Landfill Threat Blights Covers Pit, Westerham and Chevening
By Tom Mackay
There is a drainage problem at the old sand quarry at Covers Pit, Westerham. Clay has somehow covered the normal sand drainage routes and so water is increasingly gathering in the pit.
The application proposal is to dump 800,000 cubic metres of glass, concrete, bricks and other London detritus into the pit. Indications are that this dumping will last for 6+ years involving over 84,000 truckloads being 150-200 HGV movements a day (average 18 an hour but at peak times could be much more). Covers Pit is right next to the M25 but instead of getting access to the M25 the proposals involve huge increase in HGV traffic through towns and villages such as Westerham, Brasted, Sundridge and Biggin Hill.
While a solution to the drainage at Covers Pit is required it is vital that any solution should take local circumstances into account, to reflect the character, needs and impact of or on the local communities and area. The great fear is that, because of Covid, the Planning Authority takes a decision based on inadequate analysis, lack of proper independent consideration of alternatives and poor understanding of the true impact on the implementation of the proposals on the local communities. Decisions ought to be delayed until those deciding on the issues have the opportunity to do a site visit and speak to representatives of local groups so they fully understand the impact on the local communities.
Points arising include:
The roads most affected appear to be Westerham Hill up through Biggin Hill, A25 through Westerham, Brasted and Sundridge and Croydon Road. Post Covid these routes will likely again be choc-a-bloc particularly during hours when people are travelling to and from work and school. We are told that the peak times for the arrival of these 84,000 lorries will be during morning rush hours. The cost of people being stuck in their cars for wasted hours over 6+ years is incredibly high and ought to be calculated before decisions of this magnitude are taken. Pupils and workers need to get to school and their places of work safely and on time.
Particular concern is with the extra delays at the traffic lights at Sundridge, the probable build-up of traffic at Beggars Lane roundabout and the extra delays at Croydon Road with new traffic lights.
Highway safety and Road Access
It is reported that access to the dumping site will be a new road heading west from the roundabout on Beggars Lane. The entrance to this road is narrow and thought to be one way only at least in part. It appears trucks may have to wait to gain access and this means clogging up the approach roads to Beggars Lane roundabout creating dangers for other motorists.
Noise and disturbance resulting from use
84,000 lorries over 6+ years will inevitably cause extra noise pollution and pollutants from diesel HGV engines. The access road to the dumping pit passes close to Churchill C of E Primary School - how many extra children will suffer asthma and other respiratory problems over the 6+ years?
Pollution levels where the M25 runs close to the A25 are already high. Local doctors will have records showing the link between the arrival of the M25 and the increase in in the number of chest conditions.
Hazardous materialsI see reference to the existing water in the pit containing arsenic, nickel, lead and other dangers. Added to this will be demolition waste which unless closely monitored and controlled over the 6+ years will contain additional contaminates. There is a drinking water borehole close by which could easily be contaminated.
Could the lorries get access direct to the M25 say at Clacket Lane? There is reference to the pit being a problem for the M25 so at least there ought to be consultations with the M25 authority with a view to avoiding 84,000 lorries over 6+ years holding up traffic on country roads.
Have engineered solutions been fully researched. It was a sand pit which has been allowed to fill with clay. Sand is terrific for drainage but clay is not. Is there a way of drilling through to the sand and draining the water in that way?
The applicant is reputedly a large landowner adjacent to the pit. Can earth be moved from other parts of his property to fill the pit? This would remove the need for the 84,000 trucks on nearby roads.
There was a proposal to build 600 new homes on or near Covers Pit. Permission was refused. The new request for the landfill proposes a road leading west from Beggars Lane roundabout to Covers Pit. If built presumably it would ease the passage for a new attempt to gain planning permission for the 600 houses. Are the two planning applications connected in any way? Is there a long-term planning chess game being orchestrated?
The applicants have access to expensive lawyers and consultants who advise on a solution that just happens to generate income for the applicant. Hard to track fees generated from allowing the dumping of 800,000 cubic metres but it is likely to be very significant and gives a huge incentive to choose this solution to the drainage problem.
It is understood planning permission to dig out the pit was subject to a restoration commitment. It would be interesting to see the commitment and be told why there has been a long delay in enforcement.
Not far from Covers Pit there is another proposed development to dump more London waste - at Chevening to block the sight of the M25 from the house. For the Chevening development I see reference to 200 HGV trips a day and development over 5 years. This traffic would have a major impact on ordinary people's lives due to pollution, noise and danger to life.
Coupled together the developments at Covers Pit and Westerham are examples of the rich and powerful seeking personal benefits that are far outweighed by adverse impact on local communities.
So for reasons which must now be obvious I consider the adverse impact of the proposed solution to the drainage problem at Covers Pit demonstrably outweighs the benefits and an alternative must be found to avoid the need for 84,000 truckloads of waste along country roads over 6+ years. I oppose the planning application.