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The report below is based on the WSCC minutes for the Planning Committee meeting on February 10th 2009:

The Committee considered a report by the Divisional Manager for County Development. The Planning Consultant acting on behalf of the Divisional Manager for County Development introduced the report and highlighted the key issues of need and the potential environmental impacts. The Consultant advised that the significant environmental impacts fell into three broad categories, (A) unacceptable significant environmental effects, (B) environmental effects inadequately assessed in the Environmental Statement and (C) significant environmental effects which can be mitigated for or controlled.

The Divisional Manager for County Development advised that an incorrect plan had been included as Appendix 3(a), a replacement correct plan was displayed at the meeting, (copy attached to the signed minutes).

Mr Nick Herbert, MP for Arundel and South Downs spoke against the application. Nick Herbert referred to the strength of local feeling against the landfill application in a beautiful location on the edge of the South Downs. He described specific objections to the scale of the proposal, the impact on the countryside and tranquility of the area, potential for an increase in traffic problems, odour and pollution and the location of Rock Common on an aquifer. Mr Herbert stated that landfill should only be used for waste disposal as a last resort, that West Sussex County Council should aim for a zero landfill policy and that the disposal of London waste in the county was unacceptable.

Mr John Auckland, Chairman of the Chanctonbury Landfill Action Group, spoke against the application. John Auckland referred to the high quality drinkable water available from the quarry and the importance of protecting ground water. He stated that the proposed measures for a containment barrier and the perimeter pumping system were deeply flawed. He asserted that the application by Veolia had been submitted purely for business objectives to meet the needs of their current contracts with Hampshire, Brighton and Hove and East Sussex County Council.

Dr James English spoke against the application. Dr English referred to medical research which described the relationship between landfill and the risk to human health including birth defects and cancer. A failure of the containment barrier would be disastrous due to the release of toxins in the leachate. He considered the application was submitted purely for reasons of corporate gain. Any such failure, he said, would leave the council open to corporate litigation.

Erica Sheward, Technical Director of Castle Kitchens Ltd spoke against the application. Erica Sheward explained that Castle Kitchens, located adjacent to the proposed landfill site supplied specialist foods for people with food allergies, food intolerances as well as for ‘meals on wheels’. She asserted that the proposal for landfill at the site would create an economic wilderness in the area and that the economic stability of the area affecting many other local businesses would be devastated by a landfill site.

Lesley Britt, Chairman of Washington Parish Council spoke against the application. Lesley Britt referred to the large numbers of objectors to the application, including objections from all the local parish councils and the district council. She believed that the application was speculative and ill-judged, many questions about the proposal remained unanswered. Lesley Britt stated that St Mary’s Primary School had not been identified by Veolia as the nearest school and that the headteacher at the school was very concerned about the health and wellbeing of the school children.

Nat Belderson, Planning Officer, South Downs Joint Committee (SDJC) spoke against the application. Nat Belderson stated that the SDJC had concerns about the visual impact of a landfill site for the next 25 years just outside an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The SDJC also had concerns about the loss of the quarry face as a landscape feature, a notable roadside verge, the potential loss of a number of species of animals and invertebrates in the quarry and access to a regionally important geomorphological site. Nat Belderson stated that the SDJC was
also concerned about the detrimental impact of traffic on the local community.

John O’Sullivan, Veolia ES UK Strategy and Development Director spoke in support of the application. John O’Sullivan stated that Veolia took their responsibilities to the public seriously and the company was a leading investor in alternatives to landfill. He supported the aim for zero landfill but the reality was that there was a need for landfill space in West Sussex. He stated that Rock Common had been identified as a site for landfill in an early draft of the Waste Local Plan. Rock Common Quarry was a large hole which should be utilised and if granted permission, Rock Common would be a highly engineered modern site. John O’Sullivan asserted that the environmental effects listed in Section B of the Executive Summary could be addressed if the issues associated the impact on groundwater quality could be resolved.

