Brett Quarry – summary of objection document

Planning Application Ref No​​ PL/0232/21​​ Land at Hatfield Aerodrome, Off Hatfield Road

Below is a summary of the objection document that​​ we will submit to the Council in reference to the above application for quarrying Ellenbrook Fields. ​​ A similar application was rejected by Hertfordshire County Council in 2020, and is currently being appealed by Brett (the applicant). ​​ This new, amended application was submitted in October and many of the concerns that we had with the previous application stand, with some further information now available, and some minor modifications made by the applicant. ​​ We have separated out our main issues below into bullet points with some extra information below each point.

  • Cumulative Impact on the area

This small area of Hertfordshire has already had quarrying for well over​​ 85​​ years. This application will extend the quarrying for another 32 years at a minimum, meaning that this area will have been subjected to quarrying for circa 120​​ years. This​​ is more than​​ a lifetime and it is unacceptable to concentrate so much quarrying in one small part of the county. We do not believe that the cumulative impact of having three quarry sites in one small part of Hatfield has been fairly assessed as part of the planning process and should be reconsidered.

  • Green Belt and the Country Park

Ellenbrook Fields as a country park was promised to residents under a Section 106 agreement, which despite nearly 20 years passing since it was agreed has still not been set up. ​​ The Country Park Trust must be set up before any planning application is considered to protect this valuable resource and ensure that activities on this site are agreed in accordance with the Section 106.

Ellenbrook Fields is a unique, irreplaceable valuable resource for the community that promotes health and wellbeing for residents. It is part of Hatfield’s green belt with meadow and grazing land, owls, butterflies, crested newts, and wildflowers.​​ It is used extensively by dog walkers, cyclists and ramblers​​ and will be a huge loss to the community if it were to be lost to quarrying and there is no alternative for local residents or wildlife to this location in the area if the quarry goes ahead.

The Covid 19 Pandemic showed how valuable this piece of land is for local residents. ​​ It became a safe haven of open, green space, where locals could get fresh air, go for walks, and not encounter crowds of people. ​​ These areas should be fiercely protected by the Council and not handed over to developers.

This quarry will effectively destroy the green belt between Hatfield and St Albans in our lifetime. ​​​​ The Development of Evidence for Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan: Green Gap Assessment clearly states that it is inappropriate to build on the green belt land between Hatfield and St Albans along the A1057 area and has identified this area as a gap policy area to prevent the future merging of Hatfield with St Albans.

  • Pollution & the Bromate Plume

Ellenbrook Fields lays over an area which is contaminated by bromate, a known carcinogen, which occurred as a result of a major pollution disaster discovered in the year 2000. The pollution originated because of a major chemical spill at Steetly Chemical Factory, Sandridge, some 20 years previously, resulting in a bromate plume which has travelled underground all the way from Sandridge to Broxbourne, part of which is underneath Ellenbrook Fields. The plume has travelled approximately 20 km, this contamination is considered by the experts to be the worst ground water contamination event in Europe.​​ We believe that bromate and bromide are below the dig site or so close to it that quarrying poses a major risk by disturbing it.

We are concerned that despite a huge amount of effort being made to stop the plume, it continues to spread and shows no sign of abating. Again, by potentially disrupting the plume, this seems like a high risk strategy to take. We are extremely disappointed about the approach that the Environment Agency is taking towards this application when they have seen first-hand the devastating impact bromate has on the environment and the extreme difficulty it poses to remove once contamination has occurred.

  • Public Water Sources

The bromate plume has already affected the land and water supply in and around our area of Hatfield. Two local pumping stations have already been affected by the plume; one in Hatfield had to be closed when it was realised this was putting contaminated water into the public water systems, and one in Essendon is closely monitored to ensure that the drinking water remains below WHO guidelines, this means that Affinity Water have to keep turning it off and mixing the water with uncontaminated water to lower the bromate concentration in order to keep the community supplied with clean, safe drinking water.​​ If the plume continues to move in a southerly direction it will start to affect the remaining uncontaminated water pumping stations. ​​ We do not believe that any risks to the remaining supplies in the area should be taken.

Affinity Water and the Environment Agency have both made media statements in 2019 regarding the scarcity of water in the future. We find it difficult to believe that the Environment Agency and Affinity Water can make such statements whilst still looking to give their permission to this quarry which could contaminate huge quantities of source water, the slightest risk to this valuable commodity should not be taken. Not only have both organisations told the public how they expect the Government to take steps to protect water sources, but the Environment Agency has also released a report ‘Adapt or Die’ in the last month about the huge risk that climate change is bringing to flooding. ​​ In light of all these statements how can they then agree to risks being taken with this source water?​​ It raises the question, do the departments in the EA and AW that are raising these warnings know of the application, or are the EA and AW representatives at these hearings working separately.

To reiterate our concerns, to put our water supply at any risk seems to be a highly dangerous and negligent strategy.

