MP welcomes refusal of Crouchland farm waste bid
Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert has welcomed today’s decision (Tuesday 3 March) by West Sussex County Council to refuse retrospective planning permission for an expanded waste processing facility at Crouchland Farm near Kirdford.
The Council's Planning Committee met in Horsham on Tuesday to decide whether Crouchland Biogas could continue with the unpermitted expansion of their waste-to-energy operations on the farm.
Nick Herbert wrote this week to West Sussex County Council objecting to the retrospective planning application.
In his letter, which was brought to the attention of the Planning Committee, Mr Herbert set out his concerns about the impact of increased traffic on the nearby rural roads following the farm’s expansion of its waste operations, and he warned that a precedent should not be set by allowing them to continue.
The digester and associated infrastructure was originally granted permission in 2009 for processing its own on-farm waste, but more recently has been taking in waste from elsewhere in the country. The expansion of its operation beyond being an ancillary process has resulted in a greater number of HGV movements to and from the site. The owners were given permission to apply for retrospective planning instead of enforcement action.
The MP urged the County Council not to set a precedent in granting permissions retrospectively where conditions had not previously been set on the original application.
The application had been objected to by Chichester District Council and the neighbouring parish councils who had taken legal advice from a QC. The local action group Protect Our Rural Environment (PORE), who mounted a strong campaign against the application, were amongst those who spoke out against the site.
The Council's Planning Committee voted in favour of a refusal. A further meeting will be convened to consider the enforcement action necessary following the site’s breach of planning regulations.
1. Nick Herbert’s letter to West Sussex County Council is as follows:
Dear Mrs Whitty
I am writing to set out my objection to the retrospective planning permission sought by Crouchland Biogas Ltd, application reference WSCC/042/14/PS. I am strongly opposed to this application.
I am particularly concerned about the impact that an expanded anaerobic digester plant will have on local communities. The increased volume of heavy traffic in and out of the farm is travelling along rural roads, around the village of Kirdford in my constituency, on routes which do not form part of the Lorry Route Network.
The route between the farm and the B2233 is unsuitable for HGV traffic movements, and I understand that this conclusion was also shared by the Highways Agency. The original on-farm production plant was permitted because there was no impact on local roads, which are rural and narrow. Any intensification of heavy vehicle movements along this route will impact on the safety of other road users.
I was originally supportive of a waste-to-energy plant at Crouchland Farm, processing its own farm waste and enabling diversification of the existing dairy farm; indeed, as a local MP and Shadow Defra Secretary I visited the site. However, the plant has now expanded beyond its original conception in a way which is damaging. The farm’s location is completely wrong for intensification of production requiring a substantial increase in traffic movements, and this expansion should not be permitted. It has become a major industrial unit importing waste from far afield yet located in a tranquil rural setting. This cannot be sensible.
I understand that conditions were not put in place to limit production and development of this site at the time when the original planning permission was granted. However, it would set an unhealthy precedent to permit, retrospectively, development which has quite clearly breached its original permissions. It would be damaging to suggest that all planning permissions that are granted can exceed their original documented plans simply because there was no specific condition in place to deny them this.
I urge the Committee to consider very carefully the impact of granting permission and permitting this kind of intensification, and to consider the ramifications of setting a precedent if they were to permit this site’s expansion, as well as the adverse impact on the local community which has been set out by Chichester District Council and local parish councils.
I would be grateful if you would note my formal objection and report this letter to the Planning Committee when it considers this application.