Winslade Slurry Store (Resubmission)
“Clearly, slurry storage raises serious concerns for the operator and public safety. The proposed slurry store is adjacent to the public road and would be easily accessible. Decomposition generates gases such as ammonia, methane, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulphide. Carbon dioxide is odourless, and hydrogen sulphide quickly becomes undetectable by odour by destroying a victims’ sense of smell. If inhaled, they can cause rapid unconsciousness by poisoning or displacement of oxygen leading to hypoxia. Death may follow then from poisoning or hypoxia directly, or by drowning caused by unconsciousness. In our view, measures to reduce the risks to the public are a material planning matter. Based on our review of the application, the applicant appears not to have presented any information, risk assessment or proposed any risk reduction measures.”
The application detail:
Planning Application Ref: 4039/18/FUL
Applicant Name: Perraton Partners
Description: Change of use of part of a field to provide external farm manure store, along with associated engineering operations (Resubmission of 0147/18/FUL)
Address: Land At Sx776416 Winslade Farm Frogmore TQ7 2PA
Application Date : 10 December 2018
Officer Name: Lucy Hall email@example.com www.swdevon.gov.uk
Target Determination Date: 04 February 2019
SHDC Planning file http://apps.southhams.gov.uk/PlanningSearchMVC/Home/Details/184039
THE LETTER OF OBJECTION – FROM THE SOUTH HAMS SOCIETY
The South Hams Society interest.
1. For the last 50 years, the South Hams Society has been stimulating public interest and care for the beauty, history and character of the South Hams. We encourage high standards of planning and architecture that respect the character of the area. We aim to secure the protection and improvement of the landscape, features of historic interest and public amenity, and to promote the conservation of the South Hams as a living, working environment. We take the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) very seriously and work hard to increase people’s knowledge and appreciation of our precious environment.
2. We support the right development – in the right places – and strenuously oppose inappropriate development, as we believe to be the case with this application, as it currently stands. The apparent lack of supporting assessments that would be expected with an application of this nature is concerning, and we note that the concerns we raised in our letter of representation about Planning Application Ref: 0147/18/FUL have not been addressed in this application.
The protected landscape
3. The application site lies within the South Devon AONB and a range of additional landscape character areas, both national and local, as well as being located close to further landscape character areas and ecology designations. These include, but are not limited to:
4. The National Character Area (NCA) 151 South Devon (Natural England’s 2005 Landscape Character Assessment). The Devon Character Area (DCA) 51 – Salcombe to Kingsbridge Estuary (Devon Landscape Character Assessment). Local Landscape Character Type (LCT) 1B Open Coastal Plateau covers the site (Devon Landscape Character Assessment). The site is also close to the boundary of DCA 7 (Bolt Tail and Start Point Coastal Plateau) and DCA 55 (Start Bay Coastal Hinterland), (Devon Landscape Character Assessment). The Salcombe to Kingsbridge Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) (a Natural England Designation), and an ‘Area of Great Landscape Value’ (a South Hams District Council designation). The Salcombe to Kingsbridge Local Nature Reserve (a local designation).
Heritage assets within 1500 metres include:
5. Bank Barn, Molescombe, listed Grade II. Molescombe Barn, listed Grade II. Pig Sty, Molescombe, listed Grade II. Garden walls, Molescombe, listed Grade II. Molescombe House, listed Grade II – approximately 564 metres from the proposed development. Chapel Cottage, Frogmore Village, listed Grade II. Alexanders Cottage, Frogmore Village, listed grade II. Limekilns on Frogmore Creek, listed Grade II. Stonesettle Cottage, Frogmore Village, listed Grade I. Coombe Cottage, Frogmore Village, listed Grade II. South View, Frogmore Village, listed Grade II. The road from South Pool Conservation Area is adjacent to the proposed site.
6. We appreciate that the NPPF requires Local planning authorities to seek opportunities to meet the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. However, we believe significant adverse impacts on any of them should be avoided, wherever possible, and alternative options which reduce or eliminate such impacts should be considered and pursued.
