The Public Inquiry and Recent History

The Public Inquiry

Tuesday 3rd September

The proposed amendment to drop the Stable Non Reactive Hazardous Waste element was debated in the light of a case known as Wheatcroft, and the Inspector decided to allow the amendment. BANES then withdrew from the case, although Mrs Keenan will still give evidence. The barrister for the Appellant then asked for an adjournment so that he could have more time to read the papers, and for the Appellant to collect more evidence, which was not allowed. The barrister then informed the Inquiry that his witness John Williams needs to attend his father–in–law's funeral on Thursday. No proof was requested. Because of this the Inspector postponed Thursday's part of the Inquiry until October. Opening statements were made, Mrs Keenan spoke, and Mr Fraser started to cross examine the witnesses for the Action Group:

Mrs Barbara Keenan.

Mrs Keenan spoke on behalf of the Environment Agency and said that as the Appellant had asked to drop the SNRHW, the EA did not consider anything else, including asbestos, a problem.

Dr David Dickerson.

The main point was that bowsers (which the Appellant wants to use) are usually ineffective. Most asbestos disposal places use a misting spray gun to control dust, which cannot be used at Stowey Quarry as there is no water supply. There was discussion about a background reading for noise, which needs to be done without the quarry noise. Mr Fraser QC argued against this basic scientific principle.

Wednesday 4th September

Gareth Thomas

There was a geological debate about whether water could escape from the quarry, and whether or not the bunds surrounding the quarry are unstable. Mr Thomas pointed out that if the ancient land drains become blocked it will increase instability.

Dr Kay Boreland

Her main concerns were: a lack of reliable groundwater investigation; no geological barrier present; a liner would not be effective due to the presence of black pyritic rocks; the limestone is saturated; linkages between the groundwater and ground flow. There was a debate about whether an artificial liner could be relied upon in the long term.

Heather Clewett

A debate about the height of the bunds, traffic movements, footpaths and ecology.

Martin Berry, for Bristol Water

Mr Berry said that most asbestos comes from factories, is very dirty and has chemicals mixed with it. His opinion is was that it is best to leave the quarry alone and not to put either inert waste or asbestos into it.

Dr Phil Hammond

Dr Hammond said that there is an issue of perceived harm to the public, that they need to have trust both in medicine and in planning. The Environment Agency does not have the resources to do enough checks. The risk of mesothelioma may be small, but it is a devastating disease with a long latency period.

Dave Beacham

He pointed out the health risks and condemned the project.

Vic Pritchard

The Appellant is assuming that the prevailing wind is from the south west. This winter it blew from the north east for six weeks, which would take dust from the quarry to Bishop Sutton.

Sally Monkhouse

The 2008 planning permission was by delegated authority, and did not go to committee. BANES quashed the application for many reasons, but only one was recorded. She has seen water collecting in the quarry, which must go somewhere.

Sarah-Jane Stretfeild-James

Mrs Stretfeild-James said that she would like a safe environment for her children to grow up in. Stowey Quarry was removed from the list of suitable sites by the Joint Waste Core Strategy in 2011 due to its location. For her full statement please click here

Rosemary Naish

An application has been made for a coach depot at the junction of Stowey Road and the A37.

Thursday 3rd October

It was announced that Rob Harper will not be appearing as a witness. He sent an email for evidence which was not accepted by the Inspector.

Councillor Keith Betton

He said that Stowey Sutton PC have objected twice to this proposal. There is no need, there will be too much lorry traffic and springs run from the quarry to Chew Valley Lake.

John Ethan Williams

Examination in chief by Mr Fraser QC: He tried to establish the need, and said that the region of Avon should be self-sufficient in waste disposal. Mr Fraser said that the quarry was a brown field site, which the Inspector questioned.

