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Inspector dismisses planning and enforcement appeals relating to 34,000tpa commercial anaerobic digestion facility in the West Sussex countryside

DATE: 11 Oct 2017

Following a 9 day inquiry on various dates between April and July 2017, Planning Inspector Katie Peerless Dip Arch RIBA has today dismissed three conjoined appeals by Crouchland Biogas Ltd against the decision of West Sussex County Council to refuse planning permission for a 34,000 tonnes per annum commercial anaerobic digestion facility at Crouchland Farm in Plaistow, West Sussex, and against two enforcement notices issued by Chichester District Council against the commencement of that development without planning permission.

At the heart of the appeals was the Appellant’s contention that the existing matrix of planning permissions relating to the site generated a fall-back/baseline position which would involve a greater impact on the local environment, in particular on account of vehicle movements, than the proposed development. A certificate of lawfulness appeal had been heard and determined by the Planning Inspectorate in 2016 and found that the lawful use of the AD infrastructure on site was ancillary to the agricultural operations of the farm. There remained a hotly contested dispute, however, as to whether the appellant’s purported fall-back amounted to an ancillary agricultural use and, even if so, the extent to which it was a realistic outcome in the event that the appeals were dismissed.

The other considerations in the appeals included the effects of the proposed development, having regard to any fall-back position, on highway safety, the landscape, tranquility, heritage assets, ecology and its compliance with national and development plan policy relating to the need for and siting of renewable energy and waste management schemes.

In a 118-paragraph decision letter, the Inspector concluded that the Appellant’s purported fall-back/baseline scenario was not authorised by the existing planning consents relating to the site, and that in any event there were uncertainties relating to whether it would be implemented which limited the weight that should be accorded to it even if it were authorised. In the light of those conclusions, the Inspector found that the impacts of the development resulted in a number of breaches of the development plan and that material considerations did not justify a decision other than in accordance with the development plan.

The decision can be downloaded here.

Reuben Taylor QC appeared for the Appellant, Crouchland Biogas Ltd.

Charles Banner appeared for West Sussex County Council.

Gwion Lewis appeared for Chichester District Council.