Campaigners have said they are appalled that West Sussex County Council seems to have ‘washed their hands’ of a farm’s planning breach.
Crouchland Biogas, based at Crouchland Farm, Plaistow, has been fighting to gain retrospective planning approval for energy production equipment which takes farm waste, such as low grade grain and manure to turn into gas which can be used to make electricity.
Following the county council’s decision to refuse that permission last month, officers have said that while there has been a breach, it is now within Chichester District Council’s jurisdiction to take enforcement action.
A report will be considered by the planning committee on Tuesday April 28, but residents are angry the matter could be left unresolved.
Paul Reynolds of the Protect Our Rural Environment group (PORE), said: “I’m appalled.
“This has dragged on for almost a year in terms of planning process. The planning committee refused it, but they are just washing their hands of it. How much public money has been spent to date?
“They are turning their backs on it while Crouchlands continue to use unauthorised equipment on site. It’s quite incredible. The village just cannot believe it.”
The district council meanwhile has already contested the county council’s position.
A CDC spokesman said: “We have advised West Sussex County Council that we have not seen any persuasive evidence that material matters have changed since consideration of the recent planning application by the county council, sufficient to warrant this case now being considered as a district matter.
“We consider that information submitted by the operator about the extent to which the operation is a waste use needs to be challenged further by the county council, as it appears to contain inconsistencies and also to conflict with and contradict information on which the county council relied upon in determining the planning application.
“Chichester District Council is therefore of the view that the county council remains the relevant local planning authority in respect of enforcement action and any applications or appeals arising from the current operation taking place.”
District councillor for Kirdford and Wisborough Green Josef Ransley is also angry about the county council report. He noted Crouchland Biogas still had the chance to appeal the decision regardless of which authority takes the matter forward.
He said: “WSCC Planning Committee made its decision and refused the retrospective application on March 3 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.”
A spokesman for WSCC said: “We are aware of CDC’s concerns and will discuss it with them prior to Planning Committee’s consideration of the item next week.
“We can’t comment any further at this stage.”
Updates to this story: Outcry as enforcement action faces further setbacks