Council receives queries about sand pit application

covers farm

Westerham Town Council has said it has received a number of enquiries about a planning application to Kent County Council (KCC) from Squerryes Estate (Which Way Westerham) for the restoration of the Covers  Pit on the outskirts of the town.

A spokeswoman for the Town Council said: “We understand that the latest application to restore the site has been discussed with KCC but is not yet released for consultation. When it is open to consultation the Town Council will be taking professional advice and consulting with our community and neighbours.”

The Town Council claims that public concerns arising from earlier proposals and implications for the planning application include:

The import of 800,000 cu m of infill from areas beyond Kent which would impact not only on Westerham but neighbours to the North, East and West.

The length of time it would take to import such quantities of infill – some five to six years of up to 100 lorry movements a day has been mentioned. This is in conflict with the Which Way Westerham house building phasing and its linked guarantee to build a relief road.

The location of a ‘temporary haul road’ between London Road and Croydon Road, Westerham, which would pass very close to the town’s Churchill Primary School

The independently proven necessity to reinforce the northern embankment to support the proposed relief road under the WWW proposals

WWW proposals have met with opposition from Westerham residents, as did the proposal some years ago from the Squerryes Estate to use the Covers Farm site for inert waste disposal.

According to Henry Warde of the Squerryes Estate and Which Way Westerham, the proposed scheme tackles concerns over the stability of the northern slopes of the quarry and risk of flooding as the Northern Pit continues to fill with water due to runoff from the surrounding clay slopes.

Under a previously approved restoration scheme it was proposed to dewater the Northern Pit with a degree of regrading and backfilling using material from the quarry’s central plateau.

However, recent site inspections required under the Quarry Regulations raised significant concerns about the medium- to long-term stability of the pit walls, particularly to the north, with visible evidence of superficial failures within the exposed Gault Clay face.

The combination of the inherently low strength of the natural Gault Clay and over-steepening of the pit slopes has become a significant cause of concern for the engineers as progressive failures of the slope could pose a risk to the integrity of the M25, which is 60m north of the site’s boundary.

As a consequence, the first step in the quarry’s restoration is the stabilisation of the Northern Pit.

An estimated 0.3 million m3 of material will be moved within the site for stabilising work, along with 0.8million m3 of material imported from outside, with an estimated 75-100 loads arriving each day.

Mr Warde added : “It is imperative that Covers Pit is restored
Detailed technical discussions with KCC over geotechnical and drainage concerns confirmed that the original restoration scheme was no longer appropriate, and a new solution is required.

“Historically, the site was accessed via Covers Farm from the A25, with traffic passing either through Westerham town centre, or westwards through Limpsfield and Oxted.

“We are not proposing to put more lorries through the town, as Westerham already suffers from unacceptably high levels of traffic and noise pollution, but instead are proposing to build a temporary haul road.”

The proposed haul road would link the London and Croydon Roads and provide access into the site with the majority of the restoration traffic routed either northwards via London Road or eastwards via Beggars Lane/A25, with some traffic using Croydon Road north.

The haul road would run westwards parallel to the M25 to cross the Croydon Road at a signalised junction and enter the site near Green Croft, with an enforceable traffic routing and management plan in place during the restoration.

Mr Warde said: “The restoration is a complex one because if the northern pit continues to fill with water, the level will rise sufficiently to overflow across adjoining land to the north east, particularly if water is displaced by any sudden failure of the northern slope. This situation is unsustainable.

“While the accumulated water provides a degree of support to the surrounding slopes, a co-ordinated approach to the stabilisation and drainage of the site is required before restoration can occur.”

Although the principal area to be engineered is the northern part of the quarry, the restored ground levels to the south will also need to be reduced, both to provide material and to create the proposed drainage route.

The proposal is to restore the landscape to sustain the area’s biodiversity, conserve its protected species, and return an appropriate proportion of the site to productive agricultural use that reflects its position in the AONB.

If approved, work on the temporary haul road would begin as soon as possible and take six months to complete, with the whole restoration process taking five to six years. Once the work is complete, the haul road will be removed and the land made good.

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