Thoughts on Tarmac’s recent public exhibitions for Birchall Garden Suburb

Local landowner Tarmac held two public exhibitions of its proposals for Birchall Garden Suburb which includes 2,500 new homes, schools, recreation and employment land. The site covers the former Cole Green/Holwell Hyde landfill site with much of the area also falling under neighbouring East Herts Borough.  The former landfill site accepted waste from London and beyond over 70 years, until 1990.

Birchall Garden Suburb site

Cole Green c.1980. Photo supplied under the terms of the public sector information license, under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

The Society, and other local groups, are very concerned about these plans and have objected to them. Our key concern is the apparent lack of investigation into the landfill operation and the amount and toxicity of the waste buried below much of Tarmac’s proposed site. We can find no evidence that WHBC has done any investigation itself as to what lies beneath the ground and how it may impact human health if  housing, schools and employment sites are developed across the site as proposed.

We compiled a list of questions that could be asked of Tarmac concerning the former landfill operations there. None of the promotional material we have seen for Birchall Garden Suburb comes close to answering these questions. You can download our list of questions for Tarmac by clicking HERE.

Feedback we received following the Tarmac exhibitions is curious. Apparently some residents were told by Tarmac’s representatives that the Environment Agency’s map and data showing the extent of waste dumping on the site is incorrect, and that Tarmac’s own data on the site is the accurate record (not that this has ever been placed in the public domain as far as we know). For completeness you can see the EA’s map below, and for comparison below that the latest maps by Tarmac of their proposed Birchall Garden Suburb.

Environment Agency map of historic landfill 1920-1990.

Environment Agency map of historic landfill 1920-1990.

© Environment Agency copyright and database rights 2017.

Below is the map presented by Tarmac showing their view of how much of the area was previously landfill. You may notice some contrasts between the map above and the one below:

 Extent of Former Landfill

Tarmac map showing extent of former landfill

Finally, below is Tarmac’s latest “Illustrative Masterplan” for the site. Moneyhole Lane Park is also shown but that already exists of course and is not part of their plan.

Tarmac Illustrative Masterplan

Tarmac Illustrative Masterplan as presented at their Exhibition

Radio 4’s flagship investigation programme, File on 4,  this week focussed on this very subject and was titled What Lies Beneath? The programme is both illuminating and worrying and largely describes what we are now seeing at Birchall Garden Suburb. The programme posits that many contaminated landfill sites around the country are now being brought forward for development, at a time when Local Authorities and the Environment Agency no longer have the capacity to properly investigate or challenge proposals from developers, as is their duty. This being due to ongoing funding cuts as a result of austerity measures, according to the experts contributing to the programme. The programme is extremely informative and relates strongly to our local situation, you can listen to it here:

 Our own “What Lies Beneath?” document is still available further down this page. It will be updated again in coming weeks as we have further worrying information to share with local residents regarding the scale and types of waste we’ve been told may be down there. We hope the Planning Inspector currently assessing this site as part of the Local Plan will also consider the concerns we have raised about this proposal for some time now.

Please download our list of questions for Tarmac By clicking HERE.

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