Cross–examination by Mr P. Stookes: According to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the effects on the environment should be taken into account as early as possible. The EIA requires an assessment of traffic movements and dust. Mr Williams admitted that no work had been done to establish the base line conditions. BANES have said that a hundred lorry movements per day is likely to have a significant effect on the local highways. Noise: Mr Williams said that he had no qualification in Accoustics and had taken no part in the preparation of the Environmental Statement. Ecology: JW was asked what action his client had taken about the population of white clawed crayfish in the stream below the quarry. JW referred to the Environment Agency. BANES have said that any impact on the white clawed crayfish population would be significant. Need: JW said that the existing asbestos waste sites for the area are at Bridgwater and Gloucestershire. He did not seem to be aware of the one at Swindon. He admitted that they had received no letters of support from the construction industry. Air quality: JW admitted that he had no experience of Air Quality. Land Stability: JW said he had no experience, and did not know who Oaktree consulted on land instability. When asked how he would respond to Bristol Water's concerns, he referred to the Environment Agency. Mr Stookes stated that the Groundsure Report had stated that there was moderate instability, and JW agreed that his client had not addressed this.

Questions from the Inspector: The Inspector pointed out the plans showed the height of the restoration to be 5 to 10m higher than the 2008 scheme. JW said that that was the height of the bunds. JW confirmed that if the Appeal was dismissed, the Appellant continue with the previous permission to build up the bunds. Misting is not possible from a bowser and there is no mains water supply. JW was unaware of this. He suggested that the Appellant would harvest rainwater. If a permanent misting spray was needed they would look into the cost of installing mains water. The Inspector outlined Policy NE13, which states that a development will not be permitted where it has an adverse effect on the quality of groundwater, and that Bristol Water have said that it would.

Re–examination by Mr Fraser: He said that they do not think a water supply is necessary, but that it would be possible to bring in mains. JW suggested that there would be no increase in traffic.

Conditions if permission is granted: (Some numbers are missing as these points were agreed by both parties)

1. If there is damage to the road it must be repaired.

2. The site is to be restored to the contours shown on the 2008 plan.

3. There will be a 5 year aftercare period until 2029. (Mr Stookes asked for it to be 2 years, to 2026.) So tipping would finish before 30th November 2024.

4. No land–filling of waste shall start until a scheme is submitted to the Local Authority. (This was agreed on 4th Oct)

5. There shall be submission of details on delivery of habitats.

8. Control will be retained over vehicle movements. Infilling shall not exceed 22,000 tonnes per week or 125,000 tonnes per year. Proportions shall be limited to 8 inert to 1 asbestos. There shall be no stockpiles, other than inert, up to 5m in height.

20.Noise levels shall be monitored by an independant consultant, reporting to the Council once a month for the first 6 months. If noise levels are breached, operations shall cease immediately until there is agreement on noise level with the Local Authority.

23. Dust shall be monitored in accordance with Appendix 5. Mr Stookes says that this is completely inadiquate ("Visual monitoring of dust and remedial action"), and that sticky pads and detectors are needed.

26. There will be a wheel wash.

Friday 4th October

Mr Fraser objected to the rules on dust as he thought it should be done at the permitting stage.

Closing Submissions

Mr Forsdick, for BANES

As SNRHW is withdrawn BANES are neutral on the other issues. BANES does not object on highways grounds, stability or find a risk to the water environment. The Environment Agency does not object to the location. He cannot find conflict between the proposal and the Joint Waste Strategy. He then spent some time trying to convince the Inspector that the quarry is brown field rather than green field.

Mr P. Stookes, for the Stowey Sutton Action Group

He recapped the points made by the expert witnesses. There will be unacceptable noise impacts; temperature inversions would carry asbestos fibres down the valley towards the village; there is no need (the southwest region currently imports 30% of asbestos waste from outside the region); there is medium risk of landslip; the EA has not taken instability into account; ground water sources have not been cut off by the quarry owners; there is an objection on hydrogeological grounds as asbestos can be held in suspension; in other hazardous waste sites water is not present; adverse effects on ecology such as the white clawed cray fish; traffic levels would be much higher than now; people would avoid the footpaths near the site; there would be harm to health including an increase in stress and anxiety; a record amount of public concern; it is an unsuitable site and the road structure is inadequate; inert waste tips have always damaged water supplies; asbestos is often soaked in chemicals; Bristol Water would object to all waste in the quarry; the 2008 application was dealt with by delegated authority; if there is a landslip, asbestos fibres will be released into the air. John Williams was the sole witness for the Appellant and could not answer most of the questions put by the SSAG. Mr Stookes said that Rob Harper's estimation of the size of the quarry is one and a half times the size that it actually is.

