Filling in a disused quarry is “ecological vandalism”, a Bedford borough councillor has said.
Plans to build temporary facilities as part of the restoration of Elstow South Quarry were discussed at last night’s planning committee (November 21).
Councillor Charles Royden (LibDem, Brickhill) said he could “understand” why environmental charities are “appalled” about the project to fill in the quarry.
“I think this is probably the worst environmental crime that’s being committed in my years as a councillor, to see this wonderful area of biodiversity, the ecology that’s flourishing there, just filled in,” he said.
“Has anybody gone along to the developers and said ‘look since you have left it for so long this has now become such a wonderful environment for wildlife and eco-diversity have you considered not filling it in?’
“Or are they getting just too much money from HS2 and therefore they’re going to go ahead whether it kills animals and all the rest of it anyway?”
Jon Shortland, chief officer for planning, infrastructure and economic growth, said: “When the application came in in the first instance I did speak informally to the applicant to see whether they would be willing to do that. I’m afraid they weren’t.”
Councillor Royden said: “If we were to deny this application tonight, would we be denying them the means to be able to carry out that work, and they’d have to come back to the drawing board and have a decent negotiation with our officers? In which case I’d be inclined to turn it down.”
Committee chair, councillor Jonathan Abbott (LibDem, Clapham & Oakley) said: “I share the views, I think, of probably all the members here this evening on this.
“I am also very mindful of whatever we do, whatever we decide in terms of if we turn this application down as to how we can then make it stand up at appeal.
“I do have a small concern of actually are we going to cost residents money when it goes to appeal if we’ve made an unsound decision and a court and a judge decides to award costs against us as a council.
“To me, that’s the worst thing possible, not only have we made an unsound decision, we’ve actually cost our residents money to make that decision.”
Councillor Royden suggested a site visit “to see the ecology there”.
“I’ve been involved in so many planning applications where all kinds of wildlife are brought forward to show that work can’t take place,” he said. “And this is an area of real natural beauty, and this [project] is ecological vandalism.”
The committee agreed to defer the decision on the planning application until after a site visit had been carried out.
Following the meeting, the Local Democracy Reporting Service approached the applicant (FCC Environment) for a comment on the claims made by committee members.
Its spokesperson said: “FCC Environment confirmed that the application it submitted for review at the planning meeting on 20 November was for a waste reception area which is the ancillary infrastructure needed to infill the Elstow Quarry which already has planning approval.
“As no other permitted, planned or proposed activities on site form part of the application being discussed at committee we have no further comment to make.
“However we look forward to welcoming members of the committee to the site in due course.”
by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter