Protester near Stowey Quarry

Demonstration near Stowey Quarry



1.Why do we oppose the site?

a.It is not needed

i.There are already other sites which accept asbestos in this area. Overall there are approximately 40 sites in England and Wales which accept asbestos. Four of these are in Somerset and Wiltshire. In other words we have 12 % of the sites in England and Wales in close proximity to us (yet we only have only 2% of population). The proposal is that Stowey Quarry could take a proposed 65,000 tonnes a year; ie it would be a very large site in an area which is already well served.

ii.To put this into perspective: Last year the whole of the south west of England (ie from Cornwall to Gloucester) disposed of approximately 55,000 tonnes of asbestos and the West of England area (the old county of Avon) disposed of approximately 6,000 tonnes. BANES accounts for approximately 20% of this area therefore we would expect the amount of asbestos from BANES to be approximately 1,200 tonnes per annum. On this basis it would take hundreds years to fill Stowey Quarry with asbestos from the BANES area.

iii.One of the key principles with waste disposal and landfill is the "proximity principle" ie that waste should be disposed of close to the source generating it to prevent unnecessary transport. In light of the figures for disposal of asbestos in BANES and the West of England the only way in which Stowey would be filled in the time envisaged would be if it accepted large amounts of waste from outside the region which is not only contrary to the proximity principle but would suggest that BANES were needlessly granting permission for others to bring their waste to our area (an area of outstanding natural beauty).

iv.The issue may lie in the fact that we believe that the waste core strategy document (to which the Planning Committee referred) incorrectly states that there is a need for a new site for disposal of asbestos whereas there is no such need. In other words everyone (including the planning committee) seems to have been misled by a mistake in the waste core strategy document.

b.It is not safe (see below)

2.Why is the site unsuitable?

a.It is above and very close to (just 1500 metres from) the Chew Valley lake, a major supply of drinking water to Bristol and the surrounding area. The risk of possible contamination of water sources is not justified.

b.Landfill sites are normally holes in the ground whereas this is on the top of a hill where there is additional risk from landslip (for example, if the sides of the quarry are insufficiently strong to support the weight of the landfill). The local landowner has already warned of landslip from the quarry and the newly erected protective banks are already showing signs of slipping.

3.Surely the Environment Agency will regulate the site and ensure that it is safe?

a.The record of the EA in doing this does not inspire confidence. The EA simply does not have enough people to inspect each site regularly (we could expect Stowey to receive three or four visits a year and indeed the EU directive in this matter stipulates one annual visit ). Evidence from other sites shows (Evercreech) that this is ineffective in preventing breaches of safety regulations and even when the EA does become aware of a breach it will often issue a number of warnings before taking action. Even if action is successful this can't necessarily remedy damage which has already been done. While this risk may be a necessary one to take in some cases, it is not necessary here and given the risk of contamination of a major source of drinking water, it is not justified.

4.What do we know about the applicants?

a.Not much. Having done some basic internet searches we believe that the quarry is owned by a company called Matrix Movements Limited one of the shareholders of which was the applicant for the planning permission. It is not apparent from information that we have seen that the applicant (or any of the other shareholders of Matrix) have appropriate experience in managing waste disposal sites.

5.Isn't this just "nimbyism"?

a.No. The quarry is above water courses which run directly into the Chew Valley Lake, which in turn supplies water to tens of thousands of households in South Bristol and beyond. It is not reasonable to dispose of this huge quantity of hazardous waste in this location.

6.What are the risks for everyone?

a.There are two key risks: escape of asbestos into the air and escape of pollutants into the ground. Escape of fibres into the air is an obvious concern because of the risk of inhalation. Escape of pollutants into the ground is possibly a greater concern because of the proximity of the reservoir and the fact that they would be likely to be carried downhill into the reservoir.

b.The safety of the site relies in large part on the integrity of clay lining and in particular the man-made liner. However, as Bristol Water pointed out, the man made liner will not last forever and if it was damaged (for example by landslip or accident) the implications could be very significant.

For further information please contact Sarah Streatfield-James on 07778 317768, Emma Robinson on 07896 359420 or e-mail