LETTER: Protect farmland

I HAVE been following with interest your coverage of the unauthorised industrial development at Crouchland Farm in Plaistow, and note that Crouchland Biogas has submitted some revised information to support their retrospective planning application.

Crouchland Farm was granted planning permission to build and operate an on-farm anaerobic digester to process cow slurry from the farm only, a development fully supported by the local community.

Since then it has changed beyond all recognition, they have built what will be the largest biogas plant in the UK in what has to be one of the smallest villages, without seeking prior planning approval; bringing in waste from sources outside the farm necessitating thousands of HGV movements on rural lanes.

Only once West Sussex County Council started enforcement proceedings did they submit the retrospective planning application which is being considered.

There is much talk about how this is necessary farm diversification but to be honest, this now has very little to do with the original dairy farm.

The latest submission from Crouchland Biogas shows that they are further reducing the use of cow slurry and crops grown on the farm in favour of importing 35,000 tonnes of energy crops and bringing in tankers of glycerine from somewhere.

One of the biggest concerns of all this is the 9,000 HGV tankers that will need to use our small rural lanes to access the site; their latest figures try to show a baseline of sizeable HGV movements and that this represents just a small increase.

Their original planning permission was for on-farm waste, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that if it’s coming from the farm it wouldn’t result in any HGV movements and so this baseline is completely wrong and this does represent a massive increase in HGV movements.

I would say that if you were planning to build the largest biogas production plant in the UK that you would put a good deal of effort into selecting a site that is most appropriate for the large number

of HGVs that it would generate; ideally locating it close to the strategic lorry route network and away from minor rural lanes and an environment WSCC describes as ‘a largely rural character’.

In fact it’s not just me that thinks this, it’s exactly what the planning rules require – a proper site selection process.

Crouchland Biogas did not consider any other more appropriate sites, they just went ahead and built it – we know this because at a local parish council meeting, one of their directors told us so.

This application must be denied to save our rural environment and show others that you can’t just build industrial plants wherever you choose.

Dave Jordan

Foxbridge Lane

Plaistow