Letter from Vivienne Morris, Bishop Sutton resident, to Mr Everitt of BANES, copied to Mr David Trigwell, Head of Planning at BANES
Dear Mr Everitt ,
I am writing to express in the strongest possible terms my concern and outrage at the planning permission given by B&NES to use the Stowey Quarry as a landfill site for asbestos. My objections relate both to the planning process and the risks to the local community should the environmental permit be granted.
With regard to the planning process, whilst we are assured by Vic Pritchard minimum due process has been adhered to, the vast majority of residents in our locality were not aware of the proposal in any way shape or form until an article appeared the following month in the Chew Valley Gazette. Whilst I understand that apparently the minimum required levels of consultation/notification have taken place, the fact remains that a reasonable number of people in the potentially affected area were not consulted. Furthermore, having now had sight of the consultation letter to B&NES from Bristol Water in May, it is clear that their objections are strong – "development of large scale waste disposal facilities so close to a public water supply, SSSI and SPA is both inappropriate and undesirable" these have apparently been ignored. The proposal was voted in by 6/5 votes from Councillors, officers who are employed to represent their communities, how can this vote have had any validity when residents whose views they supposedly represent were not even aware of the planning proposal? This is, in my view, a travesty of Local Government. A notice in a newspaper somewhere in B&NES, highly unlikely to be seen by the affected community, does not constitute transparency or reasonable consultation. The time lag between planning permission being granted and our finding out about it has put extreme time pressure on lodging any protest, and in the absence of having been aware at all of the permission granted, any protest can only be after the horse has bolted. The impression I have is that this consent has been slipped under the radar and had we not been quick to mobilise ourselves, the window for making our feelings known, with the possibility of any impact, would have closed. Concerns relating to the planning process also include the Environmental Assessment, it is hard to believe that anyone assessing the environmental risks could have supported a proposal that potentially affects and damages the water supply to and from Chew Valley reservoir for all time, given that the site is on an escarpment above water courses directly feeding the lake. Another concern, now that we have further details of the applicant, is the apparent financial instability of the applicant. From the information supplied to members of the steering group, it seems evident that the applicant has a poor track record and could not be readily considered a stable prospect, essential to an undertaking of this level of responsibility and length of time.
Concerns relating to the actual process of filling the quarry with asbestos, should the Environment Agency grant the permit include the following:-
1) The safety aspect of the transportation of the asbestos, all types of asbestos are included, whilst the transportation of asbestos is strictly regulated we are aware of other sites e.g. Evercreech, where regulations have not been adhered to despite multiple warnings. Cleary there is the risk of asbestos fibres escaping into the atmosphere with there being no level at which this can be considered safe. If the asbestos is crushed (as at Evercreech) further risk of airborn contamination exists without there being any prospect of adequately monitoring this (also flagged up by Bristol Water) the Environment Agency's guide of 3 to 4 times a year has proven, in cases such as Evercreech, to be woefully inadequate.
2) The risk of contamination to the water course, Bristol Water has voiced strong concerns about the asbestos disposal (see above) and has also voiced concerns, based on their experience, of further toxic waste being piggybacked (again this cannot possibly be adequately monitored) onto the asbestos loads, if this were to happen, as has happened in a number of other cases, further contamination of the water supply would follow, potentially for all time. It has been acknowledged that leachate will present and be pumped away, again, adequate safeguards relating to this would be impossible to ensure over the lifetime of this facility.
3) The volume of traffic, the figure given being 50 vehicles making 100 trips per, on small country roads not constructed for these volumes of heavy traffic. Clearly there will be noise, the possibility of airborn asbestos fibre pollution (there being no level at which this would be safe), traffic congestion (on main routes leading in to and out of the Valley), vehicle exhaust pollution and noise. Some listed buildings may also be affected by the vibrations.
4) The apparent poor track record of the applicant, who appears to have a finger in a number of diverse pies and has left a trail of businesses that have gone into liquidation or been dissolved. An applicant who appears to have neither experience in these matters nor, it seems, the stability to ensure that the site is run properly for the duration of its life.
The concerns raised here are not the bleatings of a middle class group of people who don't want asbestos in their back garden. We recognise that asbestos has to be disposed of and are aware that there are a number of alternative sites in the South West, away from residential dwellings and not posing risks to drinking water. There are a disproportionately high level of landfill sites in the surrounding area, but not all are located near residential areas as Stowey Quarry is, not all lie directly above water courses that feed a reservoir serving an extensive population, and not all are accessed by small country lanes not equipped to deal with this volume of heavy traffic.
We have genuine and legitimate concerns relating to the planning process and the very real risk (should this go ahead) to the reservoir that supplies water to Bristol and the surrounding area; a risk which will impact not only this, but potentially future generations.
I/we are looking to reverse your decision in granting planning permission for this preposterous proposal and look forward to your earliest response to that effect.
Vivienne H. Morris