ACTION will be taken against a controversial energy farm after councillors voted in favour of enforcement this afternoon (Wednesday, June 24).
Chichester District Council will issue two enforcement notices to the owners of Crouchlands Farm, in Rickmans Lane, near Plaistow, over what it deemed to be an unauthorised change of use of the site into a commercial biogas plant.
Residents have strongly objected to the scale of operations, which involves an anaerobic digestion plant breaking down organic material to produce biogas,
Speaking after the planning committee decision at East Pallant House, Clarissa Bushell, of the Protect Our Rural Environment (PORE) group, said: “We are delighted Chichester District Council has stood up to the mark to put a stop to this.
“This sends a clear message to businesses like Crouchlands Biogas and its investors that they can’t just ignore the planning system and they won’t get away with it.”
The meeting heard from both sides of the debate, including Crouchlands owner Leon Mekitarian and objectors Mrs Bushell, Sara Burrell of Plaistow and Ifold Parish Council and Ian Campbell, chairman of Kirdford Parish Council.
Mr Mekitarian told councillors the issue was ‘complex and ongoing’, with an issue over lawful use to be resolved in an appeal over a West Sussex County Council planning decision.
He argued a report in front of the committee was inaccurate and there would be no point in taking action at this stage, as it would not happen before the result of any appeal.
Council officers hit back, stating they were ‘well aware’ of the long history of the site and any appeal against the enforcement and lawful use could be heard at the same time.
The legal issue, however, means any action to remove equipment from the site would not happen until at least the end of the year.
Mr Campbell said: “We are very pleased with the decision, although it is going to take a long time before anything changes.”
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Mekitarian said: “Today’s decision by Chichester District Council has achieved two things. Firstly it has made a complex legal and planning matter even more complicated, and secondly it has threatened the livelihood of the twenty five people we employ on the farm. Neither outcome is of benefit to our non farming neighbours and those that rely upon the work that we do.
“Whilst we are in the process of appealing West Sussex County Council’s decision to overrule their officers recommendation to grant planning permission for our green energy plant, it would have made sense for enforcement action to wait until that process has finished. We are now forced to appeal this decision also, which will incur further costs to the council and ultimately to the people that they serve.
“We shall continue to work closely with both the district and the county council to try to find a solution to this complicated planning situation, a solution that works for all that live and work in our community”.
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