Mineral extraction proposals which would bring "devastation and destruction" to Maple Cross’ Green Belt have been thrown out by politicians.
Plans to extract minerals and process sand and gravel on land at Pynesfield were discussed by Hertfordshire County Council’s Development Control Committee this morning.
Dozens of Maple Cross and West Hyde residents packed into County Hall in opposition to the application, which was lambasted by Three Rivers politicians at a district council planning meeting last month.
In reports submitted to the county council, officers recommended that politicians reject the application for reasons such as the impact it would have on the Green Belt and the risk to the quality of groundwater.
Speaking against the application, leader of Three Rivers District Council, Ann Shaw, said: "The proposal does not preserve the openness and rural character of this high quality, versatile farmland.
"It would mean devastation and destruction of a very beautiful scenic area of Green Belt, highly visible for miles.
"This proposal would industrialise part of the Green Belt. Surely we all want to do our best to protect our Green Belt areas and resist such harmful and inappropriate development?
"There are no very special circumstances to justify this. The development is inappropriate."
Flooding and the effect the mineral extraction could have on the area’s water quality were two concerns raised by officers and residents.
In a report issued to councillors, the Environment Agency stated that the location of the site on a principal aquifer within a source protection zone 1 "poses an unacceptably high risk to groundwater quality".
Yet Doug Symes, the agent speaking on behalf of applicant, Harleyford Aggregates Limited, said the contractor has been "poorly treated by the Environment Agency" and that they would appeal council’s decision if the proposals were rejected.
Mr Symes added: "Our quarrel lies with the Environmental Agency. And we believe this is a prime example in which decision makers, mainly the Environmental Agency, are looking for problems rather than solutions."
The implications the mineral extraction could have on traffic in the area was also debated.
Councillor Shaw, Liberal Democrat representative for Maple Cross and Mill End, said: "This is a dangerous stretch of road. There have been several deaths in recent years, there is a primary school crossing not far from the site.
"I am very concerned by the apparent lack of understanding of the traffic problems that exist now, let alone if this proposal was accepted.
"The A412 is the relief road for the M25, and as such is needed very frequently. Severe congestion occurs regularly, I do not mean once a month, but often several times a week.
"It is very clear that the additional extra HGVs will exacerbate the existing problems."
Out of 682 properties that were consulted, the council received 93 letters of objection.
The Pynesfield area, which is situated 200 metres from Denham Park Farm, is part of the land safeguarded for HS2.
Sylvia Ball, a resident speaking against the application, said the mineral extraction would "destroy the openness and rural character" of the area, and could have a more damaging effect on the Green Belt than HS2.
Mrs Ball added: "This factor is acknowledged in HS2’s environmental impact statement which suggests that HS2 will have less of an impact on the openness and rural character of Pynesfield as it will already have been damaged by the gravel extraction site."
Conservative representative for Moor Park and Eastbury, councillor Ralph Sangster, spoke against the application, saying he had heard "nothing from the applicant" which would tempt him to support the proposals.
Politicians unanimously rejected the application.