Relevant Planning policy
7. From our reading of the application, it would appear to fail to make any reference to Planning Policies which we believe are relevant to an application of this nature. By way of example: Section 15. of the NPPF places significant weight on the need to conserve and enhance the natural environment and with paragraph 170. specifically confirming that valued landscapes should be protected and enhanced. In particular, paragraph 172. places great weight on the conservation of the landscape and scenic beauty in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The impact of changes to Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs)
8. Changes to NVZ legislation mean that farmers may have to consider storing waste material for up to six (possibly seven!) months in each year in order to reduce the environmental damage that is caused by inappropriately timed slurry spreading. However, we believe the need to change farming practice, and the selection of the appropriate method of storage, are not directly material planning matters.
R&PADP (England) Regulations 2018
9. South Hams Society members have expressed a number of concerns about the proposed development for a slurry store/lagoon. They include:
Concerns about the lack of detail in the application
10. We appreciate that every Planning application and Appeal is considered on its own merits. But, by comparison with other applications for similar slurry storage we have seen and studied, in our view, application 4039/18/FUL appears to contain very little of the detail normally seen in applications of this significance. The proposed development is in an area clearly acknowledged as being most sensitive and in a highly protected part of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
No planning history
11. The applicant has not listed their previous planning applications concerning the farm. Two, in particular, contain detailed descriptions of the highly sensitive and protected landscape in which the farm sits, and both are worthy of note. The first is application 43/1735/99/0 (11/09/00) for an agricultural dwelling (11/09/00) which was allowed on Appeal with conditions attached intended to protect the highly sensitive landscape and AONB (Appeal PINS Ref. APP/K1128/A/00/1043702). The second is the Proof of Evidence of Michael Hawes, presented on behalf of the Rule 6 Parties at the Winslade Inquiry PINS REF: APP/K1128/V/15/3136298. The Proof of Evidence includes an expert description of the landscape which would be affected by the proposed slurry store.
12. The applicant has not referred to the planning history or provided any expert assessment of the impact that the proposal would have on the sensitive and highly protected landscape.
Concerns about the size
13. While DEFRA provides guidance, it is the applicant’s responsibility to calculate the size and capacity of the proposed slurry store. In our view, the physical size is not a material planning matter in itself, but of course, it’s design and size would affect its visual impact upon the surrounding landscape, which we believe is a material planning issue. Again, the application contains little, or incomplete, detail on this issue.
Booklet Fertiliser and Manure Plans – Part 2 Manure Planning
Concerns about road traffic
14. With the changes brought about by the NVZ legislation and the restrictions to permissible slurry spreading periods, even if the same volume of slurry is delivered to the applicant’s fields, those deliveries would almost certainly take place within a significantly shorter period than they do now. It is, therefore, reasonable to draw the conclusion that the traffic density would increase and tranquillity in the AONB may be threatened. We cannot find any assessment of this potential impact on the area in the proposed development application.
Concerns about safety
15. The Health and Safety Executive point out that “incidents involving slurry occur regularly on farms in Great Britain. These incidents include people, not just farmers, being overcome by toxic gases, drowning as a result of a fall into slurry or liquid stores, or being injured from the collapse of structures containing slurry.” They warn “Always assume the gases will be released in high concentrations and never assume the gas levels will be safe for either humans or animals.”
Authorised and unauthorised entry risks
16. Clearly, slurry storage raises serious concerns for the operator and public safety. The proposed slurry store is adjacent to the public road and would be easily accessible. Decomposition generates gases such as ammonia, methane, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulphide. Carbon dioxide is odourless, and hydrogen sulphide quickly becomes undetectable by odour by destroying a victims’ sense of smell. If inhaled, they can cause rapid unconsciousness by poisoning or displacement of oxygen leading to hypoxia. Death may follow then from poisoning or hypoxia directly, or by drowning caused by unconsciousness. In our view, measures to reduce the risks to the public are a material planning matter. Based on our review of the application, the applicant appears not to have presented any information, risk assessment or proposed any risk reduction measures.
