Cemex quarry in St Albans wants to dig up 450,000 tonnes of sand and gravel in Green Belt
PUBLISHED: 11:37 12 December 2016
A St Albans-based quarry wants to expand its operations further into the Green Belt to dig up an additional 0.45 million tonnes of sand and gravel, to keep pace with increased demand.
Cemex has asked Herts county council to allow an extension of the firm’s quarry at Oaklands Lane in Smallford to a 17.7ha parcel of land it owns in Hatfield.
The application proposes extracting 450,000 tonnes of sand and gravel over a period of three years from Furze Field, off Coopers Green Lane, near the fringes of Sandridge.
The Green Belt site is next to Symondshyde Great Wood, and lies opposite Grade II listed Astwick Manor. Furze Field was part of the manorial lands of the medieval manor, first recorded in the 13th century.
Cemex wants to transport excavated material via a network of linked conveyor belts to its quarry plant complex in Smallford, where it will be washed, graded and stockpiled, or bagged for export.
The firm, which employs eight full time staff at its facility near Oaklands College, said that although Hertfordshire’s landbank for sand and gravel appeared to be healthy, “the majority of reserves are tied up in a single site, Tyttenhanger, which will be the only source of supply from 2020”.
Cemex said that while local sand and gravel reserves were “steadily declining, sales of sand and gravel continue to increase [yet] anecdotal evidence suggests sites are not producing enough to keep up with demand, which has increased due to the upturn in development”.
Its application added: “The Furze Field extension would be the initial stage of longer-term proposals to extend the quarry eastwards to Stanboroughbury Farm, in order to help ensure continuity and certainty of future supply.”
The local quarry has been an active sand, gravel and waste site since the 1940s/’50s, and Cemex’s scheme would start following the completion of operations on land at Symondshyde, which has a permitted end date of October 1, 2020.
Roughly 31,000 cubic metres of topsoil and 218,000 cubic metres of subsoil would be stripped from the land at Furze Field, and placed into screening bunds – temporary dirt mounds.
A landscape sensitivity study undertaken for Welwyn Hatfield borough council last year said the wider Green Belt location was identified as part of the “Wheathampstead (part) character area, along with the De Havilland Plan and Symondshyde Ridge character areas”. Species present in the area include hornbeam, oak, buzzard, kestrel, swallow, butterfly and there is evidence of badgers.
Sixteen species of butterfly were seen in neighbouring Symondshyde Great Wood by a member of the Herts Natural History Society.
A county council report on an application for extraction of materials at Symondshyde Farm, written in 2004, describes woodland at Furze Field, Titnol’s Wood and Symondshyde Great Wood as being designated as ‘wildlife sites’ under planning policy.
However, a spokesman for the St Albans based Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust said the proposed extension “does not impact any wildlife sites”.
He added: “The area that Cemex are intending to quarry is an area of arable farmland and improved grassland that has low value for wildlife and low biodiversity. The wildlife impact surveys that have been carried out are extensive and, in our opinion, after restoration the proposals represent a net gain for wildlife and biodiversity.”
• Consultation on the scheme (application number PL\0820\16) ends on Thursday, December 15, and is expected to go before a county council committee on January 25.