Agenda item

Planning Application: Waste

Report by Head of Planning Services.


The Committee is asked to consider and determine the following application:


WSCC/004/20 Restoration of the former Standen Landfill site with a woodland and pasture landfill cap system. Evergreen Farm, West Hoathly Road, East Grinstead, RH19 4NE.


WSCC/004/20 – Restoration of the former Standen Landfill site with a woodland and pasture landfill cap system.  Evergreen Farm, West Hoathly Road, East Grinstead, RH19 4NE.


6.1     The Committee considered a report by the Head of Planning Services, including an additional condition as amended by the Agenda Update Sheet (copy appended to the signed copy of the minutes).  The report was introduced by Chris Bartlett, Principal Planner, who gave a presentation on the proposals, details of the consultation and key issues in respect of the application.  The Committee was asked to note a plan showing cross-sections A-A, B-B and C-C that was missed from the printed version of the agenda papers.


6.2     Zara Luxford, General Manger, Standen House (National Trust), spoke in objection to the application.  Standen House is dependent on its 150,000 visitors a year to make a profit and continue with its conservation work.  Having to negotiate heavy HGV traffic to access Standen House is likely to deter visitors.  The proposed window for HGV movements including return journeys would mean one HGV movement every 6 minutes, and more likely would mean HGVs moving in convoys at times.  Therefore, the Transport Assessment is incorrect and out of date.  62 HGV movements is a 60+ percentage increase in HGV movements along West Hoathly Road.  This should not be considered to be negligible nor would it be easily accommodated.  The narrow road would present major problems for HGVs and cars trying to pass an HGV travelling in the opposite direction, potentially causing congestion or accidents.  There are also concerns about the sandstone rock outcrops on the road around the entrance to Standen House.  The following mitigation measures were recommended: signage, traffic lights, speed limited, priority for visitors to Standen House, briefings to haulage contractors, marshals/banksmen, community liaison and a Construction Manager. 


6.3     The Committee noted a written statement in objection to the application from Mr Philip Wade, local resident.  The transport plan is strongly biased.  The proposed additional 62 HGV movements per day would be totally dangerous.  It would be an increase from 25 to 87 HGV movements per day.  The features and concerns of the proposed route from Imberhorne Lane to Evergreen Farm were described; these include the width restrictions at certain points, bends, bridges and road sections at risk of collapse or damage.  The route was not built to take the proposed frequency of heavy traffic, which would likely lead to further damage and need for repairs.  An alternative route from the Felbridge traffic lights, south on the A22 via Brooklands Way, Turners Hill Road and Saint Hill Road to Evergreen Farm was proposed.


6.4     The Committee noted a written statement in objection to the application from Mr Peter McNamee, local resident.  The proposal does not accord with Policy W13(c) of the West Sussex Waste Local Plan because it does not protect landscapes.  The Committee report has not explained the criterion for proving what an “overriding need for the development” is.  The need would be shown if the site was shown to actually be polluting the environment.  Whilst contaminants are present if you bore down into the mass, it has not been shown that gases are being released.  It is stated that the stream does not meet standards for a freshwater stream but no comparisons were provided.  There is no way to assess the potential level of risk.  The site is currently used as a commercial campsite and horses have been allowed to graze on the paddock.  More than 100 members of the public have objected, many on the grounds of road safety.  The roads are not suitable for so many large vehicles.  There is risk to pedestrians and could well be fatalities.  The only safety feature requested by WSCC Highways was around widening the access to the site, but there was no adequate risk assessment of the whole route.  Noise and dust have not been adequately mitigated and there is concern that the care home residents would be badly affected.  Overall, effects on neighbours are not adequately mitigated.


6.5     The Committee noted a written statement in support of the application from Jane Warrener, co-owner of Evergreen Farm.  The property was purchased in 2004 for the purposes of keeping horses, to run a livery and keep a range of farm rescue animals.  It became clear the land was not fit for purpose and the quality of grass was poor with next to no nutrients.  The land is excessively muddy leading to numerous incidents and injuries, which along with illness has led to two horses having to be put to sleep.  Mrs Warrener suffers from a rare condition, which she believes is caused by the effects of landfilling.  The land is in urgent need of restoration to return it to a workable and safe condition.


