Company infilling quarry near Bedford hits back after councillor calls scheme 'ecological vandalism'

The company said it is "considering" its options following comments made during a borough council meeting
Borough Hall, Bedford. Image LDRSBorough Hall, Bedford. Image LDRS
Borough Hall, Bedford. Image LDRS

The company infilling a quarry near Bedford has claimed a borough councillor’s comments could cause “unjustified reputational damage” to its business.

During November’s Planning Committee, members debated an application to build temporary facilities as part of the restoration of Elstow South Quarry – with one councillor calling the scheme an “environmental crime” and “ecological vandalism”.

Now, David Molland, group estates and property manager at FCC Environment, has written to Bedford Borough Council to express the company’s concerns.

He wrote: “Notwithstanding that many of the comments made did not materially relate to the application before the committee, which was for the new waste reception area, there were some comments made suggesting that the quarry infill activities at Elstow were an ‘environmental crime’ and ‘ecological vandalism’.

“The words ‘crime’ and ‘vandalism’ clearly have specific meanings in a legal context and at face value could be misconstrued as suggesting that the quarry infilling actvities [sic] undertaken by FCC at Elstow were being undertaken illegally.

“This causes FCC real concern as this may result in unjustified reputational damage to the business.

“We take such comments and ramifications publically very seriously and will be considering our options in regards to the comments made at the committee,” he added.

“Any suggestion, however misconstrued, that we are undertaking activities illegaly [sic] is of great concern to us and we feel a clarification is necessary.

“Therefore based on this I want to clarify that the quarry restoration activities at Elstow are legal and have planning consent (ref 21/03308/ROMWM and ref 21/03307/ROMWM) which requires the completion of restoration of the Elstow quarry voids through infilling with suitable materials.”

Mr Molland wrote that planning for the quarry restoration went through the planning process for nearly two years and was consulted on both publically and with a wide range of statutory consultees.

“Notably no comments or objections to the now consented quarry restoration scheme were received from the council’s own conservation officer, arboricutural officer or Natural England or the Environment Agency as the regulators on ecological and environmental matters respectively,” he wrote.

“We trust that this helps to clarify the consented position of the Elstow quarry restoration activities and corrects any misunderstanding over their legality.

“It is unfortunate that we have had to take this initial step to write to you but following the comments made at the planning committee we could not just ignore them and needed to set the position out clearly.

“I would ask that the position in regards the quarry restoration be made clear to the committee and how this is separate to the application being determind [sic],” he wrote.

Bedford Borough Council said it had no comment to make on this letter.

A council spokesperson said: “Members at the previous meeting did discuss things outside the scope of the application, however, this was clarified by officers at the meeting.

“The FCC letter was circulated to Members prior to the meeting and ultimately a decision to approve was made on the merits of the application.”

The councillor who made the comments was also approached via their political group, but a group representative said “no comment.”

FCC Environment said it had nothing further to add.