A planning application for a West Suffolk Operational Hub (WSOH) at Hollow Road Farm, Fornham St Martin, has now been submitted.
Applicants Forest Heath District, St Edmundsbury Borough and Suffolk County councils expect the detailed document, which includes a design and access statement and transport and air quality assessments, to be available online for public scrutiny on Friday.
The plans – which seek to combine a waste transfer station, Household Waste Recycling Centre and depot on a single site – propose creating two accesses to separate refuse collection vehicles and members of the public as well as widening Bury/Fornham Road to create two right hand turn lanes and ‘ghost’ traffic islands where vehicles will wait before entering.
They are likely to be considered by St Edmundsbury’s development control committee in around June or July, with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to get the final decision on whether planning approval should be granted.
In a joint statement the councils’ three portfolio holders responsible for waste collection and management, Cllr David Bowman, Cllr Matthew Hicks and Cllr Peter Stevens, said: “Following two phases of consultation, there have been many months of work by many experts in their various fields to put together this extremely detailed planning application.
“As the portfolio holders responsible we strongly support this proposal because we believe a shared operational hub would enable waste from across West Suffolk to be collected and managed as safely, cost-effectively and efficiently as possible.
“West Suffolk’s population is growing, the number of homes is growing and our role is not to stop that growth but to manage it properly for our future generations.
“We believe that an operational hub, located at the Hollow Road Farm site, is the best way to deal with waste from homes and businesses, both now and well into the future.
“Many changes have been made to the original ideas following the consultations, especially to the site’s design, and over time there is a real opportunity to create some attractive landscaping but we understand that we will not be able to allay every single concern.”
While encouraging residents to scrutinise the plans, Cllr Stevens stressed that the hub’s location had already been decided and comments made should be based on the merits of the application itself.
In a statement, the Villages Community Forum, which represents residents of the Fornhams and Great Barton, said: “WSOH has moved on to a new phase – and so we now have to focus on the planning process. We expect this to be made live on the borough planning portal in the next few days. We have been introduced to the WSOH planning application, it involves over 20 documents – and the summary introduction alone is over 300 pages.
“From what we have seen so far, the authorities have listened and the outcomes of our community engagement and opinion sharing have resulted in significant revisions to the layout and design of the proposed site. Particular attention has been shown in respect of traffic movement within the site, entrance arrangements, the orientation and design of the buildings and overall visual impact.
“However, we remain deeply concerned that the Achilles’ heel of this project is the cumulative impact of increased traffic volume on the neighbouring communities, using what is already a woefully inadequate and congested local road and infrastructure network. The longer term highways implications of this development have not been thought through and the consequences for our villages are very serious indeed.
“We also remain to be convinced that combining all these functions together on a single site is the optimum solution – particularly given the compelling business and operational cases which we have presented for viable alternatives.
“There will be a short 21-day consultation period once the planning application goes live and it is absolutely crucial that people engage and log on to that through the St Edmundsbury Borough Council Planning Portal and express their views – just as they did during the second round of public consultation last year.”
The statement added: “It is now two years to the month since the WSOH Hollow Road Farm proposal was revealed as an already preferred option and effectively a ‘done deal’. Here we are, two years later, facing a proposal from an authority which has stuck like glue to its original plan, regardless of public opinion and opposition, in order to press ahead with its own agenda. Sadly, it is time that will vindicate the concerns expressed by our communities – but by then, it will be too late. We need an injection of reasoned strategic long term thinking right now.”
The application will be available through the West Suffolk planning portal where there is also information on how to send in comments for consideration by the council’s planning committee.
The capital cost of building the site at Hollow Road Farm is expected to be in the region of £20 million.
It has been designed to deal with 104,000 tonnes of waste annually, allowing for growth forecasts up to the year 2039, and would be expected to see an average of 330 Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) movements per day.
Further details on the background to the project can be found at www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/wsoh including the councils’ agreement last June to the principle of locating the hub at Hollow Road Farm and a series of questions and answers about the planning process and policy, traffic issues and potential impacts of the development.