The controversial application for a waste hub to be built on the outskirts of Bury St Edmunds was approved this week after being reviewed for a third time by councillors.
The hub, which will be built on land north of Hollow Road Farm in Fornham St Martin, was previously granted planning permission in September by 11 votes to five but officers advised that further clarification was needed before it could go ahead.
The council development control committee met yesterday to review the plans again and approved them by 10 votes to five.
But a report presented to the committee at the meeting found that the project, which will see a waste transfer station, waste recycling centre and fleet depot built on the site as well as roads, parking and weighbridges, is contrary to the development plan for the area.
It said that the project would ‘harm the local landscape by intensifying the use of the site, providing new and large buildings in the countryside and removing a Grade A mature oak tree’.
The report, which was described as ‘excellent’ by several councillors and by Cllr Robert Everitt as ‘one of the best we’ve seen here’, also said the proposals ‘offend the spatial policies of the plan by proposing development on a greenfield site in the countryside’.
But Gareth Durrant, the case officer, presented several ‘material conditions’ which supported the departure from the plan.
He gave substantial weight to the fact that the proposal would provide facilities to maxmise the amount of waste re-used and recycled as well as the fact that the National Planning Policy for Waste recommends co-locating waste services where possible.
The report also recognised that the proposals would fulfill the ‘Rural Vision’, which aspires to see planned growth and new developments to meet the needs of small villages, and was crucial to the successful future of an expanding area.
Mr Steve Lumley, who occupies and runs a business from the neighbouring land to the site, said: “In the last three and a half years, our town has changed dramatically with more houses and more land available.
“My concern is that if we don’t move forward with this, the town is going to be a big muddle. We wouldn’t start building a housing estate without a connection to a sewer. That needs to happen and in my opinion, it needs to happen quickly.”
Many councillors acknowledged the future impact of the waste hub on the growing Bury St Edmunds area as their reason for voting for planning permission to be granted.
Cllr Andrew Smith, who voted to approve the application, said: “I have been a great advocate to respect the development plan but there is an overriding need for this facility.
“Future proofing and co-locating are benefits that now outweigh the departure of the development plan.”
But some councillors expressed concerns that ignoring the development plan for the area would have a detrimental effect.
Addressing the voters, Cllr Beccy Hopfensperger said: “I’m seriously concerned about where we stop to approve planning that is against so many policies.
“Once we start, so many floodgates will open. I ask you to act appropriately here.”
The move to grant planning permission was met with criticism members of the public as well as by the three parish councils for Fornham St Martin cum St Genevieve, Fornham All Saints and Great Barton.
They expressed concern that the hub would cause traffic congestion in an ‘already dangerous’ area as well as noise pollution, water pollution and a lower air quality caused by the diesel fumes and odour from the waste.
Cllr Terry Clements, who voted against, said: “There’s got to be something in here for the parish councils. They were not going to be 100 per cent satisfied but at least they would feel like they’re being listened to.
“There’s nothing here for the residents so I don’t actually see any improvement. I’m so disappointed.”
A spokesman for the applicants said: ““It was important that the decision was made after full consideration of all matters. We understand why the committee chairman felt the need to consider the application afresh.
“We are pleased that the committee has taken the time to consider the application thoroughly and have balanced the need and benefits of a waste hub against the views put forward by some local members of the community and representatives. The Secretary of State will be informed of the decision in case he wants to call it in for review.
“We have undertaken a great deal of work to get to this point to address their concerns and this has been reflected in the committee’s decision. A waste hub is needed to deal with increasing levels of waste as our population grows, in a cost effective, efficient and sustainable manner.
“This development will improve efficiency of our waste services by bringing a waste transfer station, household waste recycling centre and a vehicle depot together on one site. It will reduce the use of rural roads by HGVs and reduce the miles travelled by vehicles moving waste from west Suffolk to the energy from waste plant at Great Blakenham.”