Chalk Pit action – a tale of two committees

Chalk Pit waste site. Epsom

Epsom and Ewell Borough Council grappled with the pressing issue of noise and dust pollution stemming from the waste recycling centre, Chalk Pit off College Road in Epsom. Residents’ longstanding grievances prompted a debate among council members at yesterday’s meeting of the Strategy and Resources Committee.

The discussion opened with an  account from an affected resident, urging action to alleviate the suffering. The resident implored the council: “Epsom and Ewell Borough Council must allocate funds to proactively manage the Chalk Pit site, in accordance with your statutory duty to protect residents under the Environmental Protection Act.” There was support from a pro-active public gallery that was asked a couple of times not to interrupt.

Councillors echoed residents’ concerns, emphasizing the gravity of the situation and the need for decisive measures. Cllr Steven McCormick (RA Woodocte and Langley) emphasized the Council’s duty to support residents, stating, “This Council has been formed to serve local interests and must prioritize residents’ wellbeing by allocating funds to tackle the Chalk Pit issue.”

The legal dimensions of the problem were underscored by Cllr Bernie Muir (Conservative – Horton), who highlighted residents’ legal rights and the Council’s responsibility to address statutory noise nuisance. “Residents have a legal right to be protected,” declared Muir, emphasizing the need for unequivocal support for allocating funds.

Cllr James Lawrence (LibDem – College) emphasized the importance of prompt action, proposing earmarking funds to respond swiftly to noise complaints. “We must prioritize residents’ protection and ensure prompt action when noise nuisance is experienced,” Lawrence asserted, urging fellow council members to prioritize residents’ needs.

The wide-ranging impact of pollution on residents’ health and wellbeing was emphasized by Councillor Christine Howells (RA Nonsuch), who stressed the Council’s duty to enforce compliance with regulations. “Residents’ mental and physical wellbeing are compromised, necessitating urgent action to protect their rights,” Howells affirmed.

Amidst impassioned pleas for action, the Chair of the Committee, Councillor Neil Dallen (RA Town), provided a sobering assessment of the financial implications. Cllr. Dallen cautioned against hasty decisions, citing budget constraints and the need for responsible financial management to ensure continued service provision.

An officer provided updates on recent developments and enforcement actions, highlighting ongoing complaints and regulatory interventions. The officer’s report underscored the need for coordinated efforts to address pollution effectively.

Despite financial constraints, Cllr Shanice Goldman (RA Nonsuch) voiced support for allocating funds, citing previous actions and the importance of addressing environmental issues promptly. “We must prioritize residents’ welfare and take decisive action to address pollution,” Shanice urged fellow council members. She added: “ I think the fact that it’s been passed from committee to committee, started off at full Council, was deferred to the Environment committee then passed on to this committee. I don’t think we can justify passing it on again.”

Cllr Robert Leach (RA Nonsuch) shared residents’ grievances and proposed practical measures to address noise issues, emphasizing the moral imperative to protect residents. “We must cooperate across party lines and take decisive action to address this environmental tragedy,” Leach asserted. He read from a resident’s email: “I was awakened at 6.30 this morning by the sound of the site, preparing for the day, with lorries and presumably other machinery warming up and skips being made ready for transport before 6:45 a.m. A number of skipped lorries were exiting the site last week. On last Friday, 39 lorries left between 6.40 and 6.50. That is before they’re even supposed to be on the site. Let’s tell it as it is. We have two operators there, who blatantly just ignore the regulations.”

Following extensive deliberation, the Committee unanimously resolved to approve the allocation of funds. £40,000 was reserved for independent noise investigation, with an additional £100,000 allocated for potential enforcement and litigation work. The Environment Committee was tasked with identifying equivalent savings or income to replenish the reserve by the end of the financial year 2025-2026.

Related reports:

“Heat and Dust” epic in Epsom

Chalk Pit debate deferred by late abatement

Will the dust ever settle on Chalk Pit conflict?