If there was a Top 10 of “You Couldn’t Make It Ups”, the Marlbrook Tip debacle would surely be a chart-topper. It has been going on for decades, long-suffering residents have been promised on a number of occasions that their “nightmare” is coming to an end . . . and yet . . .
Does anyone remember March 2011, eight years ago, when the new head of planning at Bromsgrove District Council swept in and told villagers she was going to sort it all out?
“I am personally on the case,” said Ruth Bamford.
Oh, how easy it must have seemed back then. Although, considering the previous inaction by Bromsgrove District Council in already failing to prevent a hillside of waste material being tipped on the Lickeys, it was probably wishful thinking on behalf of a newly-arrived officer.
Ms Bamford has, presumably, since discovered how things work at Bromsgrove – as had the Local Government Ombudsman in awarding a resident compensation against the council for ignoring villagers’ warnings about over-tipping for at least three years.
It started off well with the commissioning of a survey of the Lickey hillside, published later in 2011, showing it was 1,000,000 cubic metres bigger than it should have been. Plenty of talking ensued, including how to make the tip owner remove all of the excess waste – although who would want another 75,000 lorries chugging up and down past their homes? – but very little actually happened.
Then in 2014 the saga took a turn towards the absurd when the Environment Agency, which had been keeping a watching brief over the sorry affair, managed to become fully embroiled with the revelation that what by all accounts is a bit of a pond on the site was, in fact, a reservoir.
You really couldn’t make it up. But worse was to come: now the whole site was under the jurisdiction of the Reservoirs Act and, upon inspection by a top engineer, it was decided the “reservoir” needed to be made safe – by another six months’ worth of lorries bringing loads of soil on to the site.
What’s more, the “puddle” (as it has been described) was now considered a matter of national security, so much so that the engineer’s report had to be “redacted”, with words blacked out, just in case . . . well, in case of what?
Years passed and nothing much, besides hand-wringing and excuses, happened – until the lorries began trundling back up the hill last autumn. Residents complained, but there was no sign of any action until, at 9am on January 25 2019, Bromsgrove issued a “temporary stop notice” – one hour before a meeting of the tip working group was due to begin.
As that meeting revealed – and as we report it on these pages – it looks very much like the two authorities are not working in unison, creating a push-me-pull-you farce.
“It is like Groundhog Day,” one Lickey parish councillor complained. But at least Groundhog Day was a work of fiction; unfortunately, The Saga of Marlbrook Tip is not made up and no one is prepared to come up with an ending.