Monday, 25 June 2018

Council ordered to clear dump site

WASTE including concrete blocks and planks of wood will have to be removed from a Henley

WASTE including concrete blocks and planks of wood will have to be removed from a Henley Town Council dumping site after it lost a planning battle with neighbouring residents.

The council has been refused a certificate of lawful use for a piece of land used to dump grass clippings after failing to prove it had been in use for 10 years or more.

It applied for the certificate for the site at Jubilee Park, off Reading Road, which it said has been used to store grass clippings, machinery and landscaping materials for more than 10 years.

The land is leased by the council to AFC Henley, which in turn allows the council to use a small corner of the field as a waste site.

Neighbours and users of Jubilee Park opposed the application.

They said that while the site had been in use for more than 10 years, this had only been for grass cuttings during most of that time. They claimed bigger items only began to be stored at the site in 2013.

AFC Henley chairman Trevor Howell said there had been no noticeable storage of equipment or machinery at the site until several months ago and provided copies of correspondence between the town council and the club.

There was also opposition from Harpsden Parish Council chairman Kester George, who said the application “appears to be based on false representations and sharp practice”.

Despite sworn affidavits from Gareth Bartle and Karl Bishop, members of the council’s parks team, that the site was used to store equipment and landscaping materials since before they were employed in 2004, South Oxfordshire District Council rejected the application last week. In the decision notice, the council said the “material change of use” of the land from leisure and recreation to a waste site did not occur until after more substantial waste began being stored at the site.

It said: “Therefore it is not immune from enforcement action and is not lawful.”

The council said the statements from Mr Bartle and Mr Bishop were “ambiguous” as to what was being stored on the site and no other evidence of the site’s use had been provided.

The council noted evidence and statements from neighbours and site users, including aerial photographs of the site from the last 10 years which were provided by Mr Howell.

In his report, planning officer Rob Cramp said: “At some point in the past, the land began being used not just for the storage of grass cuttings and other agricultural arisings from Jubilee Park itself, but also from around the town.

“It is not clear from any of the evidence exactly what this date was, but all the evidence suggests an agreement was made between the town council and the leaseholders, AFC Henley.

“It is at this point that the evidence of the applicants and the objectors somewhat diverge.

“The applicants state that the land has been used for wider purposes for a longer period of time, while the objectors say the use remained simply storage arising from the park and town with the odd mower and so on.

“On the balance of probabilities, the objector’s evidence is preferable because they supply more details about the level of use and they have also supplied a letter from the applicants themselves to AFC Henley which acknowledges a much greater increase in activity around 2013-2014.”

Town clerk Mike Kennedy said the town council would not appeal the decision and that the waste would be removed “imminentl”.

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