Hatfield and Smallford residents demand Ellenbrook becomes country park before quarry decision
PUBLISHED: 06:58 14 November 2019
Hatfield and Smallford residents hope that Ellenbrook fields becomes a country park before any quarry development is considered.
The site - situated in the Colney Heath parish, near Notcutts Nursery in Smallford - is being considered as a site for a quarry by Hertfordshire County Council.
Smallfords Residents' Association, Ellenbrook Area Residents Association, the Welwyn Hatfield Labour Party, and Liberal Democrat groups for St Albans and Welwyn Hatfield all hope the promise of a country park will go ahead.
To make their point, protesters gathered at Ellenbrooks Fields parkrun on Saturday morning with placards which read 'save our park, stop the quarry'.
The developer, Arlington, had agreed Ellenbrook would be a green space under a Section 106 agreement.
"It's a potential loss of access to a much-loved park, used by local residents and over 300 parkrunners every week," said Rosie Newbigging, Labour's parliamentary candidate for Welwyn Hatfield. She said one protester told her: "'Once the quarrying starts, that's it the park is gone'."
Ms Newbigging added: "This is a potential environmental disaster on the doorstep of Hatfield residents. The proposed quarrying presents a number of very real threats to the health and well-being of local residents."
Hugh Burrell - from Smallford Residents' Association - has previously cited the HCC application's 'environmental baseline report' and a 'bromate plan and dataset', that he thinks reveals the presence of the carcinogenic compound bromate.
He said if it is disturbed it could have serious implications for drinking water as it would reduce supply in the event of an accident.
St Albans City & District Council's planning referrals committee met last week and raised concerns about the plans, but said if a country park is put in place then it would have little objection. Speaking at the meeting, Mr Burrell urged councillors: "Remember Camelford [a Cornish town where there's a large quarry] and the repercussions there and I would put to you we have an even greater threat and level of contamination here on the old aerodrome."
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The Conservative's parliamentary candidate for St Albans, Anne Main, has already asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson to look into the proposals.
Speaking before Parliament was dissolved, she said: "There are plans to drill a new gravel quarry in Smallford, which may disturb the plume and cause it to enter the watercourses. Will the Prime Minister use his good offices to ensure that the Environment Agency does not allow quarrying on this gravel pit until the toxicity of the bromate plume has been fully assessed?"
Mr Johnson responded he would get on to the Environment Secretary "immediately" and ensure that it's taken up.
Affinity Water and the Environment Agency say they are monitoring the situation and have no concerns about the bromate plume at present.
An EA spokesman said: "Over the past seven years we have had regular discussions with the Affinity Water and the Brett Aggregates shape and control the proposed development at Hatfield Aerodrome." He also pointed out that in 2017 it did issue an environmental permit for the backfill and restoration to create the country park.
Brett Aggregates, which hopes to build the quarry, told this newspaper 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."
Arlington said it is not stepping away from the development of the Ellenbrook Park Preservation Trust. A spokesman said: "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.
"To be clear, Arlington does not step away from the trust, but remains an integral part of the ongoing relationship to the land, with five of the 11 trustees being representatives from Arlington.
"In the meanwhile the public continue to have access and Arlington continue to maintain the land at our cost."
Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council's development management committee will meet today at 7pm in WGC to discuss the quarry.