Chichester council could launch prosecution over lagoon of slurry at Plaistow farm

A lagoon of slurry has still not been emptied, more than three-and-a-half years after Chichester District Council issued an enforcement notice.

And now paperwork has been passed on to the council’s legal team to advise whether prosecution should be the next step.

An update about Lagoon 3, which sits on land that was previously part of Crouchland Farm, in Plaistow, was presented to a meeting of the planning committee.

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Shona Archer, enforcement manager, told the meeting: “Those responsible for carrying out the works of compliance have now committed an offence under the Planning Act and the local authority could proceed to a prosecution.

“All the evidence for that has now been submitted to our legal team and I await their thoughts on the paperwork which is before them.”

The lagoon, which is the size of two football pitches, contains 53,000 cubic metres of digestate – a liquid and solid by-product of an anaerobic biodigester plant.

An enforcement notice was issued in 2017, giving the owner until May 2019 to remove the lagoon and digestate from the land.

An extension period was granted in 2018 – but that expired on May 21 this year – and a site visit on May 24 showed the lagoon had not been emptied or taken apart.

One of the major concerns about the lagoon has been its stability.

In 2018, a statement from the Environment Agency spoke about ‘a risk that containment of the lagoon may fail’ and the subsequent contamination of both land and water which could follow.

Simon Oakley (Con, North Mundham & Tangmere) asked: “How long have we got until somebody is going to have to do something to prevent a major pollution incident occurring here?”

There were assurances that the lagoon was ‘very robust and has not altered in a number of years’ – and that the council carried out inspections every six months.

The committee was told that a failure of the lagoon would be gradual and there would be plenty of early warning signs, such as odour and leaks.

Ms Archer told the meeting that the land owner was trying to take steps to find out what exactly was in the lagoon and had been talking to his environmental contractors about what steps could be taken to comply with the enforcement notice.