The Application should be dismissed on the following grounds:

The planning of the asbestos cells should be at this stage, not the permitting stage. There should be a Judicial Review on the matter of location. There is no evidence that the Environment Agency has considered the dispersal of asbestos fibres by air. The case of Harrison vs Secretary of State shows that the site should be in an appropriate location and not just relying on pollution control. It is clear that relevant environmental information has not been provided and the application should be dismissed because of this under Article 5.3 of the EU directive. The application fails to comply with areas of sustainable development in the NPPF. The Appellant has failed to assess the site for surface and groundwater, land stability and road network, which is contrary to local policy within BANES 2007. The Appellant has not provided evidence of need. There are no letters of support from builders and no letters of concern that we are running out of waste sites. In Stowey Quarry the Environment Agency will react, not act, when there is an escape of asbestos, by which time it will be too late.

Mr Fraser QC, for the Appellant

The EA and BANES are satisfied that if the application is limited to asbestos and inert waste there are no worries about leachate. There is an outstanding planning permission for the restoration of Stowey Quarry by 2028. The handling of asbestos is very strictly controlled. Regulation 20 of landfill regulations 2011 state that the Planning Authority should not usurp that of the EA. Landfill should only occur if there is no environmental risk. This will be determined at the permitting stage. The SSAG witnesses did not establish that the location was unsuitable. Water: asbestos poses no danger as it is not soluble. Bristol Water's position is not logical. They did not object in 2008. Mr Frazer not accept any instability on the western slope. The EA has already considered slope stability and will consider it again at permitting. If there is and issue about slope stability it can be addressed on site. Noise and dust: This is addressed in the Environmental Statement. The EA and BANES say that the development would not impact on living conditions. Dust: There are very strict controls on the escape of asbestos fibres. He rejects the argument about temperature imversion. If a misting spray was required a water supply could be acquired. Noise: There is already a permission outstanding, so the noise would make no difference. He opined that a limit of 37 dB would put an unreasonable limit on mineral extraction. He accepts perceived fear, but the only way of dealing with asbestos is by landfill. The restoration of the quarry will improve the appearance of the area. There will be no impact on groundwater.

There was then an application for full costs by BANES on the basis that the Applicant should have withdrawn the application for SNRHW much earlier, and a partial application for costs by SSAG due to the amended scheme and the absence of the witness Mr Harper. The Public Inquiry was concluded with a site visit.

The result will be known within six weeks.

23rd August 2013

The Inspector has now completed his initial review of the appeal documents and has asked the parties to consider the document below which sets out matters that are of concern to him and about which he wishes to hear submissions and/or evidence.

The Inspector's Document

On August 6th letters were exchanged between the Quarry representative (Oaktree Environmental Ltd) and the Planning Inspector. Oaktree Environmental asked to have an amendment to the original planning application to change the waste stream at Stowey Quarry to that of "inert waste and asbestos". (Instead of Stable Non Reactive Hazardous Waste (SNRHW) including asbestos and inert wastes) The Planning Inspector is considering whether to allow this and will make his decision on the first day of the Inquiry. If the amendment is allowed, the Environment Agency (EA) has said that it will withdraw its objection. The BANES planning meeting on August 12th concluded that if this happens they will not oppose the Appeal. This is despite the fact that around 650 of you objected on the BANES website, and 4000 of you signed a petition opposing the dumping of asbestos on a windy hill above Bishop Sutton.

