Letter from David and Diane Beacham, Bishop Sutton residents, to Mr David Trigwell, Head of Planning at BANES
4th April 2012
Dear Mr Trigwell,
We did send an e-mail to the B&NES planning website last weekend, however so you are left in no doubt about how strongly we feel about this issue we have decided to follow our e-mail with this letter listing our initial concerns, comments and objections.
Because of the importance to us of fully laying out our objections we have now studied the extensive set of documents supporting as well as the letters objecting to this application, unfortunately this means our reply is equally extensive and may be repetitive in places. We know you have to judge any application on planning related issues rather than emotional ones and that the planning committee cannot be seen to predetermine in any way, however this application has implications for all our futures so we ask you to read this letter, consider our points and pass any relevant ones forward to the officer responsible for this application and help ensure he balances his recommendations to committee.
Objection 1:- Our main objection is based on the unknown risks to health We object most strongly to this application in the first instance because of the risk to our and our neighbours future health from airborne, waterborne or asbestos fibres transferred by vehicle movements. We only live 650 meters from the proposed site, our house is situated to the northwest and below the quarry down a valley that funnels the prevailing wind directly towards us and then on down the hill to the village of Bishop Sutton. My wife’s father died of the asbestos related cancer Mesothelioma in 2005 so we are only too aware of the dangers of breathing in airborne particles of asbestos, it only takes one inhaled particle to start a process that will eventually kill you many years later and in a very unpleasant way.
It's not very comforting to see that in the proposals environmental statement by Oaktree Environmental Ltd dated 10-02-2012 in appendix 3, figure 4, annotation star 3 is placed directly over our home and identifies a dust sensitive receptor location. Does this mean that a sensor is going to be located here and if so will this sensor protect us in any way or just be used to disprove or prove the presence of asbestos after the event. We have always understood that although asbestos can be composed of large fibres, it can also consist of small fibres that can only be detected using a microscope under laboratory conditions.
Objection 2:- There is no requirement for this level of disposal in the West Country There simply is not a requirement for anywhere near this level of contaminated waste disposal in the West Country, I understand this is easily proven by looking at the reducing needs for this type of disposal as recorded at other waste disposal sites. From basic research I understand there are already other disposal sites that can receive this type of waste in Cornwall, Devon, Wiltshire and possibly Bridgewater and Avonmouth. This being the case how long would it take to fill the site at Stowey, certainly not in the reasonable ten year time period indicated. In addition to this, using the originally permitted noise and dust reducing berms to be used to increase capacity is in effect now enlarging the Stowey site, therefore prolonging the likely duration of operations on site.
Objection 3:- HGV routing and the dangers on local roads As there is no requirement for this level of asbestos related waste disposal from within B&NES or its local area it seems likely that a large proportion of the proposed waste may come from the westerly direction for instance as the power stations at Hinkley Point are dismantled. We seriously doubt that the proposed HGV routing plan will be adhered to, how would it be enforced? The A368 to Chelwood A37 Clutton route is a considerably longer way round than the route from Bishop Sutton directly up to the quarry entrance so any vehicle coming from the West up the A368 Chew Valley road from Churchill using its satnav will be guided up the unsuitably narrow Sutton Hill road past our home or up through Stowey on an equally unsuitable road with a dangerous bend and corner junction on it. Even if the lorry movements don’t come past us they will only blight someone else.
Objection 4:- Detrimental effects on tourism I spoke to several walkers and cyclists last weekend, they had seen the protest signs all around the area, however they knew nothing about this application but were unanimous in informing me that they would not be happy spending their leisure time on footpaths or roads near a potentially serious health hazard. Most said they would in fact avoid the area completely if they knew there was an asbestos dump in operation nearby. This begs the question, if this application is successful will B&NES or the quarry owners be required to put up signage warning tourists and visitors of the potential hazards or will visitors to the area which includes Chew Valley Lake be left to risk their own health in ignorance.
