Note: this letter was sent to BANES by a local resident who was happy for us to publish a copy on the website but who wished to remain anonymous for the purposes of the website.
I would welcome the opportunity to discuss with you the recent decision by BANES to allow up to 650,000 tonnes of asbestos to be dumped in the former quarry at Stowey.
My particular concerns include the impact which this might have on my own young children and on future generations, as well as the wider community.
I am sure that by now you are aware of the anger and worry throughout the communities of the Chew and Cam Valleys. Much of this is genuine concern borne of a clear understanding of the facts but there is also a great deal of anxiety caused by rumour and assumption about what might happen in the future. In part, this anxiety stems from the inability - or unwillingness - of BANES to carry out any meaningful or wide ranging public consultation with regard to this application. The first that the vast majority of local people knew about this application was an article in the Chew Valley Gazette once the planning consent had already been granted..
Given the scale of this application - up to 100 lorry movements a day - and the impact on the communities and the environment, this is unacceptable. An application of this type should have required that detailed plans and proposals were put forward for consideration by the wider community in order that the community fully understood what was being proposed - and the implications of it - prior to determination of the application. What is more, the suggestion by BANES that 100 lorry movements per day is in line with the existing use is entirely fatuous. Whatever the previous planning consent might have given permission for, there is very little quarry related traffic on the roads around the quarry at present and there has not been for some years.
One key concern is that the proposed site sits high on a ridge overlooking Chew Valley reservoir which serves not only the surrounding communities but also large parts of Bristol. The hill is full of springs which run directly into Chew Valley reservoir and there is a very real danger that any leakage from the proposed site will contaminate the water supply, with wide reaching consequences. I understand that Bristol Water objected to the original application on this basis but that their concerns were dismissed by BANES' planning committee.
I do appreciate, of course, that there is a need for materials like asbestos to be disposed of safely. However, I also understand that as a region, the South West is home to a greater number of registered sites than other parts of England and Wales and that in spatial planning terms there seems to be no justification whatsoever for granting the consent on the Stowey site. In fact, the geographic location of the Stowey site does not seem to have been thought about at all, when in fact it ought to have been a primary consideration. When transporting any form of hazardous waste, every attempt ought to be made to limit the road miles which it is necessary to travel with the waste on board. It would, therefore, seem essential to situate any such site within easy reach of key road and rail infrastructure. It would also make sense to site such a facility close to areas where large amounts of waste are likely to arise so as to limit the exposure of a wider society to the dangers posed by that waste. This is clearly not the case with regard to Stowey and, in fact, it is difficult to imagine a site anywhere in BANES which is more isolated from main roads, rail depots or industrial centres likely to give rise to asbestos waste.
It has been reported that your own Environmental Health officers failed to comment at all on the application. If true, this seems, to me to be an indication that the Council as a corporate body has not exercised the due diligence necessary in relation to this application and has failed in its responsibility to the wider community. I would be grateful if you could clarify why the Environmental Health officer was not consulted - or failed to formally respond - in relation to this application.
As a resident of BANES, I delegate responsibility to the Unitary Authority to protect the interests and safeguard the wellbeing of the people who live here. On this basis, I am disappointed and dismayed by this decision. If there is - as many local people fear that there will be - significant long term damage caused by this application, then the officers and members of BANES Council will bear a heavy personal responsibility for the actions taken in granting planning consent for this application.
I look forward to hearing from you regarding the above and would reiterate that
I would be very happy to meet with both of you to discuss this in more detail.