Taking action on the problems at Bushey Hall Farm
From Andrew Melville, Jerry Evans, and Paul Richards - Lib Dem borough councillors for Bushey North
For nearly three years, we've been battling to put a stop to the problems at Bushey Hall Farm, where the owners are using the site to run an industrial tarmac business without planning permission.
Their lorries and machines create huge amounts of noise and disturbance on a daily basis - often from as early as 5.00am. This has blighted our neighbourhood and caused misery for hundreds of North Bushey residents.
Many of you have also been closely involved with this campaign, yourselves. But so far, our efforts have come to nothing, due to repeated mistakes by Hertsmere council officers.
In early 2018, Andrew successfully applied to Hertsmere to place an enforcement order on the farm and cease their unlawful tarmac operation. But when the order was served, it failed, because staff signed the forms in the wrong place. Last year, we helped residents pursue a second enforcement - but unbelievably, this *also* collapsed, as the council's paperwork turned out to be legally invalid.
Those mistakes have allowed the farm's owners to continue operating in an unlawful manner, and their noisy lorries continue to wake up residents, every morning.
Enough is enough. As the local Lib Dem councillors, we've now spoken and written to Hertsmere's managing director and planning chief, demanding they raise a new enforcement against the farm's owners within the next few weeks. And this time - as we've made plain - they must get it right The full text of the letter is below.
You can help us put pressure on Hertsmere by signing our petition, and you ou can also contact us on 01923 549097 or email@example.com.
Thanks for all your input. Let's now work together to finally bring an end this dismal saga - and restore the peace and quiet our community deserves.
Andrew, Jerry, and Paul.
Our letter to Hertsmere Borough Council
From: Cllr Andrew Melville, Lib Dem councillor for Bushey North
To: Sajida Bijle, Managing Director; and Ross Whear, Head of Planning; Hertsmere Borough Council.
5th January 2021.
Dear Sajida and Ross,
Bushey Hall Farm
I hope that both you and your families are safe and well during these very difficult times. It goes without saying that Covid is now posing an ever-greater challenge to the people of Hertsmere, and this places significant responsibility on us as the local authority. Nevertheless, many other local problems persist, so we must continue to invest time and energy in finding solutions to those problems and addressing residents' concerns.
The particular issue I wish to focus on, in this letter, is the ongoing situation at Bushey Hall Farm, on Bushey Mill Lane, within my ward of Bushey North. For more than three years, the farm's owner has run a tarmac business on the site without planning permission, and the noise and disturbance has caused great distress for local residents. However, repeated efforts to cease their operations have come to nothing due to errors and mishandling by Hertsmere Borough Council. Not one but two enforcement actions have collapsed because council officers failed to put the proper paperwork in place.
And that's why I'm now writing to you, on behalf of all three Bushey North councillors and the Hertsmere Liberal Democrat group, to request that you finally take full and effective enforcement action against the farm's non-permitted operations.
I greatly appreciate, Sajida, that you gave a very positive response to my colleague, Cllr Jerry Evans, when he raised this issue with you at a council group leaders meeting on 1st December last year. It was very encouraging to hear that you plan to investigate this matter and take further steps. My purpose in this letter is to explain the exact nature of the problem, the impact on residents, and what now needs to be done.
The farm is owned by Padraig Supple, who trades as Supple Transport. Around the autumn of 2017, Mr Supple began his current business, in which he uses trucks and machinery to prepare and deliver road-resurfacing materials (asphalt/tarmac) for roadworks across Hertfordshire and neighbouring counties. He does not have planning permission to use the Bushey Hall Farm Site for this purpose.
The nature of these operations is extremely unpleasant for local residents, especially those living on Bushey Mill Lane itself, and on or around Mill Way, Mead Way, and Park Avenue. As a resident of the area myself, I can testify to this personally.
Mr Supple uses a fleet of around six HGVs, which are extremely noisy, plus a number of machines which load the trucks and prepare the materials. At approximately 5.00am each day (and sometimes, even earlier), the machines are started up and the vehicles begin moving around the site. This work lasts for around two hours, and generates very substantial noise and disturbance, audible across the entire neighbourhood.
Then, at roughly 7.00am, the HGVs depart the site, creating further noise, and arrive back at around 5pm. The trucks and machines then usually operate on the site for another couple of hours on the site, sometimes longer, causing further noise at a time of day which affects young children's bedtimes.
