Gold rush: Developer, Redbridge family and football tycoon in scrap over former rubbish tip that could soon be worth £10million
PUBLISHED: 17:00 07 January 2020 | UPDATED: 15:07 08 January 2020
A developer has started work on an ex-landfill site before getting planning permission following an explosive court case.
Diggers began rolling onto the fields south of Billet Road, Chadwell Heath in late October last year, according to neighbours.
Fences and portable buildings have sprung up, and part of the site, which was used as landfill in the 1970s, was torn up and a hole filled with concrete.
Amid the noise of generators and orange water draining from the fields, neighbours complained to Redbridge Council, which has opened a planning enforcement case.
But work has continued. The council has been in discussions with the site owner to build 1,200 homes there and in nearby fields since 2017 but is yet to grant planning permission.
Last November the site was also the subject of a bitter land dispute involving a company in the British Virgin Islands, a local family and an ex-owner of Hartlepool Football Club.
A neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: "They should have gone for planning permission. There is no emergency.
"Redbridge is fully aware of everything that is happening. And if they do checks on the land and it is shown to be contaminated, they will have to retrospectively protect all these houses and that will cost millions."
Since 2005 the site has been owned by Sunshine Island Properties Limited, a British Virgin Islands company which paid £210,000 for it and believes it could soon be worth £10million or more.
They accused a group of businessmen of encroaching on their land.
In his submission to Romford County Court in November, director Sant Punni wrote: "Redbridge has invited Sunshine to join a scheme to provide 1,200 residential units, including up to 50% affordable housing.
"The development site is some 49 acres, including Sunshine's 21 acres. London & Quadrant (L&Q) are the proposed developers.
"The prospects are excellent. If planning consent is granted, Sunshine's part of the site will be worth more than £10m."
But neighbours have raised concerns about contamination.
Redbridge Council, DEFRA and the Environment Agency's records show the site was used as a rubbish tip, with no paperwork, between 1970 and 1973.
A 2014 survey by a private company found the risk of contamination in neighbouring fields to be "high".
Local farmer Clive Wilderspin claimed orange water was running from the site into his water course, which runs towards a special needs school.
The possible contamination, he said, had been reported to Redbridge many times.
He added: "There has been very little from Redbridge in way of support or information. It appears that Redbridge are allowing the development to proceed at a pace."
Chris Gannaway, Vice Chair of the Aldborough Hatch Defence Association, said: "There are concerns over the disturbance of the old landfill now and for the long-term development proposal for housing.
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"Ditches on Willow Farm run red with leachate which indicates that there is still chemical reactivity taking place.
"The road entry from Billet Rd is another ground for concern on health and safety grounds."
When approached for comment, Sunshine confirmed it owned the land and had won the court case but declined to comment further.
Up to 800 homes could be built on the site, which is now allocated for housing, recreation and public space in Redbridge's Local Plan.
In an email to residents, a council officer wrote: "Planning Enforcement have a live planning enforcement case and are undertaking regular site visits and remain in on-going correspondence with the project manager of this site.
"We have served a planning contravention notice (PCN) to gather information to inform our investigations."
A Redbridge Council spokesman said nothing had been seen during inspections to warrant a formal enforcement notice. He added: "In the event of a planning application being submitted to change the use of the land, we would insist a condition is attached to investigate the level of contamination." The site is now allocated for housing, recreation and open space in the Local Plan.
In May 2019 a man called Terence Yallop, whose son Marc Yallop owns nearby Hainault House, applied to HM Land Registry for adverse possession of the £10m plot.
He claimed he had been the sole owner since the 1980s but the application was dismissed in October due to a lack of evidence.
Director of Sunshine Sant Punni claimed in court documents that the Yallops and Marc Yallop's company, Billet Land Ltd, had been charging local firms - including a scaffolder, vehicle dealerships and two individuals using it as a builder's yard, to store their cars and equipment on the site.
He added: "It appears that none of these individuals has been told that Sunshine was the actual owner of the property."
He also pointed the finger at Peter Goldberg, the long-standing tenant at Hainault House, accusing him of trespassing.
Mr Goldberg was the co-founder of JPNG, a recruitment firm that owned Hartlepool Football Club from 2015 to mid-2016. The club fell into dire financial straits and faced three winding-up orders in two years.
Sunshine claimed Mr Goldberg had breached a licence it granted him to graze horses on the land, and had also been allowing people to store cars and equipment there.
In his defence, Mr Goldberg said he had "no idea" who Sunshine Island Properties Ltd was and after Sunshine won the court case on November 28, declined to comment further.
The Yallops and Mr Goldberg did not respond to a request for comment.
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