HIRA May Article
With May elections looming perhaps it’s no surprise that national funding for pot-holes and policing for example has become available, although local road-users still run real risks to themselves and their vehicles’ safety while navigating entrenched holes in our roads. Even more frustrating is that only after decades of illegal sewage discharges and long-standing persistent public outcry there is even talk of sewage-dumping companies facing unlimited fines. Truly responsible companies would, long ago, have increased holding tank capacity and addressed inadequate infrastructure. Undoubtedly the offending companies, Southern Water just one, put maximising profits before customers’ well-being. They could have lobbied every government for support with outdated pipework for example. Fines and court charges bounced off their spreadsheet and inspections of Southern Water’s systems inadequate.
Public service enforcement failures make life miserable for residents exposed to a large company’s failures to comply either timely or at all with Council-set conditions. Barratt’s Sinah Field development serves as a prime example. Barratt recently confirmed they were required to commence the development within 3 years “however the programme is market driven and therefore there is no time limit to complete phases”. Since 2021, residents have monitored and reported to the Council seemingly endless breaches of the company’s Section 106 Conditions permitting Barratt’s development. The Council Community Officers were established to liaise with Sinah residents and Barratt. The result? Ongoing developer breaches with justifications or delayed responses. Undoubtedly those residents devoted years of meticulous effort. This is surely grossly disproportionate; a real David vs Goliath. Reports to Council’s Planning Enforcement, claim poor documentation and failure to follow up residents’ submitted evidence.
Examples follow: Barratt’s ongoing dewatering, lacking filtration, into nearby ditches, stating they’d finished only to resume with no apparent penalty; blocked local ditches requiring Lead Local Flood Authority (HCC) action; HGVs queuing or parking up on Sinah Lane plus attendant road fouling; heavy machinery operating within a protective zone for the RSPB refuge; residents’ measured noise levels, e.g. a reading of 113dB, especially near the refuge, far higher than Barratt’s levels submitted to the Council; illegal and also 4m high “low level” signage; some new gardens’ soil levels significantly higher than existing gardens creating surface water run-off fears; drainage and new pumping station were still not in place in mid-January, due to the weather, so newly sold properties’ sewage had to be trucked off the site in the interim.
What is striking is the huge effort needed by ordinary residents on this huge site, to endlessly monitor, report, chase up, submit Freedom of Information requests then chase up again over not just a few months but a few years. So to learn that Barratt’s Homes Site Manager complained about “counterproductive use of negative comments on social media” when “they are trying to work with residents”, sounds disingenuous. Surely residents want to continue a peaceful existence. Where rules are flouted, our elected councillors and tax-funded public servants must fight our corner but, more importantly, proactively demonstrate to the ‘Goliaths’ that Sec. 106 Conditions – and by-laws - will be enforced by the Council.
Given that Rook Farm has already been the subject of Planning Applications, one can only wonder if our Council will be able to prevent a repetition of Sinah’s appalling situation.