|Last update 23rd March 2009||
WHAT A LEGACY!
Veolia's planning application proposed landfilling Rock Common with 7.3 million cubic metres of domestic, commercial and industrial waste. This would make it the biggest landfill operation in the South of England. Landfill operations would begin in 2009 - 10. Landfilling would take 25-30 years. It would then be another 60 years for the land mass to stabilise. Evidently, this would have a major impact on the Chanctonbury area for the rest of this century.
Meeting a need
Water is a solution
CLAG has had the water tested by a UKAS accredited laboratory and, surprise, surprise, it is drinkable. If Veolia’s plans to fill the quarry with waste succeed, any chance of harnessing the plentiful water resource from this aquifer will simply go down the drain. Wouldn’t it be good if we could persuade Veolia to harness this vital resource rather than filling a convenient hole in the ground with waste. Instead of being the villains of the peace, they could be heroes of the hour.
CLAG membership tops 1250 as local concern grows
CLAG now has over 1250 members, keen to demonstrate their refusal to acquiesce to Veolia’s proposals. Most are resident in the Chanctonbury area, but because this is such a well-loved tourist area, the membership includes many visitors from all over the UK and overseas. We expect membership to grow significantly when Veolia makes a formal planning application.
Veolia’s plan to fill Rock Common Quarry with waste had a major impact on our local communities, even before their application was lodged. At the very least, residents are concerned what landfill would do to property prices in the area, and many are now trying to sell up and move. What a pity to be driven out in this way.
Free and easy
Trailing behind Europe
West Sussex County Council wants 45 per cent of household waste recycled by the year 2015, to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill sites. When it comes to using landfill as a means of waste disposal, the UK is trailing woefully behind Europe. In Germany, for example, less than 20% of waste goes into landfill. In the UK, it is currently around 75%. Clearly we need to clean up our act.
Council says Rock Common is not needed for landfill
Rock Common is not required for landfill use. West Sussex County Council has made it clear that it already has sufficient landfill capacity for the foreseeable future without using this site. Rock Common Quarry also fails nearly all of the site selection criteria in the Jacobs-Babtie model used by SEERA to identify areas suitable for disposal of London waste. Veolia believes the County Council's forecasts of how much landfill will be needed are too low. Veolia intends challenging the figures to justify the use of Rock Common for landfill.
VEOLIA BACKS DOWN
- 3 year battle to save Rock Common is over
Wiston Estate has announced today that Veolia will not appeal against the decision of WSCC to refuse permission for landfill at Rock Common Quarry. Notification of Veolia's intent was outlined in a brief email from William Trinnick (Wiston Estate Manager) which was sent this morning (23rd March 2009) to Washington Parish Council, CLAG and local newspapers.
In its letter to the Parish Council, the estate talks of 'forming a closer rapport'. Certainly there is a need for bridges to be re-built with the community, as relations have been quite badly damaged by Veolia and Wiston's actions.
For CLAG, this is great news. We have secured our principal objective of stopping landfill at Rock Common Quarry. A rare victory for common sense in an all too mad world!
The final piece in the jigsaw will be to secure the outcome for Rock Common that we all want - that the site can be returned to a lake and nature reserve now that sand reserves in the quarry are all but exhausted.
COUNTY COUNCIL SAYS 'NO' LANDFILL AT ROCK COMMON
At a meeting of its Planning Committee on February 10th 2009, West Sussex County Council rejected Veolia's application to turn Rock Common Quarry into a landfill site. After hearing arguments for and against the proposal the Planning Committee voted unanimously to refuse Veolia's application, much to the delight of objectors in the packed Council Chamber, who erupted into loud applause.
What happened on February 10th
For a detailed summary of the main points of the meeting click here
By 0930 hours, the courtyard in front of County Hall had filled with CLAG members for a peaceful demonstration. A fantastic turnout considering that, overnight, intense rain had made many roads impassable. A police officer turned up in a car, politely enquired as to how long we planned to be there and then left quickly. A few minutes later Nick Herbert arrived to meet with objectors. As the Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the whole issue of landfill is completely within his sphere of concern. Some photos on the steps of County Hall, then in to the warm Council Chamber for the Planning meeting.
Unusually, the Chairman of the Planning Committee, Councillor Hodgson, permitted six people to speak against the planning application, instead of the usual three.
First up was Nick Herbert MP, who explained to the committee that he had listened to countless objections to Veolia's plans, but that not one person had come forward in support of it. He urged the committee to listen to the concerns expressed by Horsham District Council, as well as Washington, Ashington and Storrington Parish Councils, and by hundreds of local people with legitimate concerns. He said that zero landfill should be the goal and that landfill should be viewed as the last resort. He considered that the application was wholly inappropriate given the proximity of Rock Common to Washington village and the proposed South Downs National Park.
John Auckland, Chairman of CLAG explained that Veolia's plan to fill a fresh water aquifer with waste was far from a risk-free solution. He criticised the technical details put forward by Veolia as "flawed, contradictory and error-riddled". And he explained that Veolia's need for void space for existing waste management contracts with Hampshire, East Sussex and Brighton and Hove were the real reason for its push to fill Rock Common with waste - not the waste needs of West Sussex.
Dr. James English LRCP & SI MD MRCOG, outlined the health risks associated with landfill, landfill leachate and gas flaring. He explained that the potential for a major public health problem would be real as a result of permission for landfill at Rock Common being granted, and that it could leave the Council with financial and criminal corporate liability for any forseeable consequences in terms of ill-health of neighbouring communities.