Objection 5:- Any benefits to the area are far outweighed by the detrimental effects The applicants view of the benefits of this planning application seem to hinge around there being a need for this type of waste site (a point which is in itself highly debatable) and the employment of local people at the site. The initial statement that there will be ten people involved in the construction phase is highly misleading, I have set up construction sites and it does not take ten people or indeed very long to demolish what is basically a large shed and install two portakabins as shown in the application drawings. This calls into question the accuracy of the estimated numbers of permanent staff required on site to run this operation, the small waste disposal sites I have visited usually have one operative on the weighbridge dealing with paperwork and two, possibly three staff operating machinery. So in short you have to weigh the profits of a waste disposal business and the employment prospects of the very few permanent staff against completely blighting the Chew Valley and its surrounding areas.
Lack of direct notification from local authority on former planning applications We are also very concerned that we eventually found out about this new application from other worried residents rather than by being informed directly in a letter from B&NES. We missed being able to comment on the quarries previous 2007/2008 application 07/02326/MINW as well as the application made last year because we knew nothing about either of them until after they were approved. Can we also add that after reading the footnote on the 2008 approval letter it appears that our third party views if sought in the first place may only have been “considered” and then set aside as being outweighed.
Former Applications (2007) footnote This footnote appears to have been included to absolve the local authority from ongoing responsibility, this cannot be allowed to happen with this application. B&NES covering themselves by referring to having appropriate conditions in place in a footnote when granting an application does little to reassure us or to fully address any adverse impact to the local environment if the conditions are not met, enforced or are let slip in any way, the spread of asbestos into the wider environment is too big and costly a risk to allow for any error whatsoever.
Former Applications (2007) conditions not fully met or at best ineffective Having looked at the 2007 application 07/02326/MINW we note that condition 4b concerning landscaping and due to be completed by 30th Nov 2010 has not been met to date and we are of the opinion that conditions 23, 25, and 26 appear to have been ineffective at times as demonstrated from time to time by the increase in detritus and illicit dumping on the local roads, hedgerows and entrance to the quarry itself. We have personally cleaned up and disposed of this mess on many occasions by picking up the debris, carrying it home and putting it in our own waste bins. This leads me to assume that unless the site is more closely monitored by B&NES for the duration of its future operation than it has been in the past a cavalier attitude to meeting or keeping to planning conditions may be taken in the future.
Comment on Oaktree Environmental Statement 1.5 / item 2.6.11 page 16 I have worked in construction management and been involved in construction projects on large commercial properties, I have also worked as a local authority clerk of works for BCC and B&NES.
The environmental statement does not make it clear how comprehensive a wheel washing system would be installed if permission were granted, details are not included in the statement but are mentioned as to be submitted later prior to commencement, the indexed appendix 11 does not show the wheel-wash example as stated in item 2.6.11. Presumably the delivering lorries will be contaminated having backed up close to or onto the waste cells surface to keep the waste containment bags as intact as is possible when they are tipped out of the lorry.
From experience I know that it is difficult if not impossible to thoroughly clean vehicles of contamination or mud using a basic wheel-wash process, sometimes a wheel-wash amounts to no more than a few bits of box section sitting in a muddy puddle, I have seen them in-situ at times totally dried out or clogged with debris and therefore ineffective. To back this point up I only have to highlight the mud/soil contamination problems sometimes plainly visible outside the quarrying site by Bristol Airport where the verges and road have at times been thick with dust or wet mud slurry which is then picked up and transferred onwards by any passing vehicle.
Effective wheel-wash of all vehicles exiting a site can only be ensured by using an enclosed lorry wash which jets clean the vehicles body, underside and wheels then disposes of the residual water in a safe way and you still good independent supervision on site to ensure this happens to every vehicle leaving site without fail.
Its just not realistic to expect that the applicant could or would have a basic wheelwash topped up at all times as there is currently no mains water on site.
Comment on Environmental Statement Item 10.4.2.1 / page 85 The statement indicates that a water bowser will be available on site at all times for dust suppression but will only be used as required, who will decide when its required? Can the site operator be trusted to have a bowser operator available at all times, I have run sites and know that the site operator will not wish to carry extra staff on site just for this purpose. In my experience this type of secondary work task will fall to anyone who is available (or not as the case may be) it will not be allowed to take priority over the core task of turning around lorries as quickly as possible, any dust suppression is likely to be sporadic at best. Even if damping down is carried out what happens when areas subject to wet “cleaning” dry out, the asbestos will still be there on the surface to be released and blown about again. I know that the normal way waste site operators compact waste is to repeatedly run heavy machinery over the surface of the tipped waste to compress it, not a good idea if you are running over bags of demolition debris and building materials containing asbestos.