This has now been going on - all the time, without planning permission - for more than three years, And for local people, the continuous noise and disturbance has seriously affected their quality of life. Dozens and dozens of residents have approached me with their complaints, in my capacity as ward councillor. They tell me about their endless disturbed sleep, and how this affects their whole family. They tell me about the resultant stress and anxiety they experience on a daily basis. And they tell me how angry they are that an industrial business has been allowed to continue operating illegall from a greenbelt site adjacent to a residential neighbourhood - shattering their peace and quiet and changing the whole tone of the local area.
First enforcement attempt
In September 2018 I applied to Hertsmere Borough Council for an enforcement action against Supple Transport, with the objective of ceasing the tarmac operation at the farm, in view of the noise problem and lack of planning permission. By this point, Mr Supple had been running business for about a year, and had already attracted a great many complaints from residents.
As a result of my application, in January 2019 HBC issued an enforcement notice to Supple Transport. But the tarmac operation continued regardless, and it was only after I made an FOI request for the documentation, six months later, that fellow campaigners and I were able to piece together what had gone wrong.
I discovered that council officers had signed the enforcement paperwork in the wrong place, rendering it invalid. My understanding is that either Mr Supple himself noticed this error, and ignored the enforcement, or that he successfully appealed it through the enforcement inspectorate. Either way, the outcome was that the enforcement failed. But council staff hadn't realised the error - or that nothing had changed at the farm site - until I and other campaigners brought it to light.
Second enforcement attempt
Even though HBC's mistakes had voided the enforcement, and Supple Transport continued to trade both anti-socially and without permission, the council's executives made no apparent effort to rectify the situation. And that was despite it being no isolated error - around this time, many other HBC enforcements for separate issues at other sites also failed, for the same reason (wrongly-signed documents).
So it was left to the community - who were now at the end of their tether - to take the initiative. Accordingly, in the spring of 2020 a residents' collective applied for a new enforcement action against Supple Transport. I assisted and supported the application, in my role as ward councillor.
HBC proceeded to issue the enforcement in June 2020. But astonishingly, it failed *again* - and for very similar reasons: the documentation wasn't properly completed. And when Mr Supple appealed the enforcement to the planning inspectorate, they quashed it, because they deemed the paperwork to be ambiguous, insufficiently specific, and legally invalid. It didn't help that the inspector was not given the file of retrospective residents' complaints - contrary to what campaigners had previously been told.
Impact on the community
North Bushey residents now feel extremely disappointed and frustrated that both enforcement notices have failed due to basic administrative errors by Hertsmere Borough Council. As a result, their lives continue to be made a misery by the operations at Bushey Hall Farm.
Many local people believe they've been let down by their borough council's negligence and incompetence, and it's a view I share. They think Hertsmere have failed to take the issue seriously, despite so many campaigns, complaints, and the efforts of local ward councillors.
Residents have been left powerless in the face of an extremely noisy and unlawfully-run tarmac business which is blighting their community. They cannot understand why Supple Transport's lorries still wake them at dawn when the owner doesn't even have planning permission for this work in the first place.
People also fear that, in light of the two failed enforcements, Mr Supple will end up with default planning permission by the back door. There's concern he may eventually be able to argue, successfully, that the sheer passing of time qualifies his business for permission or otherwise puts it beyond the reach of enforcement. This is why swift action is required, as a matter of urgency, to cease his operation. It would clearly be unacceptable to allow a greenbelt site to be given over to industrial use in this manner, or for the farm to by any means lose its precious greenbelt status.
In conclusion, I urge you to facilitate a new enforcement action against Supple Transport as soon as feasibly possible, and certainly, within the next few weeks. This enforcement must secure the cessation of the tarmac business for which the owner does not have planning permission.
Furthermore, it is imperative that there is no repeat of the errors made - twice - in the past. This time, the paperwork must be absolutely watertight: properly completed, specific, legally valid, accurate, and correctly signed. To that end, Ross, I request that - as Hertmere's head of planning - you should personally check every detail of the documents before the enforcement is expedited.
This course of action is essential for three reasons: (a) to end the severe disturbance caused to local residents; (b) to restore their faith in Hertsmere's ability to protect their rights and best interests; and (c) because, as a local authority, we cannot allow businesses to continue operating indefinitely without planning permission, as this discredits the entire system.
I should stress that I am not calling for individual staff to be given a hard time for the errors they made. Mistakes do happen, and I see no benefit in raking over the coals of past failings. All the community wants is to resolve the situation at the farm.
If you have any queries at all, please do get in touch. I appreciate you giving this matter your full attention, and on behalf of North Bushey residents, I look forward to working with you to finally bring this long and unpleasant saga to an end.
Liberal Democrat borough councillor for Bushey North.