Campaigners succeed in stalling Plaistow farm’s bid to be an energy plant

A planning report which campaigners say could ‘industrialise’ a small farm near Plaistow has been dropped from a council agenda after the parish council took legal advice over it.

Friday, 30th January 2015, 9:37 am
Residents protesting outside Crouchlands Biogas Ltd in Plaistow. They are against expansion of the farm - picture submitted SUS-140210-162931001

Villagers of Kirdford, Plaistow and Ifold are campaigning against a retrospective planning application by Crouchlands Biogas seeking to extend current permission from Chichester District Council (CDC) allowing them to produce electricity from farm waste.

On Tuesday (February 3) the West Sussex County Council planning committee had been due to be considering the plans for an upgraded facility, which allows 34,755 tonnes of waste, glycerol and crops each year to be brought to the site to produce biomethane gas to turn into electricity for the national grid.

It comes after the county council started enforcement action against the farm last summer when Crouchlands expanded without planning permission.

HOR 191009 Crouchlands farm, Kirdford. Gwyn Jones. anaerobic digester. -photo by steve cobb

The current plans would roughly triple the capacity of the equipment approved six years ago by the district council.

County officers had recommended approval of the application helped by an 11th hour withdrawal of an objection by West Sussex County Highways.

However it has been stalled at the final hurdle.

Campaigners who feel the highways issues were one of the key arguments to oppose the application, believed the report was so flawed they instructed a top London counsel look into the matter.

Aerial photo of Crouchlands Biogas in Rickmans Lane, Plaistow - picture submitted SUS-140210-162920001

Yesterday (January 29) the council informed campaigners the application had been dropped due to ‘a late legal submission’.

Earlier in the week chairman of Plaistow and Ifold Parish Council Sara Burrell said: “We do not agree with the West Sussex County Council report and we do not accept their recommendation and we’re seeking legal opinion.

“Our response will be determined by that opinion. It could go several ways.”

CDC ward member for Kirdford and Wisborough Green Josef Ransley was supporting them in opposing the plans.

Before the report was withdrawn he said: “Having had the opportunity to study the WSCC planning report and recommendation as well as the legal counsel opinion they obtained I can only express the view that whilst I’m no legal or planning expert, I have been involved with planning policy making, served on a LPA development committee and successfully managed numerous major applications around the country by relying on the application of a test of reasonableness and basic planning principles.

“This application may be seen as a complicated one unless we remember the basic principles and then it only too apparent that it is simply inappropriate.

“I believe WSCC Planners may have lost sight of the principles and purpose of Development Management and are failing to see the wood for the trees.”

Objections had also been raised by Kirdford Parish Council and more than 400 others, with concerns about the adverse impact on the rural area and the noise and working hours of the plant.

The Protect Our Rural Environment group (PORE) has collected around 900 signatures for a petition against the plans.

Ben Wibaut lives in Foxbridge Lane, Kirdford, which is directly affected by the application site.

He said: “WSCC’s recommendation is for a massive industrial plant with a capacity of at least three times this.

“And what’s more they would approve in one fell swoop the applicant’s ability to liquify gas, which is something never envisaged in the original application and thereby generate yet more HGV traffic, as the gas is transported by tanker to Portsmouth.

“There are many reasons to object to this scheme, but the overriding damage comes in the form of HGV movement.

“The biogas site is fed by narrow and winding village lanes completely unsuitable for the unrelenting barrage of HGV lorries to and from the site.”

The application has not been withdrawn, so it is expected the report will come back to the planning committee in the future.