Crouchlands Farm – Planning Enforcement report - WSCC ENF Reference: INV/003/14
On 28th April WSCC Planning Committee are being recommended to refer the Crouchlands matter to Chichester District Council (CDC) as the relevant planning authority. This recommendation from WSCC officers sets aside the Crouchlands activity being an unauthorised commercial waste processing plant, making us wonder why it invited Crouchlands to submit a retrospective application in the first place. The report argues that based on the answers provided to WSCC by Crouchlands after its application was refused, the operators are no longer processing any significant waste. No effort has been made to check the answers provided, consult local parish Councils or residents on what’s happening on the ground, or even meaningfully consult on the matter with CDC or other agencies.
Notably, the report was prepared by senior management staff and not Planning Development Management or Enforcement Officers, even though it is a planning matter. Senior officers of West Sussex County Council seem intent on thwarting the decision of their Planning Committee for reasons, unrelated to planning matters, which we can only speculate upon.
The effects of this breach of planning policy have and continue to be a financially, environmentally and socially damaging issue in the NE area of Chichester District, mainly because WSCC officers appear to have lost sight of the principles that support all planning policy. Instead they appear to be focusing on the financial consequences or other circumstances, of potentially misinterpreting legal points relating to an activity that crosses differing planning policy, rather than looking to take enforcement action on an unauthorised development and commercial activity as determined by their own Planning Committee on 3rd March.
A permitted activity of on-farm energy production derived from farm waste, that has been upgraded to an unauthorised commercial waste and energy production plant in an inappropriate location and in clear contravention of existing planning policy, appears to be being confused by a number of matters, including but not limited to;-
It falling within two separate authorities’ area of differing responsibility for Development Management.
Involving two areas of local policy namely waste management and green energy production
Conflicting government guidance that seeks to control Waste Management and expand the Green Energy production and other related matters
Reliance on singular legal opinion on the part of WSCC Planning officers
The failure of Ofgem to adhere to its regulations governing distribution of financial subsidies
The failure of the Local Valuation Office to apply appropriate business rates
The failure of other agencies, such as the Environment Agency, Health & Safety Agency, (amongst others) to rigorously engage and co-operate on a complex issue or for their advice to be ignored
If WSCC, as the relevant planning authority, by way of its officers felt itself challenged to address the issues, for whatever reasons, and at risk whether financial or otherwise, consequential of any potential legal case, it could surely have referred the matter to others or a higher authority for clarification rather than try to permit or set the matter aside as it has and continues to do.
WSCC Planning Committee made its decision and refused the retrospective application on 3rd March making the unauthorised installation, equipment and development unlawful. Members sought advice on the nature and scope of enforcement action to be taken and agreed to officers having the time to prepare a report on the same. They did not invite officers to try and undermine the intent, validity or effect of their determination of the matter in accord with due process.
Given the planning process provides for an appellant to appeal to higher authority, I have written to WSCC seeking assurances that they will urgently seek to correct this matter to ensure that the established planning process is not undermined and that consequential of the Planning Committee’s decision, the appropriate enforcement action is rigorously pursued.
CDC Councillor Josef Ransley
Kirdford & Wisborough Green Ward
21st April 2015