Lagoon at Crouchland Farm a ‘potential environmental disaster waiting to happen’

The owners of a lagoon dubbed ‘a potential environmental disaster waiting to happen’ could be prosecuted if they fail to clear it by May.

Thursday, 24th September 2020, 3:43 pm
Updated Friday, 25th September 2020, 9:46 am
Crouchland Farm SUS-150217-113114001

Lagoon 3, which sits on land that was previously part of Crouchland Farm in Plaistow, contains 53,000 cubic metres of digestate – a liquid and solid by-product of an anaerobic biodigester plant.

With concerns raised about the ‘structural integrity’ of the lagoon and a risk that containment could fail, the Environment Agency said a notice had been served to the landowner to ensure the waste was removed.

At a meeting of Chichester District Council, Gareth Evans (Lib Dem, Loxwood) said nothing had yet been done to meet the May deadline – which came as a surprise to some councillors, who thought the matter had been dealt with.

Mr Evans said: “The current owner of Lagoon 3 has so far taken no action to start emptying the lagoon during the favourable weather.

“Given that the emptying of the lagoon would be in the region of six months, there is not enough time now for the owner to do this safely before May 2021, as required by the anti-pollution notice and the enforcement notice served on them.”

Mr Evans also asked when the site was last inspected and why the parish council had not been able to access the findings of that inspection to reassure people the lagoon was safe.

He told the meeting that footpaths in the area were still closed ‘as a safeguarding measure to protect members of the public from the possibility of noxious gas leaking from [the] lagoon or even the failure of the lagoon itself’.

Andrew Frost, head of planning, said a ‘significant breach of planning control’ had taken place and called the situation ‘a very serious matter’.

While unable to provide answers, he assured Mr Evans that he would write to him and update him on the situation.

After the meeting, a council spokesman said: “At the moment this is a planning enforcement matter, and the landowner has until May 2021 to comply.

“If they have not complied by this time, the council will then consider prosecution.

“We are working with other agencies with regards to on-going monitoring of the site and will be able to give more detailed information shortly.”

Speaking on social media, Mr Evans said the lagoon was ‘a potential environmental disaster waiting to happen’, adding: “It’s clear that we need a Plan B.”

Afterwards he described how the last inspection of Lagoon 3 took place at the end of January following his request to Chichester District Council and the Environment Agency, but nothing else has been communicated since then.

The EA confirmed that the visit took place in the last week of January – but it took place before the two big storms from last winter which may have worsened the situation.

He added: “The Atkins report commissioned by the Environment Agency stated that Lagoon 3 should be inspected twice daily. Could the evidence that this is happening be shared with Plaistow and Ifold and Kirdford Parish Councils?  If this is now not deemed necessary, can this be confirmed in writing?”