I don't believe the site operator could be trusted or left to carry out effective supervision or be left to decide when dust suppression is required or to carry such vital tasks out to an acceptable level, his interest in the site is purely to generate financial returns. The less excess staff you have on site, the more quickly you turn around the lorries, the more quickly you pack down the waste by compaction and the more waste you put into the site, the better the return. Having an operator planning at this stage to only take those precautions that are "practically possible" fills us with dread.
Again its just not realistic to expect that the applicant would have the water bowser topped up at all times as there is currently no mains water on site.
Comment on Oaktree Environmental Statement item 10.4.2.2 / page 85 I have supervised the asbestos identification process some of which can be destructive and by its very nature means that sometimes unidentified but potentially contaminated waste is bagged and mixed with builders rubble which can include sharp wood splinters from doors and floors etc.
These waste products can and do puncture the double bags used to transport the waste. Even if the proposal included for complete enclosure of the site, there will always be the risk of the bagged waste leaking during transportation or in the transfer process from the transporting vehicle onto the tip itself, on tips I have visited waste is usually moved around and compacted down by large vehicles, diggers, bulldozers etc. Most operators I met who were commercially involved in the process of demolition, asbestos removal and waste disposal gave the impression that they disposed of the waste in an out of sight out of mind albeit licensed way, an attitude I was never comfortable with.
Comment on Oaktree Environmental Statement item 10.5.4 / Page 86 We disagree profoundly with the predominant wind direction statement and are surprised to see our property is not mentioned as being the closest property downwind of the quarry site. The statement as it stands is misleading if not dishonest, we live in the valley directly below the site some 650m distant and some 40m lower than the quarry site, this makes a prevailing wind measurement taken 13kilometers away to the WNW irrelevant.
The southwestern boundary of the quarry site sits above and to the side of this valley, wind is funnelled down the valley whenever it comes from a southerly direction. This is easily proven and any amateur meteorologist could explain that a large body of generally cooler water nearby coupled with land temperature changes on large flat higher areas, hills and valleys will change the intensity and direction of the local wind all the time.
We also note there is a valley and large hill called Castle Hill between the quarry and Stowey House Farm the property highlighted in the environmental statement as being directly downwind. Although Stowey House Farm is likely to be as equally blighted as our own home we think this property has been chosen and named in the environmental statement because it is out of line of site with the quarry, it also appears to be incorrectly recorded as only being 450m distant from the quarry. SHF is just visible from our house and on the other side of a large hill and further away from the quarry, we are at position D3 in appendix 3 fig 4, Stowey House Farm is at position D9. Castle Hill is heavily wooded and helps form another valley as the hill faces the escarpment the quarry site is situated on, this second valleys head is situated by the upper road that leads from Stowey Road corner down to Stowey and directly faces our property which can be clearly seen from this road. This second valley forms the northwestern boundary of the quarry site and would again significantly change the direction of any prevailing wind and the potential for any dust or fibres to be carried down towards us and Bishop Sutton.
Comment on Oaktree Environmental Statement Appendix 4 Photo Montage Most of the supporting pictures appear to have been taken either from a distance or from a position where the quarry is obscured or out of site, hedges or trees have been used to mask the view of the site see figure/photo 5 taken by Receptor L8 100m up the road from our house and taken as a close up of a large hedge or fig 6 taken by Receptor L9 a very wide landscape photo where the quarry site is on the skyline but lost in trees. Some of these photos are in fact misleading, I can see the northwest berm from our front window where I sit as I write this letter, this berm is clearly sitting well above the original skyline.
I intend to take a set of photographs at or near the positions the Oaktree photographs were taken, I will cross reference these to the relevant Oaktree photographs and forward them onto you at a later date.