6.6     Cllr Jacquie Russell, local County Councillor for East Grinstead South and Ashurst Wood spoke on the application.  Despite mitigation there would be a significant impact on the highways.  Whilst the route is the shortest, it is not without challenges.  The widening at each end of the narrow stretch of West Hoathly Road is noted and will accommodate waiting HGVs and aid visibility at the point of ingress/egress, but it would still be nigh on impossible for two HGVs to pass on the narrow stretch between Evergreen Farm and Saints Hill.  There is no room for driver error.  There would be 10 HGV movements every hour/1 per six minutes on already congested roads, part of which is 60mph.  Visibility at Saints Hill Green is extremely poor.  There are two bridges on the B2110, one being very narrow.  The Household Waste Recycling Site is a pinch point.  The areas around Imberhorne School and the recreation ground are of concern.  The roads are used by walkers and cyclists and there are no footpaths.  Is the importation of inert waste really the only viable method to mitigate the presence of contaminants?  The Committee report states the presence of contaminated material has the “potential” to pose a high risk to human health, but the Environment Agency did not say that the work must be done and it also noted that the restoration work carries the risk of mobilising the contaminants.  It is stated that an alternative option of a full gas extraction and flare system is not warranted because gas being generated “will be very low and insufficient to cause large volumes of gas emissions”, yet the applicant contradictorily states that gas was identified as a high risk with risk of asphyxiation/fire/explosion, making the site unusable by humans or animals and damaging the environment.  The report does not suggest any alternatives to capping.  It also states that there would still be a leachate collection swale/blanket suggesting capping would not be 100% effective.  Therefore, if a swale/blanket is effective, why is this not suggested as the first step to address the issues?  Have biological treatment options been considered?  The long-term benefits of capping need to be weighed against the deficits to the community. 


6.7     During the debate the Committee raised the points below and a response or clarification was provided by the Planning, Highways and Legal Officers, where applicable, as follows:


Acceptability in terms of Waste Planning policy


Points raised – It is not clear whether the proposed level of inert material to be imported, which is approximately enough to fill half of Wembley Stadium, is necessary and whether it accords with Policy W8(e) of the Waste Local Plan.  Have the options ‘do nothing’ or ‘do less’ been considered, in order ensure compliance with Policy W8(a)?  Is it necessary to have 1 metre of soil for the grassland and 2 metres for the woodland?


Response – It is for the Committee to determine whether or not the level of imported material is appropriate.  The 2 metre level of soil on top of the clay cap is necessary for tree roots.  It may be possible to reduce the level of soil required if the Committee wishes to consider this. 


Importation of inert materials


Points raised – Clarification was sought on the volume of inert material to be imported.  How would volumes being imported be managed?  What would be the origin of the inert materials to be imported?


Response – The proposed volume of inert material to be imported is 126,000 tonnes.  No weighbridge is proposed for the site, so this would be managed by condition via the provision of periodic topography plans.  The origin of the inert materials is not known. 


HGV delivery times and number of HGV movements


Points raised – The locality around Imberhorne School is busy with traffic/cars at school drop-off and pick-up times and the locality of the recreation ground is busy on Saturday mornings, so there would be safety concerns about the additional HGVs using the route at these times.  Could the HGV movement time be restricted to 9.30 to 14.30?  Under the currently proposed HGV delivery times, the final HGV of the day would need to access the site by 14.30 in order to offload and leave the site by 15.30 so as to comply with HGV delivery hours.  This would mean that in reality HGV movements would be squeezed into a shorter time frame meaning the frequency would be more than one movement every 6 minutes.  Could the period allowed for HGV movements be extended to 100 weeks instead of 80 weeks, thereby reducing the number of HGV movements required each day?


Response – The timings for HGV movements were chosen to avoid the rush hour at either end of the day.  If HGV movement hours were to be condensed further this would mean more movements per hour.  Extension of the period for delivery of inert material could potentially spread out the number of HGV movements per day.  It should be noted that delivery of the inert materials to site would be dependent on availability of materials.  The number of HGV movements per day would be variable – under the current proposals, 62 HGV movements is the average number per day not an exact figure.  The proposed new condition ‘Construction Management Plan’ requires information to be provided about the number, frequency and types of vehicles, which allows a degree of flexibility and enforcement, if required.


