Residents in Aldborough Hatch are concerned about a forthcoming planning application for gravel extraction next to St Peter's Church. Wes shares a number of concerns about the proposals and sets out a considered view here...
Gravel extraction has been taking place on Fairlop Plain (pictured) since 1984, providing mineral for construction and a valuable source of income for the Council for the benefit of Redbridge residents. Throughout this time, gravel extraction has been supported on a cross-party basis by successive Conservative, Conservative-led and Labour minority administrations.
The Mayor of London sets Redbridge ambitious targets for gravel extraction and the last Conservative-led administration agreed a Minerals Plan, with cross-party support (including then Aldborough Conservative and Labour councillors). This was adopted in September 2012, identifying the land next to St Peter's Church in Aldborough Hatch as a 'preferred area of extraction'.
A planning application for gravel extraction on this site is expected later this year from Brett Lafarge. We don't yet know what they will propose and residents are understandably concerned to know what the impact could be on life in Aldborough Hatch. As an Aldborough councillor and resident - and a regular user of the bridleway next to the Church - I'm also concerned to know what will happen.
Residents will want to know my view as an Aldborough councillor and as Ilford North's Labour parliamentary candidate. So here's my position - warts and all.
In my comments to the Ilford Recorder, I stopped short of outright opposition to gravel extraction and stated that I share residents' concerns about the possible detrimental impact that gravel extraction could have on our community. There are a number of concerns I have that I would want to see addressed by any proposal from Brett Lafarge. Specifically, I am concerned about:
- The structural integrity of St Peter's Church and I will want to see an assessment that provides sufficient assurances that the Church and yard will not be detrimentally affected by any works
- Access to the bridleway that runs between Aldborough Hatch and Fairlop Waters and Barkingside. This is well-used
- Possible adverse environmental impact
- Access to the site and transportation of the minerals, including disruption to local highways
- Public health implications, particularly pollution and dust
- Protection for, and drainage of, both ground and surface water
- Hours and days of working, particularly in terms of noise
- Archaeological impact assessment - making sure that any works doesn't have adverse impact on anything of interest
- Longer-term use: given the potential disruption to residents, I'd like know what they will do to the site afterwards. It seems reasonable to follow the policy agreed by the last Conservative-led administration that the priority should be promotion of nature conservation, consistent with the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, the RSPB's project for mineral extraction sites, the Mayor of London's Biodiversity Policy and the Redbridge Biodiversity Action Plan.
Earlier correspondence I had with the Aldborough Hatch Defence Association suggested that there should be an exclusion zone of at least 150 metres around the site, which seems reasonable to me.
Whether the wide range of concerns that we have can be addressed will not become fully clear until a planning application is submitted. In the meantime, I - and my ward colleagues - need to do a lot of work to gain as many concessions as possible. To this end, I have written to the Leader of the Council and the Cabinet Member for Resources to re-commission the Fairlop Gravel Working Party to facilitate the degree of work and consideration necessary.
I know this position falls short of the 'enough is enough' stance of some residents want me to take, but it's an honest one and a considered one. If my concerns are not met, particularly regarding the structural integrity of the Church and residential properties, I won't support a gravel extraction proposals.
I must also point out the hypocrisy of the Conservatives' position on this. The Tories supported gravel extraction throughout their entire time in power and agreed this site as a preferred extraction site. Given that no planning application has been submitted, the only possible explanation for their position is electioneering ahead of the general election. It would be easy for me to play the same game, but it would also be self-interested and not necessarily in the interests of residents across the borough. It is also symptomatic of the sort of behaviour that is corroding trust in politics. I have a duty to all residents and to my own conscience and integrity to behave more responsibly than that.
I'm really happy to meet residents about this. I will let you know as soon as I hear anything or there are any significant developments.