Residents of the picturesque Chew Valley slept a little easier last night after a controversial planning application to dump thousands of tonnes of asbestos in a disused quarry was rejected.
Thirteen councillors from Bath & North East Somerset Council’s development control committee yesterday unanimously turned down the application from Oaktree Environmental.
The company does though have the option of appealing the decision, so that while the battle has been won, the war might yet go on.
The company wants to store up to 645,000 tonnes of “stable non-reactive hazardous waste” in Stowey quarry over the next ten years, including asbestos – which campaigners fear would have impinged on their health.
Objectors from Stop Stowey Quarry Action Group had voiced a number of fears, the main one being that asbestos particles could find their way into the nearby Chew Lake, which provides water for much of Bristol, North Somerset and North East Somerset.
They were also worried about the possibility of airborne asbestos particles affecting people’s health and a sharp increase in the number of lorries using the country lanes.
At the meeting, held at the Guildhall in Bath, campaigners cheered and clapped as the application was overwhelmingly turned down by councillors.
Campaigner Lucy Pover said: “We are really pleased – it’s a fantastic result for us, especially because it was a unanimous decision.
“As well as a petition with more than 4,000 signatures, nine parish councils and four MPs had also supported us in objecting to the application.”
Permission was initially granted for the application by the committee in July last year, despite opposition from Bristol Water and parish councillors.
But, following continued protests, petitioning and the threat of a judicial review, the committee agreed to quash its decision.
The council admitted it had not adequately informed residents of the nature of the plans before they were considered. The applicant resubmitted the planning application in December and council officials recommended the committee refuse it.
Around 30 members of Stop Stowey Quarry Action Group held a protest outside the Guildhall before the meeting.
They had commissioned an independent analysis from Gareth Thomas, a chartered geologist, who spoke against the application at the meeting.
Television presenter and Private Eye columnist Dr Phil Hammond, who lives in the Chew Valley, also spoke against the application, pointing out the negative health effects of asbestos.
John Williams, from Oaktree Environmental, spoke in favour of the application. He pointed out that the company already has consent for lorry deliveries to dump general waste, and permission for mineral extraction from the quarry if it wishes.
He also said that the proposed waste dumped in the quarry would be “stable” and “non-reactive”.
Councillors rejected the application on the grounds outlined in planning officer Chris Herbert’s recommendation for refusal.
These were that it had not been demonstrated that the quarry was an appropriate location for the disposal of such waste, and that there was not sufficient information to show the waste would not have an adverse effect on the water supply.