Concerns about odour
17. Air pollution is not just an urban issue. About 88% of ammonia emissions in the UK come from farming. Odour and the emissions of ammonia and the potential effect on the air quality within the designated landscape and in close proximity to ‘non-farm’ dwellings is a direct concern of local residents and to our wider membership. In our view, protecting their amenity and the public enjoyment of the landscape is a material planning matter. Based on our review of the application, the applicant appears not to have presented an assessment of the potential harm or an Odour Management Plan (OMP) or any contingency arrangements for responding to any unforeseen or unusual odour emission episodes.
Concerns about greenhouse gases
18. The environmental impact of ‘intensive’ forms of farming is a serious concern to the public, Government and farming industry. In our opinion, the reduction of harmful by-products from farming and their impact on climate change is a material planning matter. Based on our review of the application, there appears to be no indication that the applicants have assessed the emission issues raised by the proposed development.
Concerns about ammonia emissions
19. Air quality is a major concern for us all. One of the key mitigating activities that have been identified as reducing ammonia emissions from agriculture is slurry storage and management; low emission spreading techniques, covers on slurry tanks or lagoons and low emission floor systems, which all can greatly contribute to lowering ammonia emissions, which we believe is important for improving air quality and decreasing levels of air pollution. Ammonia can travel long distances and adds to other lung-damaging pollution. Again, it would appear that the applicants make no mention of this serious issue in the application.
Emerging risk from spreading of digestate.
20. The Government slurry management – storage report notes: “88% of UK ammonia emissions come from agriculture. Current evidence suggests that emissions may increase over the 2020-2030 period, driven by increases in the use of urea fertiliser and increased animal numbers, and there is an emerging risk from spreading of digestate from anaerobic digestion. In view of these significant potential risks to human health and sensitive ecosystems, it will be important to address Ammonia emission when improving slurry management techniques.” Again, it would appear that the applicants have not included an assessment of this issue in the application.
Important for Devon
21. The Government and Industry Slurry Management and Storage Project note that: “Ammonia has a strong smell, similar to urine.” The Government and farming industry has recognized that it is crucial that the background levels of ammonia, right across the industry, are reduced. It is particularly important in Devon as increased ammonia levels have an adverse impact in high rainfall and low-nitrogen environments. Local concentrations may be elevated where there is a lot of animal waste, such as in intensive farming environments for cattle. Again it would appear that the applicants have made no ammonia control proposals in their development application, for example, by covering the proposed slurry lagoon.
Visual impact on the protected landscape
22. We believe that the visual impact of the proposed development on the landscape is a material planning matter. The development involves a man-made structure. It will be seen and will in our view clearly have a visual impact within the protected landscape, including the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This is a further example where the application fails to provide an assessment of the impact of the proposed development on the landscape.
23. Our members have raised concerns that the planning history for Winslade Farm indicates a consistent trend for the harmful visual impact of proposed development, on the highly protected and sensitive landscape surrounding the farm, to be downplayed. For example:
24. Inquiry APP/K1128/V/15/3136298 Inspector’s recommendation and summary of the decision Paragraph 52. “The Applicant did not submit any other evidence on heritage or landscape.”
25. Appeal Decision APP/K1128/W/17/3185418 Paragraph 13. “I disagree with the appellant’s Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment that the landscape is of “High-Medium” sensitivity. Given my findings above, it is of high sensitivity.”
26. Application No: 43/2567/13/F Landscape/ Visual Impact Paragraph 3. “The Landscape Visual Impact Assessment submitted by the applicant is noted but provides no real or useful analysis of the effects of the proposed development on landscape character or visual amenity. Therefore SHDC officers have undertaken a separate appraisal in order to better inform the decision.”
Mitigation of visual harm
27. Because of practical operational access needs, the problems posed by plant screening, and the need for safety barrier protective fencing, mitigating any harmful visual impact of the structure is problematic. Again, it would appear that the applicant has not submitted an assessment of the impact of the proposed development on the highly protected landscape, in particular, the South Devon AONB.
