight the appeal,” said Cllr Peter Cook, chair of Colney Heath Parish Council. “We have won the battle, but we haven’t won the war. The new application could still run.”
Colney Heath Parish Council, Ellenbrook Residents’ Association and Smallford Residents’ Association were all represented at the inspector’s nine-day planning inquiry in November.
During the inquiry, they had pointed to the impact the quarry would have on the Green Belt and the cumulative impact of quarrying. They highlighted the proximity of the bromate plume, suggesting that the risk of bromate to public health was too high.
Following the publication of the inspector’s decision, Cllr Cook told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that had the application been granted quarrying would have continued in the area for another 35 years.
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That, he said, would mean that ultimately there would have been quarrying in the area for more than a century. He urges the county council – which determines areas that may be deemed acceptable for mineral extraction in their minerals plan – to take a more balanced approach.
“It would have been a blot on the landscape and residents would have lost the country park,” said Cllr Cook. “If this had been granted there would have been mineral extraction in this area for over a century. The county council should review its mineral plan and look at a balanced distribution of sites.”
Cllr Cook said that throughout the inquiry they had kept emotions out of it – and argued only on planning grounds.
But aside from the impact on the Green Belt and the country park, he also points to continuing fears surrounding the bromate plume that sits beneath the site.
In his decision notice, the inspector suggests that – in light of the bromate plume – it would be necessary for a planning condition to prevent pumping from the lower mineral aquifer.
And he suggested that to reduce any risk of exacerbating bromate pollution further consideration would need to be given to the location of monitoring boreholes – with levels to trigger intervention.
But he suggested that issues relating to the bromate plume could ultimately be addressed through planning conditions.
However, following the decision, Cllr Cook said: “The big risk is still to public health. And the risk from the bromate plume is still too big.”
Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has also welcomed the decision by the Planning Inspector.
“The council was a consultee on the original minerals planning application for the former Hatfield Aerodrome site, and for this, we submitted strong written objections for a number of reasons,” said a spokesperson for Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council.
“We welcome the decision and are reviewing the Planning Inspector’s findings.”