Speaking for CLAG and as MD of Castle Kitchens, Erica Sheward put the case for local firms which would be closed down if Veolia's proposal was approved. She explained that Veolia had completely ignored the existence of her company which supplies thousands of meals on wheels every day and has been given permission recently to expand its food production facility just yards from the proposed landfill site.
Lesley Britt, Chair of Washington Parish Council listed the parish councils which had objected to the scheme and explained how it would devestate quality of life in an area of outstanding beauty which is visited by thousands of tourists each year.
Nat Belderson, Planning Officer of the South Downs Joint Committee explained the impact of the proposed development on the adjacent South Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and commented that the quarry merited protection as a Regionally Important Geological Site.
Only two people put themselves forward to speak in support of Veolia's application - John O'Sullivan, Veolia's UK Strategy and Development Director and David Hall of Golder Associates - the engineer responsible for the technical submission lambasted by CLAG's chairman a few minutes earlier.
John O'Sullivan explained that Veolia was "quite a nice company really" and not used to such a negative press. After a delay of several minutes, trying to get his computer to work, David Hall said that he could not see why landfill would pose such a threat to groundwater, given that landfilling had been allowed nearby in the past without any form of containment barrier.
In the ensuing discussion, councillors questioned the Environment Agency on its policy stance against the planning application on the grounds that it posed a risk of contamination to groundwater. Councillor Hodgson confirmed that the Environment Agency would be prepared to defend its position at an appeal. It was decided that grounds for refusal would be extended to include the social and econimic impacts of the proposed landfill activity and that the RIGS status was also a ground for refusal.
Veolia originally submitted its planning application 18 months ago. Some 600 individual objection letters were received by West Sussex County Council, which is a staggering response. They include representations from nearby residents and businesses, local schools and medical professionals, parish councils - and, of course, CLAG. The objections raise concerns about the potential health impacts for the nearby population, transport issues, pollution risks, damage to local businesses, impact on tourism and the environment, and the long term loss of amenity for those living nearby.
However, Veolia's application was incomplete and a second set of information was submitted in 2009. Most of the additional information requested by West Sussex County Council is required under Regulation 19 of the Environmental Impact Regulations. It is shameful that Veolia and its planning consultants did not see fit to provide the missing information in the first place - they certainly knew it was needed.
Rock Common Quarry is owned by Wiston Estate, one of the largest private landowners in Sussex, which also owns nearby Chanctonbury Ring and a large part of the South Downs. Although the application has been made by a waste management company (Veolia Environmental Services) Wiston Estate would benefit from the landfill scheme to the tune of many millions of pounds in revenues over several decades. An indication of how concerned people are about the application, and how passionately they wish to protect it, is that even Wiston Parish Council has registered an objection to the proposal.
Late last year, some local members of The National Trust cancelled their memberships following the re-election of Mr Harry Goring, owner of Wiston Estate and Rock Common to a senior post within the National Trust. His re-election was nominated by Mr William Trinnick, Estate Manager at Wiston.
ENVIRONMENT AGENCY MAINTAINS OPPOSITION
“We take our role in the planning process extremely seriously to ensure that the environment is always considered and protected. We have looked at Veolia’s application very carefully and looked at the environmental impact of the proposed landfill site at Rock Common, Washington. We are objecting to the current proposal because the site lies on a major aquifer and we feel it would pose a significant risk to groundwater quality.”
This will be a major blow to Veolia because the EA is regarded as a statutory consultee and its advice will be noted. To see the full text of the Environment Agency's statement, click here
Village unites against Veolia
Councillors Britt and Milner-Gulland explained technical details of the application and why it did not fit with planning policies. Representatives of the Environment Agency and West Sussex County Council answered questions.
The meeting was addressed by Nick Herbert MP, who confirmed his strong opposition to the plan. Erica Sheward, Technical Director of Castle Kitchens, outlined how plans to build the UK's first allergy-free food production facility in Washington would have to be scrapped, if Veolia's plans are approved. John Auckland, Chairman of CLAG, described the reality of living with landfill and implored attendees to write letters of objection without delay. This message was later reinforced by County Councillor Colin O'Neill, who urged attendees to "bang on neighbours' doors and make sure they also write in".
Parish Councillors criticised the owner of Rock Common, Wiston Estates, for encouraging a planning application that would devastate the area for decades to come. Nick Herbert MP said that while he understood Wiston's commercial case, he felt the cost to the community and the environment would be unacceptable.
Businesses faced closure
AND LANDOWNER MEET WITH CLAG
The water issue was discussed at length. Mr Goring was very interested in the idea of tapping into the considerable water resource that is available at Rock Common, but he explained that he is legally bound by an option he had signed with Veolia.
This was the second meeting attended by Mr Herbert and CLAG. The first was on Tuesday 30th May 2007 when Mr Herbert examined aerial photographs of the area before being given a guided tour of the village. He was able to see Rock Common quarry at close quarters, and appeared shocked at the volume of water being pumped out of it. The tour ended with a CLAG reception at Castle Kitchens in The Hollow, with a lengthy discussion on the potential impact of Veolia's landfill proposals on residents, businesses and the environment. Mr Herbert was also keen to establish local opinion of the SEERA (South East England Assembly) proposal to send over 10 percent of London's waste to West Sussex.
After the latest meeting, the MP again reiterated that in his view, landfill would be an inappropriate outcome for Rock Common Quarry, and pledged his support to CLAG.
Check clag.co.uk regularly for information and news.