Furthermore, the EA wrote in April 2012 that to avoid leachate production the quarry should have an unsaturated zone. See letter our letter to the Planning Inspector on 13.8.13, shown below. The quarry does not have any "unsaturated zones". At wet times of the year. Water accumulates (see photo on letters page) and flushes down to springs in fields below, and flows on into Chew Valley Lake.

The Stowey Sutton Action Group will continue to oppose this application.


Letter from the Action Group to BANES 9.8.13

Letter from the solicitor to the Planning Inspector 12.8.13

Letter from the Action Group to the Planning Inspector 13.8.13

Letter from the Inspector to the Action Group 14.8.13

To see the case documents on the BANES website, please click here.

To see the documents for the Appeal for both sides on the Planning Inspectorate website (PINS) please click here. You enter the case reference in the top box: 2195706 then click on "case search".

At the Inquiry, Chew Valley residents face the final hurdle to stop huge amounts of asbestos being transported across the region and dumped in the completely inappropriate, small quarry on a hill top overlooking the beautiful Chew Valley lake.

Bath and North East Somerset Council (BANES) and local planners refused the application by the quarry owners in September 2012. The Environment Agency raised holding objections at that stage and Bristol Water continues to strongly object to the application. MPs across all parties from the region also objected to the proposals, along with over 4,000 objectors who signed the petition against the proposals.

At the Inquiry, the Stowey Sutton Action Group (SSAG) has been granted Rule 6 Status and with the aid of their solicitor are calling various individuals and experts to put forward the case as to why the Inspector should reject the Appeal.

Summary of events, May 2013

Following an appeal by quarry owner Larry Edmunds in April, campaigners against plans to dump hazardous waste (including asbestos) in Stowey Quarry are now preparing to help Bath & North East Somerset Council defend its unanimous decision to reject the application. Edmunds appealed against the council's decision, which was made on the basis that "It has not been demonstrated that this is an appropriate location for the disposal of the non asbestos stable non reactive hazardous waste stream because there is insufficient information on the leachate generation potential of the proposed waste streams.. [and the impact on the groundwater] to determine the likelihood of significant adverse effects on the water and ecology interests of the Chew Valley Reservoir Special Protection Area."

Last year Edmunds' agents Oaktree Environmental resubmitted the application to dump 645,000 tonnes of stable non-reactive hazardous waste in Stowey Quarry, after a previously granted permission was quashed by Judicial Review in July 2011. A public petition against the plans received over 4,000 signatures and the Stowey Sutton Action Group objected strongly against the proposals on many grounds. These included the threat to the Chew Valley lake's water resource, the unacceptable impact of lorries travelling throughout the Chew Valley to reach the site, the noise and dust pollution and the threat to the environment and local wildlife including the endangered White Clawed Crayfish species which was recently identified nearby. In September 2012 the Council's Planning Committee voted unanimously 14-0 to reject the resubmitted application.

The Planning Inspectorate oversees the appeal process which will finally determine whether or not the proposed waste dump will be permitted. In advance of the inquiry, BANES and other interested parties have until 6 June to submit all evidence and their "statement of case" as to why the decision was correct.

Due to the controversial nature of the proposals a Public Inquiry is likely to be the chosen format, which would take place over 3-5 days mostly likely in Autumn 2013. The public would be invited to attend, and a local hall or community centre most often the chosen location, depending upon availability. Groups such as Stowey Sutton Action Group, or local Parish Council, may apply for Rule 6 status to speak at the inquiry and call witnesses such as stability, hydrology or health experts to support their factual submissions. Legal representation is also permitted by interested parties who wish to support the Council in defending their decision.

Sally Monkhouse, Stowey Sutton Action Group, commented: "We were disappointed that the Applicant chose to appeal BANES Planning Committee’s unanimous decision to reject this application and we will again be coordinating a vigorous campaign on behalf of the community to help the Council fight this appeal. We are again seeking legal counsel and are led to believe we have a strong case to defend. We really hope we can continue to count on the community's support for this very important cause, and given we are a small community action group doing this in our spare time, all support whether financial or otherwise will be very gratefully received."

