Councillors have given the go-ahead for 3.5 million tonnes of sand and gravel to be quarried from a 177-hectare site on the edge of St Albans.

The quarry – adjoining Coopers Green Lane – would be an extension of the existing Hatfield Quarry.

And over a 10-year period sand and gravel would be excavated from the site, before being put on a conveyor to be processed at the existing Hatfield Quarry processing plant, on Oaklands Lane.

Last month an application to quarry a nearby site – on the former site of the Hatfield Aerodrome – was turned down by councillors, after they heard of fears that it could impact on the bromate plume.

But on Thursday (October 22) members of the county council’s development control committee heard that minerals on this site would be extracted from the ‘upper mineral horizon’ only.

And they gave the go-ahead to the application – made by Cemex UK Operations and Gascoyne Cecil Estates – subject to referral to the Secretary of State.

Presenting the application to the committee, principal planning officer Chay Dempster acknowledged the bromate contamination in the ground water below.

But he said the ‘key issue’ was that the mineral extraction would be ‘from the upper mineral horizon only’.

And this was also addressed by James Carling, development manager (south) for Cemex, who spoke in favour of the application.

“The bromate plume is quite rightly a very sensitive issue in the area,” he said.

“And Cemex are very aware of the potential impacts any development may have on drinking water standards for local people.

“The project does not propose to work the lower mineral horizon and therefore shall avoid any interaction with the plume.”

Mr Carling also assured the committee that significant monitoring would be put in place.

According to the application, the excavation of the 177-hectare site would be completed in a series of 10 separate phases.

Excavated material would be put onto an extension of the existing mineral conveyor – including a new section that will pass under Coopers Green Lane in a new conveyor tunnel.

And then it would be processed at the existing processing plant, on Oaklands Lane – from where it would be taken away by HGVs, with a condition limiting the number of HGV movements to a maximum of 250 a day.

At the end of each phase inert material would be brought in through a new entrance from Coopers Green Lane for the area to be restored to agricultural, wetland and woodland areas.

And the application also includes permission to import 3.1 million tonnes of inert waste for that purpose – with a maximum of 200 HGV movements a day to the Coopers Green Lane access.

As part of the public consultation, it was reported to councillors that concerns had been raised about traffic, air quality, noise and ecology, as well as the impact on green space and on groundwater.

They included concerns about he impact the additional HGVs would have on Coopers Green Lane, which is used as a commuter route between Welwyn Garden City and St Albans – as well as the impact of dust and diesel fumes on air quality.

There were also concerns raised about the risk quarrying posed to the bromate plume, the visual impact of the quarry and its impact on the conditions of those living close-by, as well as the possible impact on bats.

An objection was received from Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council due to a lack of information and the impact the quarrying could have on plans for the urban extension into the area and for the construction of a new secondary school.

And the borough’s environmental health officer also recommended refusal – pointing to the need for further detailed information in relation to the impact of noise and on air quality.

During the meeting, it was reported that the county council is required to have identified ‘landbank’ that identifies supply of minerals for excavation to last for at least seven years .

The meeting heard that Hertfordshire is currently judged to have identified a 7.2 year supply – which is ‘close to the minimum level’.

And the report to the committee says: “The minerals from the site would contribute to sand and gravel supply from within Hertfordshire and assist in maintaining an appropriate landbank.”

At the meeting councillors heard the excavation work at the site was expected to start in 2022 – and both the excavation and the restoration work should be complete within 10 to 12 years.