The Environment Agency has issued a new abstraction licence to Land Logical Thorney Limited for their quarry at Pasture House Farm in Peterborough.
Prior to January 2018, quarry dewatering was exempt from licensing and it was only necessary to obtain a licence for water used on site (e.g. washing, dust suppression etc). From January 2018 you need a licence for dewatering and all existing licence holders need to apply for a new licence by 31 December 2019.
The new licence application was submitted in February 2018, however the abstraction licence was not issued until September 2018. The application was fairly straightforward and supported by a full Hydrological and Hydrogeological Risk Assessment (HRA).
The local EA Area Team suggested that prior to the full application being submitted, a pre-application submission was made so that any potential issues could be identified at an early stage. A pre-application submission was made and no issues were raised.
The extended determination period was entirely the result of EA staff being totally unprepared for these new applications and their lack of understanding of process and industry. Also, a neighbouring abstraction licence should have been flagged up at the pre-application stage, allowing time for consultation to take place with the adjacent operator.
There is an adjacent quarry who hold an abstraction licence. The existing abstraction licence was considered in the HRA, and it concluded that the new abstraction would be extremely unlikely to derogate their supply. In the unlikely event that their supply was derogated the application committed to directing abstracted water towards their supply.
Three months into the determination period the EA asked the neighbouring operator to sign a consent to derogate form, which would waiver their rights to the water resource. They did not sign the form, but following extended negotiations and a site meeting, it was agreed that the two Operators could work together and share monitoring data to mitigate the risks.
The EA then required that the two operators sign a shared agreement to share data before the abstraction licence could be issued, even though sharing data would be a condition of the new licence. It is understood that this approach is not taken on other licences issued by the EA. The EA would not advise on the wording of the agreement and it was up to the applicant for the new licence to second guess their requirements.
As an alternative, the EA advised that we could avoid a signed agreement by setting a hands off level in perimeter boreholes. A limit was proposed and agreed with the EA’s groundwater team but the EA’s permitting team decided they still needed the signed agreement. This process added further delays to the determination process.
The wording of an agreement was finally agreed and signed by both parties. The draft licence then had to go through a new three stage review process within the EA.
Ultimately, the licence was issued but the situation can lead to rival Operators or neighbours holding new applications to ransom if the EA refuse to issue licences without the written approval of every other Operator within a distance criteria.