A farmer in Asten-Heusden in Brabant has thwarted plans to build temporary accommodation for farm workers next to his land by putting up a small compost heap.
Pig and potato farmer Jos Leenders is one of 28 locals who objected to the construction of a hostel for at most 94 people on a pig farm where two barns have been demolished to make room for the building.
The group objects to the plan because horticultural businesses in the area already provide accommodation for around 225 workers at the height of the season, which is enough, according to the objectors.
“You look at the law to stop it,” Leenders, who put up the compost heap, told the Volkskrant.
Leenders found his loophole in an environmental rule which states that the distance between an activity creating a smell nuisance and a “smell-sensitive object” has to be at least 50 metres. Leenders’ compost heap is on the edge of his land and only 19 metres from the projected hostel, which now will not be built.
Leenders, who was a CDA councillor for 16 years, did everything by the book, from objecting formally to the plans and registering his compost heap for which he doesn’t need a permit.
He claimed his most important objection springs from pity. “You don’t put people next to a pig barn. It kept me awake at night. And then you try to stop it by any means available,” he told the paper.
“We don’t like it but legally we have been backed into a corner,” local council executive Janine Spoor said. “We thought the location was fine for temporary accommodation but then this compost heap appeared and everything changed. It did surprise me. I don’t think the law meant a little compost heap like that to stop the provision of accommodation,” she told the paper.
The council has asked Spoor to investigate if the compost heap strategy could set a precedent for other developments in Asten-Heusden, or elsewhere.
“Is this what it’s come to in the Netherlands, that a farmer or entrepreneur can stop projects from happening by putting up a compost heap?” said councillor Sandu Niessen.
The council has pinned its hopes on the new environment law which has come into effect at the beginning of the year which, Spoor said, may point to a way forward.
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