Decision status: Refused
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
Extension to the restoration of the former claypit, including the
remodelling of the existing landform to enable a change of use to
agricultural land (permanent pasture), internal traffic management
improvement measures and a proposed scheme of landscaping
improvements and ecological enhancement. Rudgwick Brickworks, Lynwick Street, Rudgwick, Horsham,
4.1 The Committee considered a report by the Head of Planning Services, as amended by the agenda update sheet (copy appended to the signed copy of the minutes). The report was introduced by James Neave, Principal Planner, who gave a presentation on the proposals, details of the consultation and key issues in respect of the application.
4.2 Mr Chris Whitehouse, NextPhase Development Ltd, agent for applicant. spoke in support of the application. The robustness of the committee report and grounds for refusal were questioned. The only technical assessment of landscape is the Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA), submitted as part of the application; this is not acknowledged or referenced in the Committee Report, however, it notes that the impacts on landscape and visual receptors will be temporary and restoration will provide beneficial change including a cohesive landform, an increase in tree cover and improved views. There is no justification or reason as to how and why the Planning Officer has drawn an alternative conclusion. Mr Whitehouse stated that the application is restoration and clearly accords with each of the nine criteria for Policy W8 of the Waste Local Plan (WLP).
4.3 Mr James McClean of Restoration to Agriculture (for the landowners, the Harrison family), the applicant, spoke in support of the application. The project is a gigantic recovery plan for 20 acres of abandoned, former clay pit and restoration of land to agricultural use to sustain existing farming operations. Only 23,000m3 of the 85,000m3 of inert waste mentioned in the report (25%) will be infill to steep agricultural land, which is dangerous in some weather. 75% of the application deals with topographical changes, ecological enhancements and traffic improvements within the existing extant site, which is where the rest of the imported material will be placed. The LVIA concludes the final landform will enhance views across the new meadows. Woodland is already threatened; 16 trees have Ash Die Back and will have to be removed. Bat surveys and checks have not noted bats in the 20 trees in the current woodland shaw; but mitigation measures and ecological enhancements have been developed anyway. Contrary to the Planning Officer’s opinion, the applicant will use only the minimum amount of material necessary to achieve the objective; there will be no doming or mounding. Operations have been conducted for 4-years with no complaints or statutory interventions. The applicant has worked successfully with the liaison group and local community. The Parish Council and Rudgwick Preservation Society support the application.
4.4 Cllr Richard Landeryou, Horsham District Councillor for Rudgwick and a Rudgwick Parish Councillor (formerly Chairman during the first three years of the infill of the clay pit), spoke in support of the application. The landowners, whose farm is adjacent to the old Rudgwick Brickworks, have spent the last 4-years infilling the clay pit to return it to pasture for grazing. The adjacent land/field contains a steep slope where it meets the reclaimed land – it is a health and safety hazard for turning tractors and is unfarmable in some weather conditions. The proposal will eradicate the slope, bring it to the same level as the restored field and seamlessly joining the two fields, thereby bringing it back to agricultural use. Removal of trees, most with Ash Die Back, will be mitigated by strategic planting along the existing hedgerow and a new area of woodland, resulting in a net increase in tree numbers. Wetland will be enhanced. Farming operations will no longer need to use Lynwick Street; a benefit to residents and road users. The liaison group has addressed the original concerns about infill operations and traffic movements. The application is supported by the Parish Council and Rudgwick Preservation Society. There are no substantial or technical objections, subject to replanting and wetland conditions being imposed.
4.5 The Chairman read out the following statement from local member, Christian Mitchell, member for Broadbridge who was unable to attend:
“I am unable to attend. But, please do record in the meeting that I support the application, which is contrary to the Officer's recommendation.
I have attended the Rudgwick Parish Council meeting tonight at 7pm [on 8 July 2019] and they support the application as correctly recorded in the report. They do not uphold the concerns that are set out in the report.”
4.6 During the debate the Committee raised the points below and clarification was provided by the Planning Officers and Legal Officers, where appropriate:
Is the application considered recovery or disposal of waste
Points raised in favour of the application – this is a matter of interpretation of policy as to whether the proposal is recovery or disposal, and the applicant has proved that the application meets the criteria for Policy W8 of the WLP - that it does bring or restore land into beneficial agricultural use, some of which is steep and currently unusable. It was also stated that the Officer’s assessment is academic rather than practical.
Response - Sections 9.2 to 9.22 of the Committee Report sets out the policy criteria and Officer’s view which concludes the proposal is disposal, because it fails to satisfy the criteria of Policy W8. Principally it has not been demonstrated that the minimum amount of waste material would be used to achieve the benefits. The proposed infill of the extension area would not be considered restoration and should be seen as land-raising as it would change the existing landform by deposition of material on an area of land that is undeveloped. The infill of the former clay pit area is considered to be restoration because the extant permission will return the landform to as close as possible to what it was originally.
