As residents we have seen the unauthorised expansion of an anaerobic digestion facility from a small dairy farm processing its own slurry to generate electricity, into an industrial plant importing large amounts of waste and exporting large tonnages of digestate and gas, by HGV along our rural lanes, all of which is having a detrimental effect on what was a tranquil, rural community.
We believe that the planning system exists fundamentally to ensure appropriate development, and that planning applications should be made so that the suitability of a development can be assessed prior to development.
In this case no planning applications were submitted for expansion or change of use, only a retrospective application once the community had alerted the local council. The retrospective application was refused and is now subject to appeal by Crouchland Biogas Ltd.
So far the planning system has failed to protect our community from a developer continuing with unpermitted development.
Donate to the Appeal Fund
A joint Appeal Fund has been established and over half of the funds needed for legal and expert representation at the Inquiry have been secured. Matched funding was obtained for donations to date, but we need further financial support from the Community to raise an additional £20,000. The Plaistow Village Trust are managing the Appeal Fund on behalf of the Parish Councils and donors may consider making a Charity Gift Aid declaration.
If you can contribute, please donate via these payment methods:
Cheque: Payable to ‘The Plaistow Village Trust’ (Registered Address: Brackenhurst, The Street, Plaistow, Billingshurst RH14 0PT)
Bank Transfer: Sort Code: 090154 • Account No.: 01113280 • Account Name: ‘The Plaistow Village Trust’ • Ref.: APPEAL
Surplus money will be used by the Parish Councils for Legal/Planning Consultancy costs for any future planning issues arising in the Parishes.
For Further Information
Please contact Sara Burrell - Chair, Plaistow & Ifold Parish Council, or Ian Campbell - Chair, Kirdford Parish Council by emailing the Parish Clerks: PlanningAppealFund@gmail.com
14 Reasons to Support
Fourteen reasons to support Chichester District Council and to object to the appeal by Crouchland Biogas ltd.
- The site has undertaken an unauthorised change of use and unpermitted development beyond the existing permissions it had.
The existing permitted lawful use of the site is for a small scale on-farm facility ancillary to Crouchland Farm, using materials from within the site and sending electricity by cable to the national grid. The site has expanded in development and use far beyond what was permitted. West Sussex County Council determined the lawful use of the site at committee - that there was no permission granted for change of use and that consequently imports of input materials and conditioning and export of biogas were unlawful.
- The applications and supporting documents explicitly state that the use is for "handling on-farm manure & slurry" and not unrestricted importation of waste from off-farm.
- Exporting of gas (biomethane) was never part of the existing CDC permissions and the application /supporting docs make it clear that the biogas was to be used for generating electricity for export to the grid
- PS/11/02514/FUL “Siting of 4 metal containers to aid gas conditioning for biogas plant” was not implemented and does not constitute permission for the required processes and equipment to upgrade raw biogas to biomethane for export
- The equipment installed in the location of the unimplemented permission PS/11/02514/FUL does not and cannot enable upgrading of raw biogas to biomethane for export.
- The development fails to meet Chichester District Council’s Local Plan Policies and the West Sussex County Council Waste Local Plan. The development is completely at odds with both the Chichester District Local Plan and the West Sussex Waste Local Plan. These place great emphasis on the need to conserve and enhance the quality of the environment in the area, with the ‘north of the area’, within which Plaistow and Kirdford lie, noted as being unsuitable for major developments due to its rural character. Chichester District Council in its Local Plan RE5 Environmental Strategy describe this area as “an area of special character that deserves protection from insensitive development even though it lies outside the Sussex Downs AONB. It is a predominantly rural area that is characterised by a feeling of remoteness and tranquillity which is rare in the South East” Much of the area is wooded and, generally development is scattered with small villages, mostly of Conservation Area status, tucked away down narrow lanes.
The special character of the area has been recognised in the West Sussex Structure Plans since 1980. Policy RE5 provides for further control for this area, over and above the general policies protecting the Rural Area. This policy seeks to protect the specific features of the landscape and the settlement pattern of the area. The County Waste Policy requires that facilities should be well located and minimise potential impacts on communities, with the objective of protecting the health and amenity of residents and visitors.
