Flora and fauna reprieve

Posted: 9th May 2013

A village campaign group has won its High Court fight to block plans for a lorry park and industrial units close to a river which is home to rare flora and fauna and is recognised as a site of special scientific interest. The court pinpointed a fatal inconsistency in the local authority’s consideration of whether an environmental impact assessment (EIA) was required before planning consent could be granted.

RiverResidents of Great Ryburgh, near Fakenham, North Norfolk, have for years fought to scotch proposals put forward in respect of a three-hectare site by Crisp Maltings Group Limited. Villagers say that the proposals would risk polluting the nearby River Wensum, which is home to white-clawed crayfish, Desmoulin's wort snail, brook lamprey, bullhead and rare plants that flourish in its chalk-rich stream.

North Norfolk District Council granted planning permission for the scheme, including a lorry park, two silos capable of containing 6,000 tonnes of barley, fuel storage and other facilities, in September 2011. The council’s development control committee ruled that it was unnecessary to carry out an EIA or a habitats appropriate assessment (HAA) on the basis that there was ‘no relevant risk’ of the river being contaminated.

The committee’s decision was based on advice from Natural England and other bodies and on detailed environmental and flood risk assessments carried out by Crisp Maltings. Mitigation measures proposed by the company were said to be ‘tried and tested’. Objectors contended that a real pollution risk existed if those measures failed on rainy days.

In overturning the planning permission, the court noted that the committee had imposed conditions on the consent requiring regular testing of the river waters for pollutants. In circumstances where there was some evidence that a ‘residual risk’ of contamination existed, those conditions exposed an inconsistency in the approach of the committee, which could not ‘rationally adopt both positions at once’.

The decision means that the council must consider Crisp Maltings' application afresh and, if it identifies any potential pollution risk, it must carry out a full EIA and HAA before it can lawfully grant planning permission.