MP sends objection to council over Plaistow Farm expansion

Nick Herbert MP visiting Crouchland Farm Biogas plant in Plaistow

Nick Herbert MP visiting Crouchland Farm Biogas plant in Plaistow

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The MP for Arundel and the South Downs has waded into the Crouchland Biogas debate with an 11th hour submission of objection to the West Sussex County Council planning department.

Nick Herbert has written to Anna Whitty, planning officer at the county council to object to plans to upgrade anaerobic digester energy production equipment at Crouchland Farm in Plaistow.

The application also seeks retrospective planning permission to install a new digestion tank, two new combined heat and power (CHP) engines, a digestate lagoon and associated infrastructure.

will be heard at County Hall Horsham this morning (Tuesday March 3) and officers have recommended them for approval while Chichester District Council, ward member Josef Ransley and the neighbouring parish councils are among the objection.

Residents are expected to turn out in force to show their objections to the plans. They are concerns about increased traffic putting road safety at risk on the country lanes.

Crouchland Biogas has insisted the plans will benefit the local community, secure jobs and the diary farm business.

His letter leaked to the County Times reads as follows:

Dear Mrs Whitty

I am writing to set out my objection to the retrospective planning permission sought by Crouchland Biogas Ltd, application reference WSCC/042/14/PS. I am strongly opposed to this application.

I am particularly concerned about the impact that an expanded anaerobic digester plant will have on local communities. The increased volume of heavy traffic in and out of the farm is travelling along rural roads, around the village of Kirdford in my constituency, on routes which do not form part of the Lorry Route Network.

The route between the farm and the B2233 is unsuitable for HGV traffic movements, and I understand that this conclusion was also shared by the Highways Agency. The original on-farm production plant was permitted because there was no impact on local roads, which are rural and narrow. Any intensification of heavy vehicle movements along this route will impact on the safety of other road users.

I was originally supportive of a waste-to-energy plant at Crouchland Farm, processing its own farm waste and enabling diversification of the existing dairy farm; indeed, as a local MP and Shadow Defra Secretary I visited the site. However, the plant has now expanded beyond its original conception in a way which is damaging. The farm’s location is completely wrong for intensification of production requiring a substantial increase in traffic movements, and this expansion should not be permitted. It has become a major industrial unit importing waste from far afield yet located in a tranquil rural setting. This cannot be sensible.

I understand that conditions were not put in place to limit production and development of this site at the time when the original planning permission was granted. However, it would set an unhealthy precedent to permit, retrospectively, development which has quite clearly breached its original permissions. It would be damaging to suggest that all planning permissions that are granted can exceed their original documented plans simply because there was no specific condition in place to deny them this.

I urge the Committee to consider very carefully the impact of granting permission and permitting this kind of intensification, and to consider the ramifications of setting a precedent if they were to permit this site’s expansion, as well as the adverse impact on the local community which has been set out by Chichester District Council and local parish councils.

I would be grateful if you would note my formal objection and report this letter to the Planning Committee when it considers this application.

Yours sincerely

THE RT HON NICK HERBERT MP

MP for Arundel & South Downs