On Wednesday night I found myself at Solihull Council house as I had been given speaking time during the planning committee to represent the Meriden RAID group as they raised continuing issues they are having at the former traveller site at Eaves Green Lane.
The questions submitted, along with the accompanying pictures, are attached below.
You will be aware that I have notified you of three questions relating to the report before you relating to the restoration of land in Eaves Green Lane. You are being asked to note it contents.
Many residents of Meriden have asked me to express their thanks to Members and Officers for the robust and fair way in which they have addressed this lengthy and difficult dispute to date and the clear determination to adopt a proper plan led approach in provision for Gypsies and Travellers.
The three questions I wish to put to this Committee, relate to the outstanding restoration of the Land in Eaves Green Lane which under the terms of the Injunction, require it to be restored to the condition it was in before it was unlawfully occupied, excavated and levelled. This restoration was required by 21st May 2013. The Injunction, also prohibits certain activities on the Land such as the storage of waste materials, grubbing up of hedges and felling of trees.
My questions are informed by observations of the Land at 09.00 this morning, so in that sense represent the latest position.
1. My first question relates to minor outstanding works – There is still a substantial quantity of waste wood to the far end of the former barn site. This arrived during the travellers occupation and whilst some attempt has been made to reduce the quantity of waste material, it nevertheless remains. Also three trees appear to have been felled in contravention of the Injunction and a substantial section of the Local Wildlife Site a protected hedge destroyed.
Will you confirm Mr Chairman, that the waste material will be removed forthwith from the former barn site and the developer be ordered to replant the trees and hedge.
I would be happy for you to address this question before I move to my second.
2. My second question relates to what local residents consider to be a ‘major’ item of outstanding works, which has not been addressed to any degree but which not only falls under the terms of the Injunction but was allowed by the Council together with sewage and electrical works in June/July 2010.
This outstanding matter is the huge excavation works undertaken using massive machinery in the middle of the field and the removal of huge quantities of topsoil from the site in dumper trucks.
I have a photograph of this excavation at the time (Excavator pic) it took place for Members to see. It had the effect of lowering land levels, creating a visible ridge around two sides of the field and has serious implications with regard to the lands ability to drain in addition to profoundly affecting the topographical, ecological and biodiversity characteristics of this land. (Pics of ridges)
What actions will this Council insist on to re-import topsoil thereby reinstating land levels to help prevent surface flooding, support drainage, prevent erosion and restore the characteristics of the land to their pre 30th April 2010 position.
I would be grateful for your response before I move to my last question.
3. My final question concerns both; the terms of the Injunction prohibiting the storage of waste materials and serves to alert Planning Committee members to a new unlawful use that the Travellers are seeking to put the land to and the co-operation I would wish to see this Council engage in to address the issue.
Within an hour or so of Enforcement Officers leaving the former barn site on 21st May (the deadline for full compliance with the Injunction including the storage of waste), the travellers received a massive delivery of industrial scrap metal onto the site in a Sea Cargo ships container.
The picture i am showing you has appeared in the media and shows that size and scale of these industrial units. (scrap metal pic)
Over the following 7 days the travellers spent 12 – 14 hours a day, including a Bank Holiday weekend, processing this waste scrap metal using cutters, grinders and hammers, creating massive noise pollution and causing disturbance and distress to local residents and users of the Lane.
You will not be surprised Mr Chairman to note that residents have no desire to exchange an unlawful development with an unlawful scrap processing centre.
I am aware this Council is investigating this matter and that Criminal Proceedings may be considered in respect of this activity, so my question relates to my role as an MEP and is this:
If it transpires at some point that no action is taken against this unlawful and prohibited activity – either by this Council, the Environment Agency or other responsible body – will the Council agree to furnish me with full details so that I can raise at the European Parliament, how partner organisations police the issue of unlawful processing of scrap by unlicensed dealers and how they verify whether the scrap is acquired and disposed of legally.
Can you confirm your willingness to ensure action on this point AND co-operate fully so that I can raise this at a European level if no action is forthcoming?
Nikki Sinclaire MEP