Points raised that support the recommendation to refuse - Policy W8 criteria are not fulfilled; the extension area is outside the original application site and so there is a lot of weight that can be given to the proposal being disposal of waste. There is a fundamental difference between this application and the existing permission. The infill to the north is greenfield not brownfield. The existing woodland was unlikely to ever have been in agricultural use. The objection by Horsham District Council was noted.
Response - The Committee Report sets out the benefits of the proposal, which have been weighed against the impacts.
Other points - The judgement as to whether the application meets policy W8 of the WLP (recovery) as opposed to policy W9 (disposal) is finely balanced. What is the minimum amount of waste that could be used for infill?
Response - Planning law requires a decision to be made in accordance with the development plan, which includes the waste local plan, unless material considerations suggest otherwise. In relation to the minimum volume for infill, it was the Officer’s opinion that benefits could be achieved without the importation of the volume of waste proposed.
Landscape and ecology
Points raised – Concern was raised about the length of time it will take for new trees and vegetation to establish, noting that the existing understorey of vegetation below the trees is currently well established and that the WSCC Tree Officer has noted the loss of semi-mature oaks and vegetation. The impact of the loss of trees along the bat foraging route was noted, however the impact is lessened due to the low number of sightings. Clarification was sought on how long the woodland belt has been in existence; what the benefits referred to by Mr Whitehouse are, and whether there are there any preservation orders on the oak trees.
Response – Information is noted in paragraphs 9.11 and 9.20 of the Committee Report regarding habitat including the matter of replacement planting as well as the issues relating to Ash Die Back, ecology and bats. The WSCC Ecologist is satisfied with the proposals, subject to biodiversity mitigation and enhancement measures. The woodland belt has been in existence since at least 1850 and so this part has not been in agricultural use since at least that time. Mr Whitehouse refers to the Combined Benefit Statement (available on the County Council’s Planning website); it is acknowledged that the proposal has some benefits, which are summarised in paragraph 9.2 onwards of the Committee. There are no tree preservation orders on the oak trees.
Drainage - culvert
Point raised – How would drainage be affected and would the existing culvert be retained under the infill?
Response – The culvert will remain but will be buried under the infill. The WSCC Drainage Officer has concluded that the proposals are acceptable.
Weight given to assessments and consultees’ views
Points raised – What weight has been given to the LVIA/technical assessments, and also the view of Horsham District Council?
Response - A review of the LVIA and other documents and assessment is undertaken by Officers and the views of consultees, including HDC (the objection was only confirmed recently), are sought and taken into account. Officers’ conclusions are based on all information and consultee comments.
Support versus objections
Point raised – It was noted that the Horsham District Councillor supports the application in opposition to the view of Horsham District Council Officers. It was further noted that the Parish and County Councillor support the application as well. Also that Natural England, the Environment Agency and local residents have not objected and it is clear that the Liaison Group feel listened to. Is lack of objection a material consideration?
Response – It is acknowledged that the site and the local liaison group are well run. The responses of consultees are considered; however, Officers did not feel this overrides the impacts or accordance with the development plan.
4.7 The substantive recommendation, subject to reasons for refusal as set out in Appendix 1, was proposed by Ms Lord and seconded by Mr S. Oakley and was put to the Committee and refused by a majority.
4.8 Mr Barrett-Miles proposed the following motion:
It has been demonstrated that, on balance, there is a genuine need to use the waste material and that the amount of material to be used would be no more than is necessary to deliver the suggested benefits. The site would be restored to a high quality standard and would be deemed to be acceptable with regard to impacts on the rural landscape. The development therefore, accords with Policy W8 of the West Sussex Waste Local Plan (2014).
On balance, the proposed development would have an acceptable impact upon the locality by introducing an acceptable landform into a rural landscape that would maintain or enhance the countryside and recognise its intrinsic value and the landscape character of the area. Thereby, according with Policies W8, W11 and W12 and W20 of the West Sussex Waste Local Plan (2014), Policies 25, 26 and 33 of the Horsham District Planning Framework (November 2015), and Paragraphs 127 and 170 of the National Planning Policy Framework.
And, that authority is delegated to the Head of Planning Services, in consultation with the Chairman and Vice-chairman of Planning Committee, to set conditions and informatives.
The proposal was seconded by Lt. Cdr. Atkins, and put to the Committee and approved by a majority.
4.9 Resolved – That planning permission be granted subject to conditions and informatives, to be delegated to the Head of Planning Services and agreed in consultation with the Chairman and Vice-chairman of Planning Committee.
4.10 The Committee recessed at 11.42 a.m. The Committee reconvened at 11.55 a.m.
Publication date: 12/08/2019
Date of decision: 09/07/2019
Decided at meeting: 09/07/2019 - Planning Committee