Stowey Quarry seeks extension to current planning permission, November 2012

In October Mr Foley, the owner of Stowey Quarry (which was recently rejected as a suitable site for asbestos disposal), submitted two new applications to BANES Council. The applications seek to extend the site's existing planning permission (from 2007) to recycle waste materials to 30th November 2015 from its original completion date of 30thNovember 2012. The quarry is permitted to accept up to 125,000 tonnes of inert waste a year from groundworks and construction projects for recycling. Mr Foley now seeks permission for an additional three years to extract, crush and treat minerals from the site and to complete the perimeter mounds (bunding) and eventually, the interim restoration of the site. According to present planning permissions (07/02328VAR & 07/02326/MINW), all this work should have been completed by the end of November 2012. Sally Monkhouse said "The local community is very concerned about the history of non-compliance at Stowey Quarry, many examples of which have been reported to the Council. The quarry owner's seeming disregard for the terms of his planning permission has been tolerated for too long, with very little or no enforcement exercised. If BANES Council agrees this extension they will effectively be acknowledging their inability over the last five years to enforce planning conditions. These new applications for a three-year extension are not acceptable, it is far too long and is yet another example of sequential planning requests which impact on local residents and the environment."

In consideration of the variation applications Banes officers considered that an Environmental Impact Assessment was required from the quarry applicant prior to being able to consider the variations. The owner challenged this on Dec 19th 2012 by way of the Secretary of State. On 19th April 2013 the Secretary of State judged that such an assessment was NOT necessary as "the proposal would not be likely to have significant effects on the environment, because of its ( the quarry) nature, size and location". The variation planning applications were reposted on the Banes Planning website on May 1st 2013 and all objections need to be made by 22 May 2013.

Asbestos dumping proposal refused, September 2012

At the Bath & North East Somerset Council Development Committee meeting on 26th September at the Guildhall in Bath, all 13 councillors on the committee voted against proposals to dump 645,000 tonnes of stable and non reactive hazardous waste including asbestos at Stowey Quarry near Chew Valley Lake.

Councillors heard representations from the SSQAG, from ward councillors and from the Applicant's agent Oaktree Environmental, and in closing the debate, the chair of the Committee, Councillor Gerry Curran apologised to those present for the Council's previous decision to approve the application in July 2011, saying they had been 'badly informed' and recognising the distress and expense that decision had caused.

All of us from Stop Stowey Quarry Action Group would like to express our sincere thanks to the countless people who have worked tirelessly to help us reach this fantastic result. Without their help putting in hours of campaigning, researching, fundraising and going door to door getting support via our petition we would not be celebrating now. It is truly a victory for the local community and shows just what can be achieved when ordinary folk come together to protest against what we now know to be a flawed and damaging planning application. We are delighted that Bath & North East Somerset Council's Development Committee voted unanimously against the proposals to dump asbestos and hazardous waste in Stowey Quarry.

Outside the Guildhall after the
    application was refused

Outside the Guildhall after the application was refused

4406 signature Petition presented August 2012

On Friday 24th August the petition with an amazing 4406 signatures was presented by Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, to Bath and North East Somerset Council at the Guildhall in Bath.

Outside the Guildhall with 
    Jacob Rees-Mogg MP

Outside the Guildhall with Jacob Rees-Mogg MP

Jacob Rees-Mogg handing the petition to BANES

Dr Phil Hammond with the 
     4406 signature petition

         Jacob Rees-Mogg 
 Dr Phil Hammond         


Thank you so much to everyone who supported us. Without you we would not have had this result.

Stowey Sutton Action Group

Asbestos Dumping application December 2010

On the 10th December 2010 the owners of Stowey Quarry applied for planning permission to dump Stable Non Reactive Hazardous Waste, including asbestos and inert wastes, in Stowey Quarry.