Wiggins brought in from the cold as ten year planning impasse comes to a successful conclusion
A decade long dispute between local businessman Cecil Wiggins and Slough Borough Council appears to have finally been resolved with the passing of a Planning Application on Thursday.
What to do with several huge piles of reclaimed building materials on land at Manor Farm, Poyle Road – dubbed Wiggins’ Mountains of Poyle by planning officers – has tied up Council staff since 2001. But as of Thursday, the impasse appears to be finally over – with both sides able to claim some degree of victory.
The site, now overlooked by visitors to the Hilton Hotel, was subject to gravel extraction in the 1940s and subsequent landfilling between 1950-mid 1980. Enforcement action finally saw restoration of the land in the late 1980s with the exception of the northeast corner which continues as a site for concrete recycling (now legitimised).
Wiggins’ Mountains came about through the activities of Mr Wiggins’ companies. Classified as non-hazardous waste when it was dumped, Slough Borough Council served an Enforcement Notice requiring the complete removal of the deposited waste, which Mr Wiggins has avoided complying with until now.
Established in 1957 Wiggins Building Supplies Ltd specialises in the supply of crushed concrete, hardcore and limestone aggregates to the construction industry. Operating from a 15-acre site it still refers to as The Quarry, Wiggins’ website describes itself as “an industrial concern with a significant environmental footprint”. Wiggins also offers haulage, plant hire and demolition services from the site on Poyle Road.
In 2001 Mr Wiggins applied to build a 9 hole golf course on the site, complete with clubhouse and buildings for ground staff. While the Planning department doubted the golf course was anything but a ruse, it agreed to the use of some of the stockpile in the golf course when it granted approval 2 years later.
Just how much of the stockpile could be used has been the subject of an at times hostile debate that has carried on for TEN YEARS, in parallel to enforcement action.
In December 2004 Wiggins’ agent wrote saying it was “blindingly obvious” that more than the 1% of materials required to construct the golf course would come from the stockpile. He accused the Council of giving out conflicting messages in its deliberations over the golf course when the Head of Development Control wrote “the Council will be opposed to the importation of any soil to facilitate the golf course development until the exist earth bunds have been removed and used”. He also challenged the legal validity of an enforcement notice, claiming the golf course permission superseded it.
In 2005 Mr Wiggins sought to vary ‘condition 3’ which required the stockpiled materials to be removed from the site before construction of the golf course commenced – and, instead, be dispersed on the site. Several hundred pages of correspondence later and the application was withdrawn – only to be resubmitted in 2006.
The applicant has a history of non-compliance with any planning condition or Waste Management Licence!
In 2006, four years after the stockpiles were to have been removed, planning officer Katy Wallis prophetically wrote that she wanted “to ensure that the problems of the ‘piles’ is not spread across the remainder of his land as there is a degree of uncertainty as to whether he will actually build the golf course”.
“I don’t trust Wiggins and can see the mess being spread across the whole area rather than confined to ‘Area B’ … I don’t know enough about golf course construction to know whether it is realistic to use the 150,000m3 of ‘soil’ materials on the golf course and were we minded to permit it, how could we condition any permission sufficiently so that we don’t end up with a larger problem?”
Writing for advice to a colleague in Surrey she invited him to view the “Wiggins mountains of Poyle” for himself.
Wiggins’ agent, meanwhile, said he was simply trying to resolve the “ludicrous situation” that the enforcement would require a total of 64,000 vehicle movements to remove then re-import materials, “entirely at odds with government legislation and policy, and regional and local plan policy”.
I don’t trust Wiggins and can see the mess being spread across the whole area
However a damning Environment Agency report just prior to its submission to committee in October 2006 caused Wiggins to withdraw the application again.
7 out of 80 samples were found to contain asbestos. Five samples were cement bound asbestos comprising chrysotile and crocidolite asbestos, while two samples found within a small stockpile contained amosite asbestos with fragments of insulation board. Furthermore, arsenic and chromium hotspot outliers were identified, one in the northern stockpile and another in the southern stockpile.
In 2009 Mr Wiggins changed tact, winning a Certificate of Lawfulness for a change of use to mixed agriculture and the keeping and breeding of horses on “Poyle Stud Farm”. Slough’s lawyers upheld his claim that he had kept his 17 thoroughbreds on the land in excess of the previous ten years and granted the change of use in June 2010.
Over the last 15 years Mr Wiggins has submitted umpteen applications to change the use of various parts of the site to commercial use. Most have been refused, some have been dismissed on appeal to the High Court or public inquiry, but others have been granted a Certificate of Lawfulness having exceeded the allowable time for enforcement action.
A new Enforcement Notice was served most recently in November 2011 required the stockpiles of recycled materials to be removed.
And last September Mr Wiggins submitted a further planning application. Giving up any ambition to build a golf course the new application, simply for “regrading of fields to restore 1992 post restoration contours” was finally approved by the Planning Committee on Thursday.
The application proposes a “sustainable remedy” for the balancing the outstanding issue of full restoration of the land for agricultural use, and removal of the illegal materials. The soil contained in the three stockpiles is estimated to be 47654m3 which would raise the land by 50cm. Wiggins’ application said to remove the soil piles from Manor Farm would require 4332 or more 20 tonne loads resulting in 8664 HGV movements on an overloaded highway system. The Planning Committee appears to have agreed:
Council has long sought the removal of this unauthorised amount of soil waste on this site although many of the planning decisions were inherited from others. The current planning application proposes an alternative to the complete removal of soil from the site.
As did the Parish Council, which raised no objection to his latest application when councillors discussed it at their meeting last Tuesday.
Wiggins has been a major backer of the Parish Council since his golf course application was submitted in 2001. In 2003 he funded the chairman’s new ‘chain of Office’, and the ‘freeman’ awards later that year to Cllrs Hood and Preece, gaining an invite to the post-award lunch at the Ostrich along with guests of fellow donors Arora and Grundon.
In its report to Committee officers noted that the new application redresses the poor quality of the previous restoration and said that the continued agricultural use represented less of a health risk than a golf course given the previous activities on the site. No details have been provided of the mitigation for the asbestos but the restoration must be carried out to an agreed ‘method statement’ and a detailed risk assessment and verification plan produced
Mr Wiggins now has 18 months to complete the ‘regrading’ work and remove any surplus waste from the site.