Land Behind Tesco's in North Leatherhead and the Royal Oak Site - Update 22 December 2017

Further to our previous correspondence I wanted to provide you with an update regarding the land behind Tesco's in North Leatherhead and the Royal Oak site.

With regards to the land behind Tesco's we have been working to sift through all the waste dumped on the site searching for evidence as to its source. This process is now complete and all evidence has been handed over to the Environment Agency who is working with the police on the investigation of this complex case. This also means that the site can now be cleared. We will continue to liaise with the landowner, whose responsibility it is to clear the waste, in order to ensure that this is achieved.

With regards to the Royal Oak site, I am very aware of the ongoing concern regarding the demolition of the pub. There is no doubt that the Council has learnt lessons from this case. There was confusion on our part regarding whether or not planning permission was required for the demolition for which I offer my sincere apologies.

In terms of what happened - when the demolition of the Royal Oak was brought to the notice of the Council it was noted that the demolition of a building was generally permitted development under the General Permitted Development Order 2015. There was however a requirement that, before beginning the demolition, an application had to be made to the local planning authority for a determination as to whether the prior approval of the local authority would be required as to the method of demolition and any proposed restoration of the site.

As MVDC had not received an application for a determination, it was concluded that the demolition was unauthorised, but not illegal. However, in view of the extent of the demolition that had already been undertaken at the time, it was concluded that it was not expedient to take further action at that time.

Having received additional information from a number of residents and, having had the opportunity to review the case in more detail, it became clear that earlier in the year an amendment to the General Permitted Development Order was enacted to give more protection to public houses.

Specifically, the amendment added a provision which indicates that demolition is not permitted by the General Permitted Development Order where the building is used or was last used as a drinking establishment within Class 4 of the Use Classes Order.

Consequently, it was recognised that the demolition of the Royal Oak did require planning permission. As no planning application had been submitted or granted, the demolition was unauthorised. However, it was not illegal, and as such, a prosecution could not have been brought against those responsible for the demolition. Consideration was then given to any other action that could be taken. Given that The Royal Oak was not a Listed Building, in a Conservation Area or on the Register of Assets of Community Value, and as the demolition was already well underway, it was concluded that there really was no viable follow up action which could be taken. I appreciate how difficult this must be to understand and would like to put arrangements in place for a public meeting with local residents in order to discuss this further.

In terms of moving forward, I thought it might help to understand that, if and when a planning application is made to redevelop the site, MVDC will take into account the provisions of Policy CS17 of the Mole Valley Core Strategy. This will require the applicant to demonstrate that the site is no longer required for a community facility. A report showing how the site has been marketed for community uses will be required, together with evidence that there has been consultation with an appropriate range of service providers and the community. In addition, MVDC would be looking for additional information concerning the viability of the public house business in recent years.

Subsequent to the demolition, a number of other events took place, including a fire on 8 December and an unauthorised traveller encampment which resulted in a significant amount of waste being deposited on the site. I wanted to update you regarding these incidents.

With regards to the fire - our Environmental Health team has been liaising with the Environment Agency and the Fire Investigation Officer from the Fire Authority. While it is an offence to dispose of commercial waste in such a way as to cause pollution (including by burning), in order for us to take action there needs to be evidence that someone took deliberate action to dispose of the waste by burning. It has not been possible to conclude that this was the case, and as a result, I am afraid that there is no further follow up action which can be taken regarding the fire.

With regards to the waste - further to the traveller encampment leaving the site on Tuesday evening we have been sifting through the waste and collecting evidence. This too has been passed to the Environment Agency. Now that this is complete we will require the owner to clear the site. I can also confirm that he has taken steps to ensure that the site is made secure and that these measures are being put in place tomorrow.

I do hope that this information is helpful and will, of course, continue to keep you informed with regards to the progress of the waste investigation. In the meantime, we will proceed to make the arrangements in relation to the public meeting and make sure that details are forwarded as soon as possible.

Karen Brimacombe
Chief Executive

Last Updated: 22/12/2017

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