Sand and Gravel Extraction Campaigns

Fairlop Plain came into existence in 1851 when 100,000 trees were cut down by the Crown from Hainault Forest. Over the next ten years or so new straight roads were laid out (Forest Road, Hainault Road), farms formed and farmhouses built, together with St. Peter’s Church. Initially Crown Land, this was sold to the London County Council and later to Ilford and then Redbridge Council. Redbridge continue to own most of the land, leasing it out to tenants, although the Council has sold off a number of farmhouses (mostly to sitting tenants), with some land and other buildings.

The whole of Fairlop Waters is within the parish of St. Peter’s Aldborough Hatch, the northern boundary of the parish running along Forest Road, with the Central Line on the west and Hainault Road on the east. Used as an airfield in the First and Second World Wars, Fairlop Plain was earmarked in the 1930s and 1940s to be the new London Airport, but deemed unsuitable for expansion (probably due to the rising ground to the north and extensive housing in the south) — so Heathrow was born (great relief!)

Early sand and gravel extraction – Some sand and gravel extraction had been carried out in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries (for example, to build the embankment for the railway line running from Newbury Park to Barkingside and Fairlop). However, major extraction commenced in the 1950s — P T Read were the first contractors, followed by Steetley’s and then Brett Lafarge (the latter have the contract at present). The first area of extraction was to the north where the golf course is today.

Refuse, domestic waste and more used as infill.

Household refuse was the infill of choice. At first this was not covered at the end of workings daily, so that when the wind blew from the north the trees and bushes in Aldborough Hatch were attractively covered in paper and plastic! At first complaints went unheeded — but finally the contractors were instructed to infill with soil every evening. Once this was completed trees were planted. Many died and were replaced – over and over again. The infill not only consisted of household rubbish but complete vehicles and household appliances. The result was methane gas was and still is being produced.

The same is true of the gravel extraction by P. T Read at Billet Road and Willow Farm which is listed as an unlicenced tip and contaminated land due to the infill used.

Mr Coombes, former Councillor and Vice Chair of AHDA said that he lived here in 1968 ut first saw the area in 1963 when P T Read were extracting. The reason why trees died and leachate polluted Valentines Park lakes was due to seepage into the Cranbrook which runs to Valentines due to alleged corruption and lack of environmental laws within the London Authority who were responsible and certain members turning a blind eye dangerous chemicals including acid, phenol and oil drums were dumped in as landfill. In some cases new Bentonite walls had to be put in.

Later extractions had inert infill, often from demolition sites whilst today much of the current infill for Aldborough Hall Farm workings comes from the Crossrail excavations.

The First area of Extraction

Initially the sand and gravel extraction created little interest in Aldborough Hatch (until the wind blew that is!) as most of this was taking place in the north. But in the early 1960’s a planning application was submitted to extract on Aldborough Hatch Farm over the area stretching north from St Peter’s up to the present southern boundary of Fairlop Waters. I do not recall the extent of the buffer zone in the original planning application, but it was very close to the hedge that runs along Bridleway 93 on the north side of the churchyard, the Vicarage garden and St Peter’s close.

The Revd Barnes led the AHDA campaign to ensure that there was a buffer zone of 300 yards from St Peter’s Church. He spoke forcefully at the Planning Committee , Ilford Council Chamber. When Councillors started to debate the issue and appeared to be prepared to agree to the excavations running almost up to Bridleway 93 and the northern hedge of the graveyard, the Vicarage and St Peter’s Close, there was pandemonium in the public gallery. Ron Jeffries, Revd Barnes and Vivien Bendall MP lead the booing and were physically ejected.

In the event, the battle for a 300 yard buffer from St Peter’s was won and Rev Barnes stepped down as Chair of AHDA.

Buffer Zones

When planning applications were submitted for later excavations – at Hainault Farm and Aldborough Hall Farm – AHDA pressed for stand-off buffer zones of 300 yards. While this was not successful, we did gain 150 meter stand-off buffer zones from houses in Billet Road and Applegarth Drive / Bawdsey Avenue.

A public exhibition was staged by London Borough of Redbridge (LBR) on 25th and 26th Feb 2000 at St Peter’s Church Halls regarding proposed sand and gravel extraction at Aldborough Hall Farm. The AHDA made a robust response to this in writing.

When the planning application was filed for Aldborough Hall Farm, the late Peter Rudge, then tenant farmer at Aldborough Hall Farm, invited Councillors to walk across his land to the rear of the Dick Turpin and Applegarth Drive to view the situation for themselves. The planning application indicated a buffer of 75 yards from the rear of houses – not even the rear of the gardens.

It was a wet and cold Sat morning in the depths of winter in 2000 when the land was almost waterlogged. Those who arrived first had a choice of wellington boots – late arrivals were up to their knees in mud with a few lost their shoes temporarily. We alerted residents, many of whom stood in their gardens and told the Councillors in no uncertain fashion what they thought of the proposals!

At the end of 18 moths of representation and negotiation, the Regulatory Committee of the London Borough of Redbridge agreed in July 2001 that the stand-off between the sand and gravel extraction at Aldborough Hall Farm and the rear of homes in Applegarth Drive and Bawdsey Avenue would be increased from the 75 meters to 150 meters. We won a 150 meter stand-off buffer with several Councillors backing us. The 150 meters from houses is now an established precedent for which AHDA will continue to fight.

The second area of Aldborough Hatch Farm for gravel extraction

In July 2011 Lafarge held an exhibition in a Marquee on Aldborough Hatch Farm. Some 150 residents attended the exhibition, a surprise to Lefarge who had said they expected a dozen or so. We believe this lead to some rethinking by Lafarge especially when at least two of the experts in attendance expressed serious doubtd about some aspects of the plan. They were independent consultants from outside companies employed by Lafarge, who were prepared to speak about their concerns. One consultant told Ron Jeffries that many of the gravestones that had toppled over had done so as a direct result of changed in the water table in the area due to sand and gravel extractions, whilst others had fallen due to natural settlement.

It was pointed out to Lafarge that St Peter’s was built without a damp course as we know it today. Since that time research has revealed that the Parochial Church Council minutes for 9 Dec 1969 include the following statement: “a report from Protim Knapen Gallway to Messers Stoneley & Co in regard to the rising dampness in the church, together with estimate, was received ..”

[Extracts from History and Briefing by Ron Jeffries 2013]