Benfleet Scrap have been found to be leaking engine oils and other automotive fluids through their boundary onto Green Belt land. There is associated scrap metal and engine parts routinely falling out of the site. The Council and the Environment Agency have been impotent to remedy this environmental disaster and have allowed Benfleet Scrap to continue operating unabated and without remediation.  The adjoining landowners have been left to tackle Benfleet scrap through a civil action.

In April 2018,  owners of adjoining land to the east of Manor Trading,  began clearing scrub close to their boundary with Benfleet Scrap. They were surprised to find pools of oil/hydraulic fluids and engine parts that had escaped through the wholly inadequate boundary fence (see attached photos).  Despite referring the ground pollution to the Environment Agency, no effective enforcement action has been taken by the Agency to date.   At the same time, related breaches of planning control were referred to Castle Point Borough Council who have not responded to date.  Complaints to both the Agency and the Council have not been satisfactorily answered.

Following these complaints, Benfleet scrap attempted to cover the ground and build a new wall, without first assessing the nature and extent of contamination, and without seeking to remediate the despoiled land.  A planning application to build a new boundary wall was submitted after the works had commenced. The application denied that the ground was contaminated, and was not supported by any expert report. The Council granted planning permission (18/0834/FUL) on 9 November 2018.

The adjoining owner had their own Soil Contamination Report compiled (attached) which included a series of soil samples at and close to the boundary. The Report records (see Conclusions) elevated concentrations of lead, nickel, zinc, mercury, cadmium, dibenzo(a,h) anthracene. Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons and PCB’s are recorded above guideline values for a residential end use. The PCB concentrations in soil are of particular concern. The source of PCBs on metal recycling sites are hydraulic fluids, lubricating oils and insulation in electrical equipment.  The maximum allowable PCB level in drinking water in the United States is set at zero. The concentration of lead present in the soil is about 800% higher than accepted residential norms. The contamination, is so concentrated, it can also be physically smelled in the sample holes.  Nevertheless, Katherine Goodall, Essex Waste Team Leader for the EA told the adjoining owners’ advisors (Smart Planning) that the pollution was “probably coincidental”.

This situation poses the question how much wider and deeper does the contamination spread on the adjoining land. Similarly,  how much contamination sits in the ground beneath Benfleet Scrap’s land holding and recently constructed hardsurfaces and boundary wall?

The adjoining owners have served injunction proceedings against Benfleet Scrap Co Ltd (tenant) and Praedius UK (Industrial) Ltd (Landowner) requiring the affected land to be properly assessed for contamination and remediated.  The Council has also been served with Judicial Review proceedings to quash the recent planning permission which, amongst other things, had no regard to the known ground contamination, and included no measures for its remediation. Meanwhile, Benfleet Scrap continue to operate.

21 March 2019