Concerns about the proposed location
28. The site proposed for the slurry store is outside of the previously approved farm complex area.
29. Application 43/1735/99/0 and the subsequent Appeal (Ref: 1043702) for a replacement agricultural dwelling, in our opinion are worthy of note. Paragraph 3 of the Inspector’s decision made reference to the original permission for the dairy unit, stating “…After a first refusal, a site was carefully chosen where earthworks and planting would minimise the impact on the appearance of the countryside.” In assessing the impact of the farmhouse, it is clear that the above excavations and bund were essential factors in ameliorating the impact on the AONB. Paragraph 15 stating: “The new farmhouse would only be seen as an adjunct to the proposed dairy complex. It would be in the same compound, excavated about 6 metres below natural ground level, enclosed by a bund and concealed from the village below by a natural fold in the slope. It would be screened by planting from the lane above.”
30. We would argue that our view is borne out by the imposition of condition 5. which required, inter alia, the earthworks surrounding the application site to be completed before the agricultural dwelling was occupied.
31. It is our view that without these mitigation measures in place that the dairy unit and agricultural dwelling would not have secured permission due to their potential detrimental impact on the AONB. The current development proposal is for a structure sited outside of the bunded earthworks, which were designed to ensure that no harm was caused to the countryside and to conserve the appearance of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It would appear that the applicant has not indicated that they have considered other suitable locations for the store, which would have a lower visual impact on the protected landscape.
Visible in a highly sensitive and protected area 32. The previous application (0147/18/FUL) notes that the “banks of the proposed store would be grassed to match the surrounding fields. We believe that such a claim is unreasonable and flawed. At different stages of the crop and planting cycle, the field can vary in colour. After ploughing, for example, the area and surrounding grassed banks of the slurry lagoon would be highly visible in contrast to the ‘fresh’ earth.
Visibly discourage unauthorised access
33. We also believe that the applicants have not included in their Design and Access Statement, or in the block plans, any detail of the necessary safety fencing, to discourage unauthorised access, by people and animals, to the storage area. It is inconceivable that safety protection will not be installed. The HSE recommended 1.3-metre high wire fencing with posts every 2.75 metres which if installed would, in our view, clearly add to the visibility issues surrounding the proposed development.
The need to cover
34. Based on our review of the application, the applicants appears not to mention any proposal to cover the slurry lagoon. Given the DEFRA objective that all slurry stores should be covered, in order to reduce environmentally harmful gas emissions, we believe that the store will eventually have to be covered. This would add to the visibility of the man-made development in the highly sensitive and protected landscape and would, at times, contrast with the earth or field crop and we believe cause visual harm to the AONB.
Visual harm to the AONB
35. It is our view the visibility of the slurry store would have a negative visual impact on the South Devon AONB, in particular, the uninterrupted panoramic views from the Kingsbridge Estuary and Frogmore Creek, the Salcombe to Kingsbridge Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest, and an Area of Great Landscape Value, and the Salcombe to Kingsbridge Local Nature Reserve. Again the applicants do not appear to have considered the visual harms involved.
36. We understand that whether the proposal is considered a ‘major development’ within the AONB is a matter for the decision maker. However, in the light of the substantial change proposed, issues of ‘operator’ and public safety, air pollution, potential odour and the high sensitivity of the landscape within the South Devon AONB, we believe that this should be considered a ‘major development’. We believe the Case No. ENF/16/00269/NUDRU – Pulsards Farm, Pennymoor, Tiverton, Devon supports our view.
Planning approval refused
37. We draw your attention to the retrospective planning application for an earth banked slurry lagoon at Beckland Farm in Hartland which was turned down in June 2018 by Torridge District Council. The reasons for the decision included:
38. “Emissions of ammonia and the potential effect on the air quality within the designated Tintagel Marsland Clovelly Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Marsland to Clovelly Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).” and:
39. “The landscape and visual harm of the lagoon with the designated Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and within the Coastal Preservation Area with an insufficient justification that the lagoon has to be sited in this sensitive landscape and not elsewhere.”