David Hall, Golder Associates, spoke in support of the application. David Hall described the development of site, utilising hydraulic containment and explained that leakage would only be inwards, groundwater entering the landfill. He stated that there was little evidence of pollution from the adjacent Windmill Landfill site even though it had no basal liner. David Hall asserted that Rock Common was not a sensitive location in terms of landfill. He stated that the Environment Agency (EA) had not considered site specific issues in relation to RGN3 and that the Risk Assessment had not been adequately addressed.

The acting local member Colin O’Neill spoke on the application. Colin O’Neill supported the points made by objectors, particularly those of Washington Parish Council. Residents of Washington, living closest to site faced 25 years of disruption. He referred to the increasing expense of landfill. West Sussex County Council would need to identify alternative sites and other methods of disposal of waste.

The Committee raised the following points in the discussion that followed:

  • Location of the site on an aquifer - members had considerable concerns about any risk of polluting groundwater and asked for clarification about the risks of the proposed development
  • The process of hydraulic containment – members were concerned about the integrity of the liner and the method of disposing of putrified water
  • Unknown volumes of sand reserves at the quarry, if lost, would result in the loss of a valuable mineral resource
  • Any additional HGV traffic in the location was unacceptable as the local road network is already impacted by this problem
  • The Reasons for Refusal needed to be enhanced to cover all concerns.

The EA advised that following a consideration of the risk assessment provided by the applicant, it was understood that the protection of groundwater was reliant on the lining systems and active water management systems. There was a risk of failure of these systems. As the location of the quarry was on a major aquifer, the risk from the operation was considered to be unacceptable. Based on this assessment the EA had objected to the proposal in accordance with the National Landfill Location Policy. With reference to the possible degradation of the liner, the Divisional Manager for County Development advised that it was not possible to assess the risk of degradation of the liner from leachate and therefore a precautionary approach was being recommended. The EA advised that leachates would be controlled and pumped out of a landfill to be treated prior to discharging. This was controlled through the permitting process.

The Chairman proposed that the Reasons for Refusal should include the cumulative impact of the application on residents. This was seconded by Mrs Freeman.

Mr Hall proposed that the Reasons for Refusal should also include the impact of the application on the social and economic wellbeing of residents as well as the impact of the application on geology. This was seconded by Mrs Mockridge. The Committee adjourned for 15 minutes whilst additional Reasons for Refusal were
prepared for consideration.

The Committee voted unanimously to accept the officer recommendation to refuse planning permission, for the reasons set out in the report plus additional reasons for refusal (c) and (d) below.
Resolved – that planning permission is refused for the following reasons:

(a) the use of the land at Rock Common Quarry for non-hazardous, non-inert waste disposal is not in the long-term public interest because its location on a major aquifer and its reliance on longterm active management measures, have a potential for significant environmental impacts on groundwater. Accordingly, the development is contrary to guidance in Planning Policy
Statements 10 and 23 and the following statutory and emerging development plan policies: Policy NRM2 of the draft South East Plan; Policy ERA5 of the West Sussex Structure Plan; and Policy G4 of the Revised Deposit Draft West Sussex Waste Local Plan.

(b) the Environmental Statement (January 2007) and Environmental Statement Regulation 19 Responses (June 2008 and October 2008) provide insufficient information in respect of flood risk, hydrogeological impacts, impact on mineral resources, assumed settlement rates, the site access, and impact on local amenity, such that a full assessment of the significance of the environmental impacts arising from the development cannot be properly assessed against planning policy. Accordingly, the Environmental Statement and Regulation 19 Responses, as
currently submitted, fail to meet the requirements of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999.

(c) quarrying activities and more recently simultaneous quarrying and landfilling activities in the area have been tolerated by the local community for over 80 years and additional landfilling for a period in excess of 25 years is considered to be unreasonable. Accordingly, due to the cumulative impacts of development in the area on the social and economic well-being of the local community, the development is contrary to PPS10, PPS23, Policy DC9 of the Horsham District Council’s General Development Control Policies and Policy G7 of the Waste Local Plan Revised
Deposit Draft.

(d) the loss of the Regionally Important Geological Site (RIGS) is contrary to PPS9, Policies ERA2 and CH1 of the West Sussex Structure Plan (Saved Policies), Policy DC5 of the Horsham District Council’s General Development Control Policies and Policy G3 of the Waste Local Plan Revised Deposit Draft.