Country park before quarry, say St Albans councillors
Matthew Smith, Local Democracy Reporter
- Credit: Google
Councillors in St Albans won’t support a new quarry on the former Hatfield Aerodrome until progress has been made on a new country park for the area.
A second application for a quarry on the site has come forward, after initial plans were rejected last year.
Herts county council (HCC) is currently consulting on the second application, which would cross the border between St Albans and Welwyn Hatfield, and could extract up to eight million tonnes of sand and gravel during its 32 year life span.
The final decision whether to grant planning permission will be made by the county council, but as part of the planning process, local authorities are being consulted.
SADC councillors have said they’ll continue to object to the plans after saying ‘nothing had changed’ since the original application, and insisted Ellenbrook Country Park, first promised in 2000, should be developed ahead of any decision on a quarry.
The funding and development of a new country park was promised through a Section 106 agreement when land owners Arlington were granted permission to build a business park and new homes in 2000, however the park has still not materialised.
The applicants for the quarry, Brett Aggregates, are currently appealing the original decision through a public inquiry. While this is ongoing, the applicant has submitted a separate, amended application.
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This new application includes the removal of a concrete batching plant on site, the access road from the quarry entrance has been moved five meters to the east, and the stand off for mineral extraction operations in the Lower Minerals Horizon to the bromate plume has been increased from 50m to 100m.
Officers for the district council had recommended members of the Planning Control Committee raise no objection to the plan, as long as the county council were satisfied their original concerns had been addressed and that the country park would be provided following the mineral extraction.
However, members of the committee said they couldn’t support that recommendation, and claimed the application was largely the same as the refused plans.
They added that the park should be in place prior to the quarry, rather than the land being returned after the quarry is no longer needed.
Cllr Frances Leonard raised concerns about the size of any bromate plume, the amount of lorry movement in the area, and a lack of confidence that the country park would be implemented.
Cllr Leonard added: “I’m still not happy with this and I couldn’t support St Albans district council raising no objection. I know we’re only consultees, but as consultees with wards very local to it, I am still very concerned about this.”
The committee’s chair, CllrJamie Day, whose ward would house the quarry, said he agreed with the concerns: “It’s in my ward and I’m well aware of this one, and I don’t think anything has changed since the objections to the last consultation request that we did in 2019.
“[The objections] are the country park, which has been going on for 20 years and really needs to be in place before anything happens, the traffic impacts, the land contamination and the bromate plume.”
Cllr Chris Brazier also backed calls to raise an objection with the plan, and said SADC should do everything they can to ensure the Section 106 agreement is honoured: “We had a 106 agreement when those houses were built from Arlington to provide a country park, now we’re just letting [the agreement] drift.
“We objected to that, as you know, and now we’re just saying, ‘we’ll go along with [the county council] if they’re happy everything is being dealt with, we’ll support it’. I think that’s the wrong way to look at it.
“A 106 agreement is being ignored for Arlington to have a quarry extraction on their site. The quarry is saying we’ll return to a county park after we’ve dug it up, well for local residents that’s going to be a long time.”
He added: “We have to insist we want the country park and the 106 agreement pursued, if it’s not, I’m not suggesting we support [the county council] being able to agree to this application because their concerns have been met – ours haven’t.”
Councillors agreed to submit a formal objection to the plans to the county council’s consultation that raised the same points as their 2019 comment.
The objection raises concerns about the agreement for the country park, traffic impact from HGV movements, the risk of land contamination and the cumulative effect of mineral extraction in the area.