Stop Stowey Quarry campaign: Council blames agency after asbestos dump U-turn
Bath and North East Somerset Council has refused to grant planning permission to dump deadly asbestos and other hazardous waste at a Chew Valley quarry.
The application by Oaktree Environmental to store up to 645,000 tonnes of stable non-reactive hazardous waste in Stowey quarry over the next ten years was unanimously turned down by councillors sitting on B&NES development control committee – just 14 months after they initially gave the green light for the controversial application to go ahead.
Councillors sitting on the committee apologised for initially passing the application, blaming the Environment Agency for not making the dangers clear enough in reports.
Councillor Les Kew (Con, High Littleton) said the council had been "badly informed" by the Environment Agency. He added that councillors had been under the impression that the agency, which gives a permit and controls the disposal of waste once permission has been granted, had no problem with the quarry being used for this purpose.
He was sorry that residents had suffered and blamed the Environment Agency for not giving the correct information.
The planning permission granted in July 2011 was quashed in the High Court after B&NES admitted local residents had not been informed of the nature of the plans. The applicant resubmitted the planning application and council officers then recommended refusal after reading a report by the Environment Agency, which stated they had concerns about the danger posed to surface and ground water.
The packed meeting was filled with campaigners from Stop Stowey Quarry Action Group who had already handed B&NES a 4,000 name petition and a dossier of reasons why they felt the application should be tuned down – including the risk to drinking water at Chew Valley Lake, the health threat posed by transporting the waste along the narrow rural roads and even the impact on native crayfish.
Chartered geologist Gareth Thomas spoke against the application on behalf of the group. He told the meeting he had 40 years industry experience and said he felt that the stability of the land in the fractured limestone quarry and the fact the waste would only be kept enclosed by a liner posed too great a threat of leachate generation.
Television presenter Dr Phil Hammond, who lives in the Bishop Sutton, also spoke against the application, pointing out the negative health effects of asbestos.
Councillor Tim Warren (Con, Mendip) encouraged committee members to think of the welfare of residents and visitors to the Chew Valley "for many years, even decades, to come."
He said: "This is not just about an eyesore of a building, but a huge tip for hazardous waste. If this tip was a hole in the ground, it would put a different slant on it. But it isn't. It is on the very top of a hill, overlooking the valley, about two kilometres away from a lake which is Bristol Water's major reservoir."
John Williams, from Oaktree Environmental, spoke in favour of the application.
He said that the company already had consent for lorry deliveries to dump general waste that does not expire until 2028, and permission for mineral extraction from the quarry if it wishes.
He added that the proposed waste dumped in the quarry would be stable and "non-reactive" and encouraged councillors to defer a decision so further discussions could be made to resolve issues to avoid "engaging in appeal and resubmission scenario."
Councillors rejected the application on the grounds that it had not been demonstrated that the quarry was an appropriate location for the disposal of asbestos waste, and that there was not sufficient information provided to show the waste would not have an adverse effect on the water supply.