New owner takes control of Crouchland Farm site

Crouchlands Farm SUS-150217-113114001
Crouchlands Farm SUS-150217-113114001

The new owner of Crouchland Farm has pledged to continue an environmental restoration and improvement programme at the site.

The controversial anaerobic digestion plant based at the farm, in Rickmans Lane, Plaistow, was shut down in 2017 after administrators were appointed.

Artemis Land & Agriculture Limited has now purchased the farm apart from the area known as ‘lagoon 3’.

The company says it will bring forward plans in due course for the long-term development and operation of rurally-orientated and environmentally sustainable business enterprise which will improve the use of the site, blend in well with the community and provide employment opportunities.

Artemis also confirmed it will not operate any biogas or similar anaerobic digestion operations at Crouchlands in the future.

Complex and expensive process

Anthony Fairbanks Weston, chairman of Artemis, said: “Once the issues that confronted Crouchlands became fully clear to us, we were determined to identify the right solutions, both to the environmental challenges and for the long term future of the site.

“This has necessarily been a complex and expensive process. As a next step, we are pleased to have completed this purchase from the receivers.

“Central to our proposals for the future of Crouchlands will be rural sustainability, protecting the environment, contributing to the growth of the local economy and supporting local businesses with new jobs.”

Lagoon 3 responsibility reverts to original landowner

West Sussex Agri Limited (WSA), the owner of Artemis, was the senior creditor in the receivership and the administrations.

WSA has already to date, and on a voluntary basis, provided in excess of £1.3m to the joint administrators to enable them to carry out the essential clean-up on the site and maintain safety and stability.

This has included environmental restoration of ditching and drainage and emptying of the three anaerobic digester tanks and two of the lagoons.

It will be continuing with the current clean-up of the biogas site and the environmental restoration and improvement programme across the farm. Artemis anticipates that this work will take another 6-12 months.

Following the ending of the receivership and two administrations the responsibility for the area known as lagoon 3 has now reverted to the original landowner and operator of the biogas plant.

All interested parties now await news on how the Environment Agency now intends to enforce the required clean up of lagoon 3 and provide the necessary assurances regarding public safety and protection of the local environment.

Lagoon 3 contains a substantial quantity of liquid and solid material which is understood to contain a high proportion of methane.

It will separately and very evidently require a detailed expert analysis and risk assessment to determine the safest decommissioning solution.

Artemis said it has made it clear to the appropriate authorities that it is willing to contribute to the steps necessary to assist the decommissioning of Lagoon 3.

For example, Artemis retains certain infrastructure that may assist in the first step, which is the necessary removal of liquids from the lagoon.

Last year residents raised a number of concerns about the safe and quick decommissioning of the site, where they described feeling like they were ‘living in the shadow of a ticking time bomb that could go off at any moment’.

On future plans for the farm Artemis said that any future development plans should recognise the needs of the community, be in step with the two neighbourhood plans, be subject to wide-ranging consultation and be in full co-operation with Chichester District council.