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Protesters put paid to plans

PUBLISHED: 15:34 20 February 2008 | UPDATED: 14:27 07 July 2010

People power on Friday put paid to a controversial bid to revise plans to process animal carcasses at Great Witchingham.

Jubilant protesters claimed victory after planners threw out a bid by Banham Compost to vary an earlier planning agreement to build a rendering plant at Clayhall Farm, Great Witchingham - between Fakenham and Norwich.

People power on Friday put paid to a controversial bid to revise plans to process animal carcasses at Great Witchingham.

Jubilant protesters claimed victory after planners threw out a bid by Banham Compost to vary an earlier planning agreement to build a rendering plant at Clayhall Farm, Great Witchingham - between Fakenham and Norwich.

But their celebrations could be short lived after the firm said it was likely to appeal the decision by Norfolk County Council's planning committee.

Banham wants to process 300 tonnes of waste a day and insist the plant is vital for the region's £2bn poultry industry.

County councillors went against officer advice to reject the proposal by nine votes to four.

Broadland District Council had approved the concept of a rendering plant back in 2003 following discussions with the previous owners about how to tackle problems with smells in the area. But Banham who bought the site two years later, built a plant covering a larger area and standing in a slightly different spot to its previously agreed proposals.

Different equipment had also been installed including a 30m high chimney.

But residents cried foul - insisting the firm had flouted planning rules and the area, in the heart of the Wensum Valley, risked ruin by a combination of noise, smells from the site and delivery vehicles. They also argued the finished site marked a 'fundamental alteration' to the original proposals.

The move is the latest twist in the long-running saga and throws in the air the future of the site - the firm could appeal the decision, or rebuild the plant as originally agreed, and there is also the possibility that council officers could seek enforcement action asking for it to be pulled down.

Barry Richardson, company secretary, said afterwards an appeal was the most likely option.

“I don't think there is any option but to,” he said. “It's unbelievable, you saw the officers' recommendations. It could have a big effect on jobs in the poultry industry.”

During the three hour meeting the firm reeled off a series of technical experts to back up its case and also claimed the noise coming from the site would be on a par with a library.

Tory councillor Jim Shrimplin echoed the majority of councillors who felt the firm had not done enough to minimise pollution and the environmental risks.

“There are three elements to this application - the visual impact, the smell and noise,” he said. “I've yet to be convinced that this can be done away with and that people won't have their quality of life affected.”

Dozens of protesters with placards packed the public gallery with some forced to listen to the debate in the neighbouring committee room via speakers.

Objectors included parish councils, Breckland Council and Turkey firm Bernard Matthews - which raised concerns about bio-security. Mid Norfolk MP Keith Simpson also spoke against the plans.

John Martin, a solicitor who lives near the site, said he welcomed the decision.

“It's the end of a 16-month struggle,” he said. “Now they can get on with their lives, move house if they want to, and look forward to an odour free summer.”

Michael Haslam, a planning consultant, who spoke for Great Witchingham parish council, criticised the manner in which the firm handled the issue.

“I haven't come across anything quite as blatant as what they have done,” he said. “It's had a huge impact on the community. The elected members have applied common sense.”

David Sayer, of Blackwater Fare Equestrian Centre, who spoke of the impact that dead animal smells would have on horses, said: “I'm delighted, the case wasn't proven, that was very obvious. This is so important. If it's got wrong, it will effect the whole valley area for years to come.”

James Joyce, county councillor for the area said: “Over the years the residents in Great Witchingham have been let down by various authorities and this was the time to start to put it right.”

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