Since I wrote my article for the Cornish Guardian, I have continued to plug away at County Hall to try to get answers, and to encourage the Council to take action.
Printed below is an update I circulated to local residents at the end of last week.
On 5th November, I had a meeting with Phil Mason and Nigel Doyle (Head and Assistant Head of Planning & Regeneration) for over three hours, and I have the following to report back.
Sorry for the length and that much of the information is of a very technical nature.
I formally remade the following requests:
- A formal letter clarifying the Council’s position on the (i) first non-material amendment (NMA) and whether the Council will be challenging what was agreed about vehicle movements, and (ii) how the authority will be dealing with further changes to the traffic movements (that agreed within the original consent and the initial NMA).
- A formal letter clarifying the Council’s position on the second NMA (downsizing of tanks) and the failure of Greener for Life to build the tanks in compliance to any agreed plans, as well as what action the Council will be taking.
- A decision from the Council about the latest statement from Greener for Life (about increased lorry movements between 7th and 14th November), which would not be in compliance with the construction management plan or the conditions for the consent, and what action it will be taking.
- An update on what progress has been made with regard to Cornwall Council investigating the possibility of an access directly off the A30.
- An update on what progress has been made with regard to Cornwall Council Highways, reviewing the state of the roads through Higher Fraddon (and surrounding areas) and what can be done.
- A decision from the Council about the constraints for both the construction and operational phases for the biogas plant, because it is clear to me that their present operations are not in compliance with either the construction management plan for the build or the actual planning consent.
- A census of existing traffic movements through Higher Fraddon and surrounding areas.
The main part of the discussion focussed on the failure of Greener for Life to build the three tanks in compliance with agreed plans.
Phil Mason confirmed that two members of the Council’s enforcement team were on site all-day on Monday surveying the site and what has been built. They are presently working on all the data and will have submitted all the information to senior officers by the end of the week.
However, Phil Mason and Nigel Doyle already accept that the tanks are not in compliance with the planning consent (or the subsequent NMA). This is very significant for us, as it means that the tanks do not have the benefit of planning permission and the biogas plant will, I believe, need to be revisited through the planning process. I understand it could also mean that the NMAs are also no longer valid.
Phil Mason and Nigel Doyle contacted Greener for Life to tell them about the situation and informed them that they were about to send a letter to them setting out the Council’s concerns and seeking an immediate meeting.
This meeting has been agreed for 5.00 on Monday (10th November). I will be present at this meeting.
The letter sent yesterday was as follows:
Biogas Plant at Penare Farm, Higher Fraddon
I refer to the above development that was granted planning permission under reference number PA12/01700. Subsequent to that permission two non-material amendments were granted under application numbers PA13/09571 and PA14/06189.
As you are aware two enforcement cases were raised following complaints about breaches of the construction management plan and the more fundamental issue that was being raised that the Digesters were not being built in accordance with either the approved plans or those granted under PA14/06189.
The provisional results of the site survey that was undertaken on
2014 indicate that the Digesters are not being built in accordance
with the approved plans. They therefore do not have the benefit of planning
permission. As such the Digesters are being erected at your own risk and may be
liable to enforcement action.
Following the results of the full site survey the Council will need to determine what course of action to take and whether specifically to issue a Temporary Stop Notice in advance of an Enforcement Notice.
I have been made aware that there is an intention to transport waste to the site from
6 November 2014 to prime the Digesters. Given the results
of the provisional site survey and the implications this has for the planning
position I would recommend that you delay this activity until the full results
of the survey are known. This would give us an opportunity to determine the
facts and consider appropriate remedies and actions together.
I would therefore recommend that we meet at New County Hall,
Truro on Monday 10 November 2014 or
at a mutually convenient time.
If the waste is transported onto the site in advance of our meeting and it proves disruptive then the likelihood that a Temporary Stop Notice would be issued will increase.
I trust the above is satisfactory and look forward to meeting you next week.
Nigel Doyle (Assistant Head of Planning & Regeneration)
As you will see, the Council is still considering how it can use its powers to address or revisit issues relating to the biogas plant. I can confirm that the Council is also seeking legal clarification on some points.
It is all extremely complex situation, both for the validity of the planning permission but also related “conditions.” I will report back further, next week, when I have greater clarity.
In advance of the meeting next Monday, it is also my intention to meet with key representatives of the Higher Fraddon Residents Action Group to talk through the technical / legal matters relating to the biogas site, so that I can push forward local views.
I have the following additional updates to report.
At yesterday’s meeting, Phil Mason acknowledged that the Council’s Highways Officers were stretched and he agreed that, instead of using in-house staff, he would commission a highways expert to review the state of the roads through Higher Fraddon, etc, and investigate the technical possibilities for an access directly off the A30.
Phil Mason also agreed that he would sanction a census of existing traffic movements through Higher Fraddon and surrounding areas, as background data to aid future discussions around the biogas plant, etc.