I have had many representations re the proposed application at manor Farm and I have now had time to go through them all as well as the 200 odd pages of the agenda. You will have to forgive me but with more than 80 replies to make I cannot deal with each e-mail individually.
What I have tried to do in the reply below is cover the main points and tried to explain few things.
The basic nature of the e-mails are split into two main issues
FIRSTLY: Should mineral be extracted from the site at all
SECONDLY: Should the site be returned to agricultural land if mineral is extracted.
Before this I would like to touch on a series of related issues and try and explain some things, so in no particular order
1) SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCE
Mineral extraction IS permitted special circumstance in Green Belt. As such this alone cannot be reason to reject an application
2) CONVEYOR UNDER THE ROAD
This is quite common. There is already one in Splethorne, there have been others and there are several in other parts of the county. Having seen one- in all honesty in less you actually knew, you would not realise it was there
3) PROPERTY VALUES/VIEWS
These are not allowed to be reasons for refusal under the law- so they cannot be taken into account
4) USE MARINE GRAVELS
They are used extensively especially where they are available, but in some places the gravel deposits are very important to fish stocks. There have already been serious problems where the extraction of marine aggregate has caused extensive damage to fish stocks.
5) NO EXTRA LORRY MOVEMENTS
There was an extension to the operating of this site until 2033. Therefore between now and then ‘n’ number of lorries are legally entitled to enter and leave the site each week. Whether those lories are moving in and out of the site carrying material raised on the site does not matter. In fact it will be claimed that there are less lorry movement because nothing will be bought it, only taken out. Of course being cynical was the extension just to accommodate this development, and by implication there is gravel readily available elsewhere. Which in other places we are led to believe there is not! Unfortunately cynicism is not a reason on which can reject an application either
6) PROXIMITY OF SCHOOLS/URBAN AREA ETC
Initially this looks a strong case. But the problem is establishing an evidence base that would stand up to legal challenge. The developer will operate within all imposed legal guidelines and where things like health and safety are covered by other bodies we are NOT allowed to make those decisions ourselves. To make something like this stick there would need to be a very strong evidence base. Where would we get it, not from Spelthorne- Remember it is Spelthornes’s official position that there are NO infrastructure constraints in the Borough. (I was one of the few people to vote against that piece of nonsense I hasten to add). The whole area is an AQMA (Air Quality Management Area) but as I have said there are no increases in lorry movements beyond those already permitted.
I am sorry some of the above is not what you want to hear but I can only operate under the rules that are in place (whether I like them or not.)
SHOULD THE SITE BE DUG AT ALL?
In the end you can only dig mineral where it is found. There will be a demand. Every year there is a mismatch between what is demanded and what is consumed, BUT we are meant to maintain a 7-year land bank of aggregate and we are down to a 2 year landbank. Again those are the cold hard facts
SHOULD IT BE RETURNED TO FARMLAND?
If it returns to farmland then it will mean a lot of extra lorry movements during the restoration period. Nevertheless this is clearly what residents want and I do not have much confidence in the excuses presented for saying it is not possible. I think it is far more a case of don’t want to.
1) Planning favours the developers. In the 20+ years I have been doing it it always has. Most obviously IF a developer does not get what they want they can go the Planning Inspectorate with an Appeal. IF objectors don’t get what they want- they are stuffed. They have no right of appeal !!! The only recourse they have is to launch an expensive High Court action. That is not allowed to challenge the decision as such, that stands. They have to make the case that due process was not followed, thus invalidating some or all the Granted permission.
2) Residents need to understand that gravel companies can feel aggrieved at the opposition because the principle of extracting from here has already been through the democratic process- and agreed by that process. This site is contained in the Surrey Mineral Plan 2011. In essence 1/3rd of all the new mineral sites for the whole of Surrey- are in Spelthorne, the Borough which already carries the heaviest burden. Before publication it went to Spelthornes cabinet, for any comments or recommendations. Spelthorne cabinet agreed the whole plan without a single change. For councillors from other parts of Surrey if the local council agrees it then why should they go against that? It may be said that things have changed since then- Rubbish. Think of their refusal to help residents fighting the Eco Park, The land they sold to make the fire cuts possible, The threat to Laleham park or the proposed huge Housing development on Kempton Park
3) When it came to the Vote at Surrey I was amazed to see Spelthorne county councillors voting for it. (Note this was in the last council so a couple of councillors on now were not then- so cannot be held responsible)- Nevertheless I am the only Spelthorne councillor to have voted NO to the minerals plan on the grounds of its devastating effect on Spelthorne. From this you can understand why the developers think that the scheme has agreement in principle from Spelthorne
I am sorry that much of what I say does not offer a lot of hope and is not what you want to hear. In mineral planning especially, the outline strategies are worked out years in advance, they do go through due process and public consultation. and so the planning application is very much the end of a long process. In this case, Indeed For Spelthorne as a whole the sucker punch was Spelthorne’s cabinet not offering any objections to any of it. But sadly that is totally consistent with everything they have done since then right up to present.