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Coalition building for public inquiry

Brief: Gallagher Aggregates Ltd, a leading Kent-based building, civil engineering and quarrying business, asked Freshwater to help them make the case for extending their quarrying operation into an area known as Oaken Wood after their application was originally passed by Kent County Council but then called in by the Secretary of State.

The application was vociferously opposed by environmental campaigners led by the Woodland Trust who portrayed the application as a test case for the protection given to ancient woodland.

We devised and implemented a campaign to raise awareness of the real danger: the loss of Kentish ragstone.

Analysis: our research uncovered that for centuries this highly prized stone has been used in the construction and ongoing maintenance of some of the country’s most famous national ancient monuments, public buildings and landmarks such as the Tower of London and Leeds Castle.

Results: Freshwater’s work created a wide ranging coalition in support of the proposed extension, from:

  • local MP and other parliamentarians                     
  • Church of England’s Cathedrals and Church Buildings Division                     
  • English Heritage
  • local branches of CPRE                                                 
  • Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings                                                  
  • Ecclesiastical Architects and Surveyors Association
  • Ancient Monuments Society                                      
  • Institute of Historic Buildings                                                                                      
  • Institute of Historic Building Conservation
  • Historic Royal Palaces/Tower of London               
  • Canterbury Cathedral                                                                                                   
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Rochester Castle and Cathedral                                
  • Mineral Products Association                                                                                      
  • British Aggregates Association to the Stone Federation 

The Inspector’s report noted the ‘remarkable breadth of support for the proposals, underlying the strong case of need’ and pointed out that the ‘extreme concern’ of English Heritage was ‘echoed by others’ before going on to list the supportive comments of the supporters we had assembled. The report spoke of ‘powerful support… seen from numerous parties in writing’. It went on to back our use of the need-based argument by stating that: ‘given the World Heritage Status of the Tower of London, Canterbury Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and Greenwich Maritime, it is no overstatement to describe the importance as being international.’ 

The report neatly encapsulated the campaign when it concluded that ‘the need for, and benefits of, the Westerly Extension would clearly outweigh the loss of the ancient woodland.’

In July 2013 Gallagher received confirmation from the Department for Communities and Local Government that permission had been granted for the extension of Hermitage Quarry, following the lengthy public inquiry.

The Freshwater team oversaw all media relations – national, trade and local – and political counsel leading up to and throughout the public inquiry process, and in the lead up to the final ministerial decision.


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