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'Anger, despair and horror' as Redbridge Council approves Aldborough Hatch gravel works expansion

PUBLISHED: 09:00 30 June 2017

Members of the Aldborough Hatch Defence Association outside Redbridge Town Hall. Ron Jeffries is seventh from the left. The Revd Lovesey who was barred from speaking is in the centre. Jean Smith, who spoke on behalf of the Busy Bodies Pre-School Day Nursery is on the far right. Photo: Matt Clemenson

Members of the Aldborough Hatch Defence Association outside Redbridge Town Hall. Ron Jeffries is seventh from the left. The Revd Lovesey who was barred from speaking is in the centre. Jean Smith, who spoke on behalf of the Busy Bodies Pre-School Day Nursery is on the far right. Photo: Matt Clemenson

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Residents living near a gravel extraction site fear they will face another decade of noise and air pollution after Redbridge Council approved an expansion of the quarry last night.

Redbridge Council’s planning committee granted permission for an extension of gravel works in Aldborough Hatch Farm for a further nine years by a vote of six to five at a high-stakes meeting in a packed council chamber at Redbridge Town Hall.

Brett Tarmac, the company that runs the site, plans to extract 900,000 tonnes of gravel and sand at the farm, within 100 metres of St Peter’s Church, and 145 nearby residents filed formal complaints against the proposal.

Ron Jeffries, of the Aldborough Hatch Defence Association, was the first member of the public to speak at the meeting.

He said: “Chairman, I speak for the Aldborough Hatch Defence Association - and the 140 or so residents whose objections are reduced to meaningless summaries in the papers before you.

“There is anger, despair and horror among residents - who fear further years of noise, dust, pollution and the spread of cancer.”

Mr Jeffries went on to highlight research connecting dust to respiratory illness, and questioned why Environment Agency recommendations to limit the amount of dust in the air had not been followed.

He added: “We can only assume that this omission is an intentional and deliberate cover-up to mislead councillors on the planning committee and as such is shameful in the extreme and must be, and will be, exposed.”

In response to this, council officers advised members of the committee that the health impact assessment that had been carried out had not highlighted any particular issues and advised councillors that appeals against plans refused on health grounds had been successful in the past.

Simon Treacy, Brett Tarmac’s estates manager, told the meeting that a number of measures would be put in place to minimise the impact of the works on residents, and also promised that a residents liaison committee would also be formed to make sure the company was held accountable.

Addressing concerns about the impact of dust on people’s health, he admitted there was an “historic element of mistrust” between the company and residents.

But Mr Treacy said: “I can assure those here, both members and residents, that no developing would begin before a suitable dust management plan was in place.”

After hearing from three members of the public councillors debated the details of the plan before casting their votes.

Cllr Lloyd Duddridge said: “I find it difficult in what’s in front of me, which is all any of us can go on tonight, to find a really strong planning objection against what’s going on.

“I would’ve liked to, I looked hard and I looked deep and I would have liked to find a planning objection, but I can’t in good conscience say I can find one.”

He went on to call on the committee to draw up some more conditions to mitigate residents concerns, although none were added in addition to the 64 conditions already recommended by council planning officers.

Cllr Nick Hayes then expressed concerns that some areas of the site would not be returned to agricultural use, and instead left as loosely-defined nature conservation areas.

He called for more stringent criteria to be added to the plan to set out exactly what a nature conservation area meant, but again, this was not acted upon.

Rev Kate Lovesey, the vicar at St Peter’s Church in Aldborough Road, was left “really saddened” by the result, which she and many other residents believe will lead to more damage being done to the church building as the quarry moves ever closer.

She said: “Having the church talked about without being able to speak was a bit like listening to gossip about yourself and being gagged.

“They clearly had already made their minds up.”

Despite council standing orders stating only three members of the public could speak about an application at a planning meeting, residents had hoped the vicar would be allowed to speak.

Some even chanted “let the vicar speak” from the public gallery, but this did little to sway committee chairman Cllr Paul Merry.

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