Helpful planning decisions

If you are currently fighting a planning application for a compost farm then Appeal Decision notices which have gone in favour of nearby residents may be helpful to support your case.

It does seem that if your residents can get the Council to refuse an application, Inspectors are finding in favour of residents, which we believe is to be expected because of the poor quality of many of the applications submitted but also because the Precautionary Principle states that Inspectors should be cautious when they think there is a risk to health or loss of amenity.

All these decision notices show how persistent applicants can be and what an enormous effort residents must make to fight a system which is heavily loaded in favour of any applicant.

We give details of three quite different but all favourable decision notices below.

Old Sodbury, South Gloucs Decision

On the 8th April 2009 a Planning Inspector dismissed an Appeal by an applicant to run an exempt open window composting farm.

The full planing history of the site, prepared for the residents by a planning agent can be seen here.

The residents benefited from an initial consent in June 2004 being temporary (2 years) rather than permanent.When the site operated the smells and health impact were appalling.So when further applications were made the residents were in a good position to challenge assertions that ‘there would be no loss of amenity.’ The site is located on the top of the Cotswold Escarpment with the village and primary school immediately below. Houses and the Primary School Playground are both situated within 250m of the the proposed composting pad, yet the EA had ‘no objection in Principle’ and Officers recommended approval.

Fortunately Members of the Council’s Planning Committee were not prepared to risk further odours or health effects. and refused permission.

An Appeal was lodged but the Inspector dismissed the Appeal, (see full decision notice) his key conclusions being:

“I conclude that there is good reason to believe that, within the 250metre zone at least, harmful effects may occur to human health, were the proposal to proceed.

I conclude that there is an unacceptable risk that the proposal could give rise to levels of offensive odours that would harm the living conditions of local residents.”

Eastville, Boston Lincs Decision

On 15th January 2007 a Planning Inspector dismissed an Appeal for a proposed extension to a partially enclosed composting site.

Planning consent was granted on 14th June 2001 for a composting site processing approximately 11,000 tonnes per annum using vertical composting units. Without appropriate planning consent in place the EA then granted a Licence to process 25,000 tonnes per annum!

The operator proceeded to try and increase operations so that he could process as much material as the EA license allowed. A full history of the site can be seen here.

An appeal which was made against the Council’s decision to refuse planning consent for the site to be expanded.

The Inspector dismissed the Appeal (see full decision notice) finding:

“substantial harm to highway safety would be a consequence of the development proposed;

fugitive emissions would be likely to have a detrimental effect on the living conditions of local residents.”

Please note in this Appeal Decision it is noted that the residents who recorded complaints are 650m-800m away from the site and that the proposed facility is partially enclosed; yet even then because of the history of the site, the Inspector found against the applicant.

Sunhill, Cirencester nr. Gloucestershire

15th February 2006

Agricultural Supplies (Fairford) Ltd had for some time produced compost for mushroom growing (stable manure and chicken litter). They tried to argue that there was reduced demand for mushroom compost and that they should therefore be allowed to compost 27,000 tonnes of green waste/ household kitchen waste.
Gloucestershire Council had deferred the application until:

  • further info was provided on environmental impact;
  • independent environmental and traffic assessments were carried out.

The nearest six dwellings to the site are on the 250m boundary.

As the Council did not determine, the matter was referred to the Inspector.

The application was refused on the grounds of odour, noise, transport and dust (see decision notice).

“I am not satisfied on the available evidence that the air quality would not suffer to the extent that the amenities of the area would be seriously harmed.”

The other key point which the the Inspector noted was that he was not convinced there was an end market for the product. We believe this remains the case today as the large supermarkets will currently not buy any produce for human consumption where compost incorporating food waste has been spread (p29)

There appears to be some doubt about whether the MOW (mixed organic waste compost) would be accepted by organic farmers , and this might affect travel distances and routes for its disposal.

Please also note that although in this case the Inspector did not find that there was a risk from bioaerosols, this decision was earlier than that of the Old Sodbury case and the full technical arguments were not heard (p24). It is not adequate to rely on testing carried out on one day (April 2005). Only a full quantitative assessment will show the likely number of times bioaerosols are likely to exceed safe levels over a given period.

Postcript: Sadly this Inspector’s report was not the end of the matter. The applicant was granted permission for the ‘renewal’ of 10,000 tonnes of green waste in July 2008.