Loss of amenity

visual impact, litter, flies, vermin and moulds

Loss of amenity means that the Public will experience some sort of loss in terms of their use and enjoyment of either their homes or the surrounding area.

You have a legal right to enjoy your property and anybody interfering with that right is open to prosecution. Certain land is protected either by being designated a green belt or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, however, this in itself does not appear to be sufficient to stop these sites being built which can lead to some totaly ridiculous decisions being made.

In the case of Southcroft Farm, Old Sodbury, the Landscapes Officer did not want to spoil the vista of the Badminton Plateau, so she insisted that the compost farm was pushed away from the A46 road. This in turn meant the compost farm was much closer to the village. So it was more important that the view was protected for people driving by on the A46 than it was to protect the rights of the Old Sodbury villagers who had to live with the effects of the compost farm 24 hours a day!

Factors that affect loss of amenity

1. Proximity of the compost farm to occupied dwellings be they, homes, schools or businesses. Usually sites should be at least 250 metres away from any occupied dwellings BUT at the moment there are exceptions.

Sites must also be:

  • Outside groundwater protection zones 1 (inner) and more than 250 m from any water extraction point;
  • Outside groundwater protection 1 and zone 2 (outer) when a WML (to process 5,000 tonnes or more) is sought;
  • Not within 1 km of a European site (protected habitat). Web-site DEFRA;
  • Not within 1 km of a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Web-site English Nature.

2. How much green waste material is to be processed and how contaminated it is. Be clear about what 1,000 tonnes of material actually looks like. (See pictures).

3. Where and how much material will be stored. (Here you must take into account the amount of newly delivered material and the amount of composting material.) Many operators build bunds around their sites which is simply not allowed without planning consent.

4. Who is going to monitor the maximum amount of material to be delivered and stored? If the License and planning consent do not specify this, then it is highly unlikely that this can be monitored or enforced.

5. Where is the compost to be spread? DEFRA has designated huge parts of the country as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones. This restricts spreading to approximately 35 tonnes per hectare per annum. We had to advise the EA of this and prove our point so don’t be surprised if your local EA office is not aware of this one.

6. Under its 7A exemption, the EA requires to be notified of the exact grid reference of the location where the compost is to be used but more importantly requires that the compost is to be ‘stored in a secure place where it cannot escape and members of the Public are unable to gain access to it’.

Litter

It is a well-documented problem that kerbside green bin waste is contaminated by plastic and other waste, plastic, shoes and all sorts.

The photographs below show an open windrow site, taking kerbside green waste, operating in South Gloucestershire:

Unfortunately, once contaminated it is a difficult and expensive to remove such litter so many operators who are seeking maximum profit tend not to bother. Surface litter tends to blow all over the sites and the more embedded litter gets shredded and spread over the land.


Screening and wind sifting can help with this process but obviously incurs further costs. For a higher quality compost you should look for evidence that your operator intends to screen to 20mm rather than 40mm or higher.

Whole papers have been written on this subject (Entec UK Ltd) but the composting industry now considers it not only best practice but also essential to screen to 20mm to adequately remove plastic contamination from compost.

High levels of contamination mean that most quality farmers will simply not take compost derived from municipal kerbside waste. A cow only needs to ingest on piece of plastic and they can be dead.

Other causes of loss of amenity

Flies – It has been widely experienced by groups of residents near these sites that the increase in fly population is dramatic and extremely unpleasant.

Vermin – Nice warm compost littered with food waste is a haven for rats.
Every time the compost is moved they go running and usually find their way into people’s gardens. One resident has described how she will not let her children play out any more because of the huge rats that have appeared since composting operations began.

Green moulds – Green moulds appear on windows, garden paths, drives, caravans.

Does the proposed/existing site contravene existing planning policies?

Each Local Authority will have developed their own local plans. A good planning agent should be able to guide you and the planners at your Local Authority as to whether any planning policies are being contravened.