The waste hub plan for Hollow Road Farm was approved today by a special meeting of St Edmundsbury’s Development Control Committee.
The meeting accepted the officer recommendation by a vote of 11 to five to approve the plan for the hub in Hollow Road, Fornham St Martin, in spite of widespread local objections.
The special meeting was arranged after the committee’s July 19 meeting decided to defer the application to allow officers time to report back on three issues raised.
The committee wanted to know whether a shared cycle/footpath to the south of Barton Hill could be removed from the plan, if lorries could access the site from the A134/143 roundabout on Compiegne Way and if traffic calming could be introduced along the A134 and Fornham Road.
The report to the committee said that after the additional information was submitted by the applicants, Suffolk County and the West Suffolk Councils, representations were received from 35 address, including the chairmen of Fornham St Martin cum St Genevieve, Great Barton and Fornham All Saints parish councils.
Most said it did not address their previous concerns.
The report noted applicants said the shared path was mainly for staff. Councillors felt its benefits would be outweighed by the loss of trees.
The applicants agreed omitting it would save the trees, avoiding an impact on the character of the area and saving ‘mitigation planting’. Officers did not consider the path was necessary to make the development acceptable.
The report said the A134/A143 roundabout would need ‘substantial landscape removal’ to improve visibility but points out the Fornham Road entrance would also require landscape work including removing a mature oak tree.
More significantly, the applicants said the A134/A143 access would restrict expansion of commercial businesses along the proposed route from the roundabout and commercial operators on the land are concerned it would bring hub traffic close to existing buildings and operations with possible ‘noise, air quality and vibration implications’.
The report said: “The applicants conclude that operational access to the proposed development via the A134/A143 roundabout would not be compatible with adjacent land uses.”
In addition, there are land ownership issues.
No further traffic calming measure are proposed on Fornham Road, but officers accepted signs and road lining proposed were of an appropriate standard.
The first two hours of the meeting were taken up with representations by parish, ward and county councillors and members of the public.
Only one member of the public backed the scheme. Steve Lumley, whose business Steve Lumley Planing is next to the site, said: “I still think it’s a suitable site.”
“A key point is about access to the A14 for the removal of materials from the site to Great Blakenham [incinerator].
“Everyone talks about the local access to the site but the larger vehicles will take the material away from the site.”
He also argued that the site was ideal for vehicles that need access the town from the transport depot part of the development, such as the sweepers that clean up on market days.
Long term objector Adrian Graves from Great Barton referred to the matters raised in July and argued: “The serious concerns raised then and since have neither been adequately recognised nor resolved.”
He warned that approval when it was against the council’s policies and Vision 2031 district plan risked ‘opening the Pandora’s box for developers’.
He added: “This application is being watched by developers and other authorities across the country who will latch on to this precedent as a device to circumvent due process and leverage approval of other difficult and controversial developments.”
Objectors also highlighted fire risks and fears the aquifer below Bury St Edmunds could be contaminated by fire fighting water if there was a blaze.
Ward councillor Beccy Hopfensperger was among those to call for a reduced speed limit on Fornham Road around the site entrance where she said the average speed was 55mph. She also argued that the visibility splays either side of the site exits were below the standard length yet poor visibility had been cited as a reason not to use the A134/143 roundabout.
Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Council Cabinet member with responsibility for waste, told the meeting: “The importance of this application cannot be underestimated when looking at the wider Suffolk context. As we put in place the plans to build an Energy from Waste plant we always knew that we would need at least three transfer stations to allow the waste you collect as waste collection authorities to be deposited, put onto bigger lorries and taken to Great Blakenham.
“Currently your vehicles take the waste from Bury to Red Lodge only for us to truck it all the way back again to Great Blakenham.”
On highways issues, he added: “I would ask you to remember that the officers present today, are experts in the safety of the network and they, as professionals, can only give advice based on their professional experience and of course professional judgement and their only concern is safety of the public.”
Committee member Robert Everett asked for assurances fire risk had been considered and ‘good quality equipment’ was planned.
Charles Judson, case planning officer, said it had been subject to consultation with relevant authorities and complied with Environment Agency criteria to contain contaminated water.
Cllr Terry Clements, a former lorry driver, called for strong conditions on routes lorries could take to the site. He said: “There’s an opportunity for people to use these smaller roads – that’s what residents are concerned about.”
Mr Judson said there was a condition that a lorry management plan had to be approved which would require the use of the strategic lorry network. He said West Suffolk trucks are tracked and complaints about others would be logged.
Green councillor Julia Wakelam complained: “I don’t find the highways explanation of why an alternative access [via the A134/143 roundabout] wasn’t acceptable.
“It talks about possible implications on neighbouring land owners – these are ‘possible implications’ as opposed to positive implications on local residents.”
David Nettleton stressed the site was not part of Bury St Edmunds.
“This is the countryside,” he said. “Vision 2031 identifies this land as countryside and it’s grade two agricultural land which should be protected.”
He told rural councillors: “Who knows what the county council has in store for your wards if you approve this.”
But Ian Houlder, who seconded a vote for approval, argued that the site, with its views of the sugar factory, was ‘really rather ugly’ and would look better with the proposed landscaping.
On problems accessing the site he said: “That’s disparaging our professional lorry drivers – they’re doing that manoeuvre every day all over the country.”
In a joint statement after the meeting, Cllr Hicks, Peter Stevens, St Edmundsbury Borough Council Cabinet Member for Operations, and David Bowman, Forest Heath District Council Cabinet Member for Operations said: “We are pleased that the committee has taken the time to consider the application thoroughly and have balanced the need for 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 on 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.”