  • Access to the Site

We believe that there is a significant​​ risk posed to highway safety at the entrance to the quarry site (by Notcutts). This site will have 164 HGV movements a day onto a single carriage road. To access the site HGVs will need to have a turning lane on the A1057 into the access road as all traffic must enter coming from the East. This is a busy road and slow HGVs queuing in this lane will cause the traffic to back up, it will only take two or three lorries waiting to completely block the road. This will raise the potential for accidents from vehicles coming across stationary traffic on a fast stretch of​​ road or very slowly moving vehicles entering onto the roadway from the site, again into the path of fast moving vehicles. ​​ The placement of the entrance (5m from where it was in the original application) is in a more dangerous position than where it previously had been identified as it is now closer to the blind bend

Weekday rush hours often has traffic queuing from the Albatross Way/Ellenbrook Lane Roundabout to A1057/Oaklands Lane/Station Road Roundabout. ​​ This is without the addition of multiple HGVs which will be attempting to cross across a flow of traffic, on a bend in the road. ​​ The applicant states that this piece of road is ‘relatively straight’, however they are omitting the fact that the entrance to the site is on a bend in the road, where by crossing across traffic, there are likely to be further delays to traffic between Hatfield and St Albans, as well as a potential risk to those cars travelling from St Albans to Hatfield, unexpectedly coming across an HGV crossing across their path. ​​ As local residents, the A1057 is not only a road that we use daily, often at peak times, but it is the only access and egress route for all vehicular traffic from the entire Ellenbrook area. ​​ The real life, anecdotal evidence should not be ignored. ​​ We have photographic and video footage showing a typical queue of traffic between these two roundabouts. ​​ From this footage, you can also see the number of HGV type vehicles already on the road. ​​ 

 

Any road works in the last few years have proved the theory that any disruption to the flow of traffic has a monumental impact, causing traffic in the morning at the Smallford roundabout to be queued back to beyond the Ellenbrook roundabout, along Station Road down to the bridge and Oaklands Lane up to the roundabouts at Jersey Farm. ​​ The vehicles waiting to turn across traffic onto the site via the proposed access will be prevented from doing so by traffic coming from St Albans towards the Galleria and the A1. This will be aggravated by HGVs slowly pulling out of and away from the site onto the A1057 slowing the eastbound traffic.

 

We do not accept the Highways view that it should be safe if all the ancient trees and hedgerow are removed and clear vision granted. This unacceptable destruction of the foliage will forever change the rural appearance of this street and area into a commercial zone as observed at the nearby Smallford Works

The impact of extra HGVs on the road, which is already congested, particularly at Rush Hour will have a detrimental impact on local residents and businesses and has not been fully considered by the applicant. ​​ There is no recent traffic data which means that any information that is being used for decision making is out of date and not reflective of current reality. ​​ There will also be an increase in noise and pollution which will​​ negatively impact local residents

  • Flooding

We believe that the authorities have not taken the following into account in regard to the potential for flooding

Climate change. ​​ ​​​​ More weight should be given to this issue when calculating the risk factor for the quarry application.

  • Climate change poses a real threat to flooding in our area, with extreme events occurring much more regularly than predicted

  • The Ellenbrook area is regularly the subject of a flood risk warning highlighting this real risk to the area from flooding

  • the ‘Adapt or die’ report recently published by the Environment Agency (EA)​​ 

  • previous warnings from the Head of EA and Affinity Water regarding shortage of drinking water

 

The cumulative impact from all the current, historic and proposed quarrying​​ in the immediate vicinity of this site turning permeable land into non-permeable land, altering the areas hydrology including increasing run off of large quantities of surface water along with the loss of open areas of land.​​ 

Geographic location. The proposed site is above Ellenbrook and parts of the university in terms of metres above sea level. The quarry site is up to 80m AOD, and flooding is shown to occur at 73m AOD including the A1057 roundabout and along the Ellen Brook.​​ 

The use of the rivers to carry away excess water in extreme weather conditions​​ including overflows from the lagoons which will end up leaving the site and travelling through the residential area of Ellenbrook via the Ellen Brook, an open but confined stream which runs along Ellenbrook Lane and is already at full capacity during normal wet weather conditions.

Too close.​​ Ellenbrook area is in a vulnerable position too close to the​​ proposed​​ lagoons.​​ 

  • The risks to urban properties from the closeness of the Brett lagoons has been undervalued. Only 350m separate the University, roads, and local housing, the quarry is too close and poses a significant risk to them.

  • These lagoons are man - made and subject to accidents, overflow, and blocking due to silt & algae.​​ 

  • They are extremely deep, and carry vast amounts of water.

 

Conclusion

 

The application is not sufficiently different from the 2016 application that was rejected by Hertfordshire County Council in 2020, and the four reasons​​ for rejection are still valid. ​​ The applicant has had time to review the concerns raised by the Council, and have had time to produce more up to date information and data to inform decision making, however none of these have been addressed to a satisfactory level. ​​ More information has come to light about the bromate plume since the first, original application was submitted and should be taken seriously by the Council when making the decision. ​​ There are potential, serious consequences if the bromate plume is disturbed, and any risk is a risk too far. ​​ The appropriate governing / regulatory bodies have a duty of care to the residents and the community as a whole to ensure that our water sources are protected. ​​ 

The Council​​ now​​ has an opportunity to​​ reconsider the cumulative impact on the​​ area, potential for flooding, impact on the green belt​​ and the risks associated with the plume and​​ refuse this​​ further​​ application and​​ therefore​​ not put the public water source, health and​​ well-being​​ of Hatfield residents at risk and​​ continue to​​ subject Hatfield residents to another 30+ years of quarrying in this one, small area.​​ 

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