Josef Ransley writes to WSCC Planning Committee, 'The handling of this issue is now bordering on the absurd'

The Crouchland Enforcement due to be decided at the WSCC Planning Meeting on Tuesday 28th has been DEFERRED, in order for further discussions to take place between WSCC and CDC.

It seems they are listening to our excellent District Councillor (for Kirdford and Wisborough Green) Josef Ransley, who wrote on Friday, 'I’m clear in my mind that WSCC officers have failed to reasonably engage with their counterparts at CDC, and their senior officer...s equally seem intent on frustrating the will of the elected members and decision makers on the planning committee for reasons I could speculate upon. Therefore, if it is not in the WSCC Constitution to remove them from involvement in the matter, we can only look to members to ensure they require their officers to work with CDC officers and resolve a joint resolution on the way to deliver enforcement action in a meaningful and speedy manner.'

For the full letter to the Planning Committee, see below;

Dear Cllr. Brunsdon & Planning Committee members

Unauthorised Commercial Waste facility and Operation at Crouchlands Farm, West Sussex

This whole Crouchlands planning issue  was already immersed in a sea of technical and legal detail when its retrospective commercial waste processing planning application was being determined. And is now, after a refusal to permit six weeks ago, getting bogged down in an extended technical and legal difference of opinion between officers of two local Planning Authorities.

As a Councillor one can stand back from the details of an issue and consider the fundamentals, something that officers seem to have forgotten, namely that whilst all these disagreements are debated, the unauthorised operation continues to function. The identified harm continues to become more extensive and the owners of the operating company continue to profit from flouting our planning policy and regulations.  

Officers of WSCC and CDC jointly decided back in 2013 that WSCC was the appropriate authority to take enforcement action. In the intervening time that authority , WSCC has consistently maintained such a stance. That is until after the planning committee determined the retrospective application against officers’ recommendations. Materially nothing of significance has changed and the planning committee can only revert to its request regarding enforcement made on 3rd March, namely, could officers recommend on the scope and nature of the enforcement action to be taken to put a stop to the unauthorised operations. The committee did not ask them to consider who the appropriate party to take such action was and if officers felt this needed re- consideration then they should have made that clear at the time.

The handling of this issue is now bordering on the absurd, at risk of establishing a platform for legal dispute and publicly undermining the planning system which relies on residents’ respect of and compliance with the process. Breaches of planning control have been identified and prompt enforcement action should have been instigated and taken.  Elected members of Council have acted in compliance with the process appropriately, while officers have procrastinated, but now need to act to ensure that in the event the forthcoming planning and enforcement appeals are linked.

Currently, WSCC Planning committee are faced with a recommendation that could result in WSCC defending a planning appeal and CDC defending an Enforcement Appeal relating to the same development and operation! No one can possibly consider that responsible or cost effective, nor sensible or desirable.

I’m clear in my mind that WSCC officers have failed to reasonably engage with their counterparts at CDC, and their senior officers equally seem intent on frustrating the will of the elected members and decision makers on the planning committee for reasons I could speculate upon. Therefore, if it is not in the WSCC Constitution to remove them from involvement in the matter, we can only look to members to ensure they require their officers to work with CDC officers and resolve a joint resolution on the way to deliver enforcement action in a meaningful and speedy manner.

WSCC rules, unlike CDC’s , preclude me from addressing the Planning committee on enforcement matters, so I can only encourage everyone to lobby their county councillors personally to progress matters in the manner I am asking  of you and your fellow councillors.

Yours sincerely,

CDC Cllr. Josef Ransley

Kirdford & Wisborough Green Ward

CDC Cabinet Member for Support Services

24th April 2015