18 May 2009

Chas Storer wins right to challenge site restrictions

A Potters Bar waste recycling company, hit with tough restrictions on opening hours and lorry movements by planners, has won the right to a full reconsideration of its case in a hearing at London's High Court on Friday (May 15).

Chas Storer Ltd has, since at least 1978, operated a waste collection and processing business on land off Coopers Lane, Northaw. The company's activities have for many years included the collection and baling of paper and the bulking of green waste.

Increases in vehicle movements and hours of operation between 1996 and 2006 did not constitute or form part of a material change of use and thus did not amount to development

 
Judge Stephen Morris QC

However, Hertfordshire county council issued an enforcement notice against the company in November 2006 claiming there had been an “intensification” in the use of the 0.6 hectare site which, planners said, was by then operating as a “mixed waste transfer station”.

The council said that use had “a different nature and character from the original use” and the notice not only placed restrictions on the type of waste Chas Storer could process, but also sought to impose limits on operating hours and lorry movements.

Inquiry

The site, which holds cabins, sheds and bunkers, is less than 100 yards away from a residential development and local people gave evidence at a six-day public inquiry before a Government planning inspector in January last year.

Although the inspector made amendments to the enforcement notice, he largely upheld it and rejected the company's plea that there had been “no material change of use” for which planning permission was required in the 10 years before the notice was issued.

Crucially for Chas Storer, the inspector also upheld the limits imposed on types of waste that could be processed on the site, along with restrictions on operating hours and vehicle movements, although in somewhat less restrictive form than the original notice.

High Court

Chas Storer took the case to the High Court where top judge, Stephen Morris QC, on Friday (May 15) upheld the company's challenge to the inspector's decision on operating times and vehicle movements.

The judge said that at no point in his decision did the inspector say that longer opening hours or increased lorry movements amounted to a “material change of use”. He specifically stated that the only material change of use was the “addition of co-mingled waste”.

On the basis of the inspector's finding, the judge said, “increases in vehicle movements and hours of operation between 1996 and 2006 did not constitute or form part of a material change of use and thus did not amount to development”.

The inspector's decision was overturned and the case was sent back to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears, for reconsideration.


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