We wonder if the saga that has been dragging out over the southern slopes of the lovely Lickey Hills for the past two decades may at last be entering its end game.
We are talking, of course, about events surrounding the former Marlbrook Tip which, looking back over our pages, have also been described as, variously, a “farce”, a “debacle” and even a “farrago”.
When it comes to ineptitude in local government, exacerbated by the blank, faceless jobsworthiness of a national agency acting out what its officers must surely recognise is absurd, you really could not make it up.
First, you have a 50-year-old tip, containing who knows what, spread across a site of natural beauty. This tip, which surely someone somewhere in officialdom had some concerns about, then becomes ownerless.
Bromsgrove District Council could, and should, have taken it on – ensuring it was made safe while bringing into its (our) coffers the charges per lorry load of building spoil used to cap the tip and to prevent whatever lies beneath ever becoming a problem.
It declined and instead a private company bought the site from The Crown for £1 and set about accepting lorry load after lorry load of spoil to cap and contour the site, ready for a nine-hole golf course, which has never been built.
Meanwhile, residents already worried about the methane monitoring at the site were dismayed to find their complaints of too many lorries thundering past their homes each day falling on the deaf ears of those at Bromsgrove council who should have been properly monitoring the volume of materials arriving.
Eventually, a new broom arrived to run the Bromsgrove planning department, stopped the lorries and investigated . . . to find her predecessors had allowed more than one million cubic metres (which is a very, very large amount) too much spoil to be brought on to the site. Just think how many lorries that took.
She set about finding ways to enforce a solution – although what could that be, when the only proper answer meant the same number of lorries taking the over-tipped spoil away again?
Then the Environment Agency arrived on the scene, declared that an often-empty pond on the tip was a reservoir and, with the help of an engineer’s report (censored for national safety!), said this meant another 300mm of soil (about 3,200 lorry loads) needed to be brought on to the site to make it safe.
We are not making this up.
This is to be done by August 31, yet as we went to press the site owner hadn’t even applied for the required planning permission – said to take at least 13 weeks.
If it’s not done, the man from the Environment Agency says they will do it and make the owner pay the bill.
Does anybody really think this is the end of the story?