Highway capacity, road safety and routing


Points raised – The proposed HGV movements would be a 66% increase, which is significant.  There would be difficulties for HGVs accessing and egressing the site due to the sandstone outcrops.  Clarification of the details of the passing bays was requested.  The road safety audit is insufficient because it was a desktop exercise with a 30 minute visit which took place in December 2020, which was during the second COVID-19 lockdown.  Some of the issues relating to highway capacity and road safety could be mitigated if empty HGVs leaving the site were to follow a different route – the route suggested was the one used by the 84 bus which goes southbound from West Hoathly Road to Grinstead Lane, then to Wych Cross and on to the A22.  Suggestions made by the National Trust including speed reduction, marshalling, etc. should be considered.  Clarification was sought regarding the matter in paragraph 9.44 of the Committee report requiring a bond for repairing damage resulting from construction traffic.


Response – The road widening works would be provided and secured by a s.106 agreement; the half a metre widening would take place at either end of the narrowing of the road where the rock outcrop is.  The road safety audit was undertaken in accordance with relevant guidance and the whole route from the A22 was assessed.  The proposed alternative route for HGVs exiting the site using the same route as the 84 bus has not been proposed as part of the planning application - the recommendation for consideration is based on the current proposed route.  Regarding recovery of costs in relation to damage as a result of construction, this would be managed by the provision of a condition survey of the route in advance of the works and also at a periodic points, followed by negotiation with the operator on recovery costs.


Gases and leachate


Points raised – Landfill gas is up to 30 times more potent in terms of climate change than CO2; it is currently leaking from the site and the proposal is for it to be vented afterwards, so there would be no benefit when considered against the current situation.  Benzo(a)pyrene is carcinogenic but is being released into the open air, therefore, the level of threat is questioned.  There has been no verification of leachate, only a mention that the owner has seen this, so it is questioned what the potential impact on the aquifer to the south-west of the site would be.  The landfill site has been closed for nearly 30 years - a 24 year study of landfill sites, which included groundwater contamination, states that after a period of 20 years the impacts on groundwater can’t be detected.  It was suggested that an expert be asked to provide information to the Committee on the level of danger posed from the site, particularly in relation to the impacts on the care home and on school children.  There was no mention in the report of options to capture and use the gases nor whether other methods of dealing with emissions have been explored.  Consideration should be given to whether the harm from CO2 and other emissions from the proposed HGV movements outweighs the potential harm from gases and leachate from the site.  Clarification was also sought on whether work should be undertaken to determine the levels of CO2 and methane being released from the site versus the proposed tree allocation, so that carbon capture can be assessed.


Response – The ground investigation report states there is a potential for contamination including to the aquifer.  The report states that there are elevated levels of benzo(a)pyrene, CO2 and methane, a risk of surface water contamination, and an increase in contamination of the stream over three visits.  The proposal would remediate historic activity and provide a clay capping system with different levels of topsoil for areas of grassland and woodland.  The proposal would also protect the site from leachate into aquifers and nearby streams by preventing surface water penetrating the cap.  No report on the levels of emissions from HGVs has been provided.  Following capping, monitoring of gases and leachate and pollution control would be the responsibility of the Environment Agency and an Environmental Permit would be required.  The Committee must assess whether the proposal is an appropriate use of the land.  The matter of carbon equation is not material to this planning application.


Site history


Points raised – Why was the previous planning permission for the landfill site granted by the District Council?  Why was the capping not carried out when the landfill site closed in the 1990s?


Response – Planning permission for landfill was previously within the remit of the District Council; this has since changed and is now the responsibility of the County Council.  The closure and restoration of older landfill sites was not always undertaken with the rigour that would be expected today.




Points raised – Are any of the trees subject to a TPO?


Response – There are no trees with TPOs.  Condition 5 ‘Ecological Management and Aftercare Plan’ requires management and replacement of trees for a period of 5 years.


6.8     The following motion was proposed by Cllr Montyn and seconded by Cllr Atkins:


That planning application WSCC/004/20 be deferred to allow further work to take place between Planning Officers and the applicant to explore options and determine what possibilities exist to resolve issues in relation to:

·        Matters regarding highway capacity, road safety and traffic management measures, in the widest sense, and

·        The need for the volume of inert material to be imported, including general fill in the areas currently designated for  woodland.


The Committee voted on the motion, which was approved by a majority.


6.9     That planning application WSCC/004/20 be deferred for Officers to explore with the applicant matters relating to highway capacity, road safety and traffic management and the need for the volume of importation of inert material, as raised in Minute 6.8 above.


Supporting documents: