Members of the Planning Committee are asked to make the following recommendation;
That Members of the Committee note the contents of this report.
Mrs Archer presented the report to the Committee; Mrs Stevens, Divisional Manager, Environment Protection, was also in attendance to answer questions.
Mrs Archer informed the Committee that the purpose of the report was to update Members on the enforcement proceedings taken against Crouchlands Farm. She explained that much of the site was now in compliance with the enforcement notice; however, officers undertook a site visit after the expiry of the compliance period and confirmed that ‘Lagoon 3’ still remained intact with no evidence to suggest that any works of compliance had been attempted or were about to start.
Mrs Archer explained that the case had been passed to the Legal team for their consideration and advice. The next steps in a case such as this would be to move to prosecution.
The Committee received the following speakers;
Cllr Gareth Evans – CDC Ward Member
Officers responded to Members’ comments and questions as follows;
With regards to the removal of the underground infrastructure, Mr Whitty informed the Committee that the authority had sought expert ecology advice; the advice received was that due to the period of time that had passed the best option was to leave the pipework in situ. Mr Whitty confirmed that all other apparatus had been removed.
With regards to providing a concise timeline detailing the next steps in the enforcement process, Mr Whitty explained that this was not possible due to the complexity of pursuing a prosecution, however, an indication of the process could be provided.
On the matter of CDC taking responsibility for the site Mr Whitty explained that at no point would CDC take responsibility for the site. He explained that there was no obligation or ability for the authority to take responsibility; as a final option CDC could take direct action, but this would not be considered until all other options (including prosecution) had been exhausted.
With regards to the distribution and spreading of the contents of Lagoon 3, Mrs Stevens advised that this would be managed by the Environment Agency as the body responsible for the agreeing the required permits.
Mr Whitty confirmed that the site owner is liable for any pollution on the land.
On the matter of any future owner being obligated to return the site to agricultural land; Mr Whitty explained that through the enforcement notice the land is required to be returned to its previous state, which in this case is agricultural land. However, it is important to note that the authority cannot force anyone to farm the land.
With regards to concerns regarding any inappropriate use of the land being permitted in return for the site being cleared, Mr Whitty confirmed that the authority would never entertain any inappropriate use of the land, and explained that there is no ‘trade off’ in planning terms.
On the matter of the reopening of the surrounding PROW’s; Mrs Stevens confirmed that WSCC had been asked to reopen the surrounding paths; however, they had taken the decision that the paths would remain closed. This decision had been made in consultation with West Sussex Fire & Rescue (WSFRS) and the EA, whilst there was no danger to the public from Lagoon 3; it was felt prudent that the path should be kept shut.
On the issues of nitrates; Mrs Stevens explained that the EA managed this issue.
With regards to the stability of Lagoon 3; Mrs Stevens assured the Committee that the structure was very robust and the liquid was safely contained. Officers and representatives from the EA and WSFRS undertake biannual inspections to monitor the site, with interim inspections made if required. Early indications that would suggest the structure was beginning to fail in some way might include signs such as; the swelling of the bund, unpleasant odours being omitted and potentially leaks, however, these would be picked up during site inspections.
In a vote Members agreed the report recommendation to note the contents of the report.
Members of the Committee note the contents of the report.