Suggested additional conditions for inclusion if B&NES decide to approve If B&NES do decide to approve this new planning application then they should at least ensure that a full set of robust, realistic and enforceable conditions are included in and attached to this permission.
a:-We firmly believe that B&NES should take full responsibility for its decision and we suggest they demonstrate how safe they consider the sites environment to be by placing one of their own employees permanently on site. Keeping an independent environmental supervision officer who is directly employed by B&NES on site at all times would help ensure that all the planning conditions pertaining to health, safety and site operation were met every day that the site remains in operation.
The applicant should be asked to accept the above condition and be made to adhere to it, possibly the applicant should also be asked to agree to fund B&NES ongoing costs of employing this officer and any covering staff required as part of the sites general running costs. In our opinion this supervision should include monitoring the unloading of every lorry and ensuring the safe onward movement of its load to the waste containment cells, the damping down of any airborne contaminants and the careful recovering of the cells exposed surfaces to help reduce asbestos particles being blown off site by the wind.
b:- The applicant should be asked to have mains water brought onto the site to ensure his dust suppressing bowser is full and ready for use at all times.
c:- The applicant should be asked to install a fully enclosed and powered jetwash facility for cleaning vehicles before they leave site.
d:- The applicant should be asked to keep the cells covered at all times and by a method more thought out than just bulldozing 150mm of inert material back over the deposited waste.
Former Applications (1979) condition pertaining to not raising final ground level When the 1979 application was granted one of the main conditions was that "The operations shall not result in any rise in finished level above the original conformation of the ground". Until recently we thought the requirement for returning the site to its original level was still in place. Unless raising the reinstatement level forms part of the current application then somewhere along the way and possibly because we were unable to object to an earlier application we knew nothing about this condition changing so the north west corner berm of the site is now in full view from our property on the skyline at the head of the valley. The last application we can recall being notified about directly by letter from B&NES was a gun club application by Mr Bissex a former owner of the site.
Our comment on not being directly notified about previous planning applications As the second or possibly third closest residential neighbour to the quarry site it would have been nice to have been informed about this now much more serious and contentious application, at the very least in a letter directly from B&NES or its planning officers. We find it astounding that B&NES have consulted with English Heritage and other organisations but even with the first application being overturned have still neglected to contact or inform some of the closest domestic ratepayers about this second application. As such a close neighbour of the quarry we would like a written explanation on why we have not being informed about any of these subsequent applications.
Our comment on B&NES original environmental statements in the local plan As we are sure you are no doubt aware in their former local plan B&NES set out policies including ES.10 which states development will not be permitted where it would: (i) Have an adverse impact on health, the natural or built environment or amenity of existing proposed uses by virtue of odour, dust and or other forms of air pollution. I have not read the plan recently but cannot recollect there being any requirement in for this level of local waste disposal or any statement identifying Stowey quarry as a waste dump of any sort. Accountability if B&NES approve this planning application If B&NES approve this application we expect to be given the names of the person or persons responsible for the decision, the organisation or authority they represent, the names of their professional advisors and the names of those finally deciding the level of negligible risk and carrying out the associated scientific and medical risk assessments. The reason being this organisation, authority, advisors or persons as well as their PI and public liability insurers may need to be held accountable at a future date should any release of air or waterborne contaminants or leakage of asbestos occur or if any cases of Mesothelioma or asbestos related cancers or other health problems come up.
Although at 650m distance from the quarry we apparently only come into the negligible risk criteria as far as Oaktrees Table 26 Magnitude of Impact Criteria is concerned. We note this table as presented only covers the construction phase in the criteria box, so in terms of airborne contaminants like asbestos we expect to be informed exactly who decided what level of asbestos constitutes a negligible risk to us and our neighbours if the site is allowed to come into full operation.
We object most strongly to this application, the footer on the B&NES website states boldly "Making B&NES an even better place to live, work and visit" well we just hope that B&NES live up to this statement and they and their advisors grasp the area blighting nature of this proposal. Please consider this applications negative effect on the rate paying residents and people who work locally, not forgetting the tourists, walkers and cyclists that visit the Chew Valley and its surrounding areas. Indeed we hope that although they cannot predetermine the outcome of this application B&NES are now starting to realise how strongly we their ratepayers object to it and that we expect them to start representing and considering our interests instead of submitting to relatively short term business interests. In fact we hope B&NES and all its officers will eventually join with us in making every effort to reject this most unwelcome of applications.
Dave and Diane Beacham