Council told to pay costs as concrete factory wins appeal
- Credit: Harry Rutter
A concrete company has won their four-year battle to expand their Littleport factory and create 90 new jobs.
F P McCann was also awarded costs after a planning inspector found East Cambridgeshire District Council guilty of “unreasonable behaviour”.
Planning inspector Jonathan Price, who visited the Wisbech Road site, said McCann’s had been forced into “unnecessary or wasted expense; a full award of costs is justified”.
The hearing took place over two days in January after McCann appealed against a failure by the council to determine their application in a timely fashion.
The company submitted their initial application in August 2016.
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The company wants to use 18 acres of land to grow their business and erect a concrete manufacturing facility.
They also propose an extension of their current factory and the addition of travelling crane rails.
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“The appeal is allowed and planning permission is granted,” said Mr Price.
McCann first gained the unanimous consent for their application from East Cambs Council in February 2017.
However, a successful claim for judicial review followed and permission was quashed by the High Court less than four months later.
The reason given was that the council had failed to follow planning guidelines on screening opinions.
Mr Price said that notwithstanding its position over screening opinion, the council then sought a “substantial amount” of extra information.
Mr Price concluded that the main issue was of noise and the effects of those living nearby.
“At the time of the application, it would appear that noise had been an ongoing concern,” he said.
“Complaints over the current F P McCann operations had been received from nearby residents.
“However, there is no evidence of ‘statutory nuisance’ having been found under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, insofar as current noise might be prejudicial to public health.”
Mr Price said the environmental health officer was satisfied that none of the neighbouring residents would suffer unacceptable levels of noise disturbance from the new premises proposed.
He said the High Court’s quashing of the planning permission related to faults in statutory EIA procedure, and was not specifically related to noise.
He said there can be no absolute certainty over the noise implications of this development.
“In this particular case, the existing F P McCann operation provides some basis for assessing the likely noise impact of the proposal,” he said.
“I am mindful, however, that the design and configuration of the new operations could lead to relatively reduced noise, when compared to the older, extant plant.”
Mr Price said part of the appeal site had previously been allocated for commercial use.
Those categories for which it had been allocated might “by definition, not necessarily be without detriment to amenity in a residential area due to noise”.
He added: “In addition to the noise from this and other industries, there is that generated by road traffic on the A1101 Wisbech Road and A10 Littleport bypass.
“The existing employment area is next to these main roads, where vehicular traffic makes a significant contribution to background noise levels.”
Mr Price said: “The evidence provides no clear substantiation over the proposal giving rise to significant adverse impacts on the health and quality of life of any nearby residential occupiers.
He said measures to mitigate noise “and reduce to a minimum the potential adverse impacts” could be conditioned through a noise management plan.
Mr Price concluded: “Planning decisions are matters of judgement.
“In this case, the evidence demonstrates that noise levels from the proposal would not be significantly greater than might reasonably be expected for a use within a general industrial area.”
Mr Price also considered flood risk, water quality and ruled McCann had dealt with them properly.
He added: “I find no planning grounds for this proposal to be considered unacceptable in respect of air quality.”
Mr Price said: “This proposal would bring about a change in land use from arable fields to industrial, but not of a kind unprecedented in the Fenland landscape.”
On habitats disrupted by the proposals, he said, these “are of limited botanical and ecological interest.
“As such their loss would not result in significant adverse impacts to nature conservation within the local area.”
He concluded: “I find no fault with a business seeking to expand in its established location.”