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Spreading shredded plastic on farmland

From Rob H

Thursday, 9 April 2020

 For approximately a week in Blackshaw Head we have seen two tractors working in shifts pulling large loaders spreading material on the land between Staups Moor and Hippens Clough.  

Walking the footpath that crosses the land, we have found that the material being spread, which has a faint smell of manure and looks like clumps of mud with small pieces of wood mixed in, contains large amounts of shredded plastic of different types, including plastic spoons, bottle tops, bits of plastic bag, and pieces of metal.  The material covers three large fields.  This action cannot be accidental or unintentional.   

It is a scandal to spread (or dispose of) plastic and metal waste in this way.  It defies any definition of reasonable or responsible land stewardship.  Rainfall and run-off from the moorland directly above the land will wash the material into Hippens Clough and eventually down to the Calder.  

Mr Whittaker! Dealing with this shameless environmental assault is a matter of urgency.

From Ms. P.Finch

Thursday, 9 April 2020

This area is very special for wildlife - birds, plants, mammals. 
Staups Moor itself is part of the SPA - special protection area. Many moorland edge birds use the area e.g. curlew, snipe, lapwing. 
There are also significant plant populations in the clough e.g. areas of Devils Bit Scabious.

Suggest you contact Hugh Firman, Conservation officer, Calderdale.  

From Adrian Riley

Sunday, 12 April 2020

I am surprised by the lack of further comments. It is terrible that spreading of shredded plastic within this 'compost' was even contemplated in the first place. Any more feedback on this?

Calderdale Council ran their own composting scheme of green waste until it was stopped a number of years ago because of plastic contamination. 

To get rid of the remainder, the Council put huge piles along the verge at Woodhouse Road Todmorden and tractor loads within Centre Vale Park woodland. All of these heaps were full of plastic detritus. Disgraceful really.

From Ms. P. Finch

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Natural England should also be contacted as they manage & are responsible for protecting the SPA, though of course there may be fewer officers available at present. 

From Rob H

Monday, 13 April 2020

Thanks for the responses.  The two tractors continue to spread the same material today and over the Easter weekend,  They are now operating on land parallel to the Long Causeway.

Based on the spreading below Staups Moor and now on the land accessed from Davey Lane, the available area for spreading is approximately 51 acres.  That's 51 acres of land, bi-sected by Hippens Clough and fringed in part by moorland, that will be covered in shredded plastic!  

Calderdale council have declared a climate emergency. Councillors, what are you going to do about this urgent matter?!

I am contacting all available regulatory authorities, and thanks for the recommendations.  

Does anyone have a contact for a local or national journalist who may want to cover and expose this scandal?

From Rob H

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

 I can give you further updates based on documents in the public domain:

The plastic waste derives from "inland dredging".

The landowners have an exemption (D1 depositing waste from inland dredging) that ran from 14/09/2016 to 13/09/2019

The landowners have two plots of land now used for disposal of the plastic waste.

On 13 November 2019 the council permitted an application from the landowners (19/01133/FUL) for the "Importation of inert material and the installation of an agricultural track (Retrospective)".

The parish council objected to the access route (agricultural track), but additional reports say little or nothing about the "inert material", which presumably could be interpreted for a land use objective of "depositing waste from inland dredging".

The landowners application includes a planning statement which only mentions the waste exemption in terms of 500 tons of hardcore for constructing the access route, and does not mention the exemption regarding inland dredging.

The landowners application denies any potential environmental impact, on the contrary, it boasts improvements to the land.

The landowners application talks of livestock, but the land has not be used to graze livestock since at least last year, and give the plastic waste deposits, it is difficult to see it returning to this form of land use.

The landowners were granted, retrospectively, permission to construct an access route which has been used to in the last week to transport two spreaders, depositing large quantities of shredded plastic onto the site. This land use has replaced stock grazing, and presumably aims to fulfil the landowners started criteria of "profitability". This is the case in both plots of land, leading to an approximate available spreading area of 51 acres, and subsequent reduction in grazing land use of the same value. 

From Rob H

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Planning (not environment) Enforcement at Calder Council is not recommending the two sites (approximately 51 acres) need not be investigated because the landowners have said they are doing nothing wrong.  This despite the large amount of evidence I and other local residents have supplied to the council showing, definitively, the spreading of large amounts of plastic.  This is scandalous behaviour by the landowner and an astounding lack of oversight by the council.  

The justification from the landowners is as follows (note they are about to cover the land in large amounts of lime!):

The land was purchased a few years ago with the intention of farming and having cattle on the land. The soil was tested and the results showed very low fertility. The PH of the land is very acidic and therefore lime is required to neutralise this, which will improve the soil, lime will be spread next week and a white film will stay over the land until rain washes it in.The soil testing has also revealed that the fertility and nutrients in the soil are very low and as such there is very poor grass growth on the land.  To combat this either man made fertiliser (bag muck) could be used or cattle manure and composted material which is an organic alternative.  This composted material is high in trace elements such as N P and K which when they decompose will add significant fertility to the ground.  The owner  plans  to do this each year until the soil nutrients are at a suitable level.  The land is poor and requires nutrients to boost grass growth and improve fertility.  Many farmers spread similar products on agricultural land such as compost, digest ate and human solids (Black muck) which is all used to improve the soil fertility and encourage grass growth.  Farmers utilise environmental permits which allow material to be spread on agricultural land for agricultural benefit.

As with many other farmers cattle are slowly being turned out to pasture and spring cultivation such as muck spreading are now taking place, the owner  has taken advantage of the dry weather and muck spread the land at Blackshaw Head recently.  The manure has been mixed with compost which has been screened on the farm and transported to the site in a 12t rear discharge muck spreader, as part of the process the screening removes large particles and plastic, however a small amount of plastic remains in the material which is spread.  

The owner  has confirmed that there is a small amount of plastic visible on the land which will be removed by hand by the end of the week once they have finished spreading the land, his cattle will be turned out onto the land and he would not want to risk any of them eating the plastic which could cause blockages in their stomachs.