- The development fails to meet National Planning Policy Framework. The Appeal grounds make reference to NPPF whilst failing to embrace the more recent planning practice guidance which advises that the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental protections and the planning concerns of local communities, and that it is important that the planning concerns of local communities are properly heard in matters that directly affect them. The appeal grounds also fails to note that protecting local amenity is an important consideration which should be given proper weight in planning decisions.
- The development threatens the special local environment and ecology and the applicants environmental reports are now out of date and don’t reflect increased usage of CHPs and emissions.
- The development is adversely affecting Heritage assets
This local area has a high density of heritage assets. Plaistow Village itself has 27 listed properties and the development site has several Grade II listed properties surrounding it, within sight and along the HGV routes. Crouchlands Farmhouse is a Grade 2 listed building within 250m of the site and occupied by residents unrelated to the farm. There are listed cottages (Nuthurst Cottage, Old House, Little Flitchling) just north and elevated from the site; two with a clear view of the site and all affected severely by noise disturbance. Foxbridge Farm is a Grade II listed farmhouse right alongside Foxbridge Lane with HGVs passing right outside. A particular issue due to the nature of their listing is that they cannot install double glazing to protect themselves from the noise.
- The volume and type of HGV traffic generated by the site creates a severe detriment to Highway safety for all users
The LHA raised a clear objection on safety grounds to the retrospective planning application stating as follows “the LHA raises an objection to the proposed development as it considers the proposed route from Crouchland Farm to Plaistow Road to be unsuitable to accommodate, by virtue of its insufficient width, restrictive nature of the junctions and limited visibility, the intensification in HGV movements that would be generated by the proposed development and would result in detriment to highway safety contrary to paragraphs 32 and 35 of the NPPF, 1.2.1 and 1.4.9 of the WSCC Local Transport Plan 2011-2026 and paragraphs b, c(i) and c(iii) of the West Sussex Waste Local Plan (2014).”
The LHA was told by WSCC legal team to revise its objection on the grounds that the existing permissions were unrestricted and therefore the applicant had no limitations on HGV movements – this has now been shown to be incorrect as WSCC confirmed via a certificate of lawfulness application that indeed the existing permissions did limit the site’s ability to import and export by HGV, therefore the objection is still valid. However, neither situation alters the fact that it is a severe safety issue as evident in photos taken by residents of the HGVs in competition with other road users on Foxbridge Lane.
- The development has met with significant local community objection. The developer failed to engage with the local community. Prior to unlawfully constructing the site, there were no consultations with Parish Councils or residents.
Over 400 individual local objections were received by WSCC to the applicant’s retrospective planning application, versus less than 10 in support – (all from companies or individuals associated with Crouchland Biogas). All four local Parish Councils have objected, as have the local Primary School, the Scouts, both local churches, the Sussex Wildlife Trust, the Woodland Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
- Full permission was granted by Surrey County Council for an AD plant on industrial estate at Dunsfold, just 5 miles away.
In 2013 Surrey County Council granted full planning permission for an AD site at Dunsfold which is the next village to Plaistow just 5 miles from Crouchlands and benefits from being sited on an Industrial Estate with direct access to the lorry route network. The plant will be built by Bio Group Ltd and will be able to handle both farm and food waste. This makes it even more unnecessary to approve an unlawfully expanded site at Crouchlands in such an inappropriate area with poor access, when a much more suitable site is so near.
- The benefit of renewable energy was already realised with the existing permissions. The Appeal Grounds make reference to the renewable energy "benefits", without acknowledging much of this is already provided by the existing ON-SITE FARM AD facility. Energy generation is not dependent on the development - and the appeal grounds fail to acknowledge that the existing facility can produce renewable energy without the damaging effect of the large number of vehicle movements on rural roads, the damage to the environment and the loss of amenity to the local community.
- The Enforcement Appeal grounds are incorrect. Following the granting of the very reduced Certificate of Lawful Use by West Sussex County Council on 09/10/15, much of the Enforcement Appeal Grounds are incorrect. For the avoidance of doubt the certificate excluded the conditioning and export of biogas, the importation of waste and any other material for anaerobic digestion and also excluded substantial items of development. It also confirmed that the anaerobic digestion permitted by the 2007 and 2008 permissions is ancillary to the lawful agricultural use of Crouchland Farm, with the extent of the farm being defined on the certificate plan. The baseline position relies on imported waste and other material which is now confirmed as unlawful. The baseline relies on the 2011 permission which is now confirmed as not having been lawfully implemented.