A SHINFIELD councillor has questioned why “significant” health concerns were not considered in the council’s decision to refuse a controversial Arborfield quarry plan.

Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) planning bosses chucked out a proposal to mine 3.6 million tonnes of sand and gravel at Bridge Farm, Farley Estate in August, pointing to a number of reasons for its rejection.

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Construction company CEMEX UK Operations Ltd. was told it could not go ahead with its 14-year plans because of the potential harm to the environment and countryside, possible increase in flooding, harm to wildlife and more.

Not included in the seven headings as reasons for refusal was the potential impact on the health and safety of the community, despite hundreds of residents listing this as a concern in their objections to the council.

Councillor Jim Frewin, ward member for Shinfield South, questioned why this was and asked health bosses what can be done to make sure “significant community health concerns” contribute to planning decisions in the future.

WBC health committee boss Cllr Ken Miall responded: “I am aware that health risks are often raised by local people about individual planning proposals, such as the recent quarry application.

“However, national planning rules require that risks to health are only considered by the planning system to the extent that they are not addressed by other regimes – for example, environmental protection, legislation and policy.”

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This means health risks can only be considered for refusal within other reasons.

One of the reasons to refuse the application was the potential damage to ‘environmental harm’, but within this reason, concerns included “negative environmental and amenity impacts through… increased noise, dust, traffic and vibration that would impact on the wellbeing of local residents.”

The “most positive contribution” councillors could make to ensure health concerns are central to planning decisions, according to Cllr Miall, is to contribute to the council’s local plan update, which goes to consultation in August.

Cllr Frewin said the refusal document was “thorough” but part of it “did not seem right” after he told health committee members planning rules were in place to ensure woodland would be a further distance from the mining site than a local school and a local care home needed to be.

Cllr Guy Grandison also called for a review into this issue, adding the current rules “seemed backwards” to him.

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The health committee met on Wednesday, September 4.