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Agenda item

21/00807/CM - Wingmoor Farm, Stoke Orchard Road, Bishop's Cleeve

To consider the application for variation of condition 7 (buildings, plant and machinery) and condition 19 (hours of operation) relating to planning consent 17/0066/TWMAJW dated 19 October 2017 in order to provide a view to Gloucestershire County Council. 

Minutes:

20.1          Attention was drawn to the report of the Development Manager, circulated at Pages No. 290-305, in relation to an application at Wingmoor Farm East which had been submitted to Gloucestershire County Council.  Tewkesbury Borough Council had been consulted on the proposal and it was recommended that Members resolve to raise no objection to the application.

20.2          The Planning Officer confirmed this was a county matter on which Tewkesbury Borough Council had been consulted.  The application related to activities taking place at the existing Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) at Wingmoor Farm East located to the west of Bishop’s Cleeve.  The site was located within the Green Belt and land to the north of the site, on the opposite side of Stoke Road, benefitted from the grant of outline planning permission for up to 215 dwellings and 2.24 hectares of commercial uses.  The proposal sought to vary the wording of two conditions attached to an earlier planning consent in order to allow for the bulking and onward transfer of residual household waste - arising from households within the boroughs of Tewkesbury and Cheltenham – to the Energy from Waste facility at Javelin Park, Gloucester.  As explained within the Committee report, those operations had already commenced and the application was therefore made in retrospect.  No objections had been received from technical consultees; however, there were considerable objections from the Parish Councils and local residents in respect of the impact of operations on air quality, particularly odour, and noise disturbance; concerns had also been raised in respect of additional vehicular movements.  An assessment of the material considerations was set out at Pages No. 299-302 of the Committee report and additional information could be found in the Additional Representations Sheet, attached at Appendix 1, which included supporting information from the applicants, submitted to Gloucestershire County Council, in response to the comments made by consultees and members of the public.  Letters of representation in support of the application had been received from Tewkesbury Borough Council’s Head of Community Services and Cheltenham Borough Council’s Environmental Partnerships Manager.  An identical letter of support had been received by Councillor Dobie at Cheltenham Borough Council.  A summary of the points raised had been included in the Additional Representations Sheet and full copies of the representations were appended for completeness; however, it should be made clear that the ‘other considerations’ detailed within the supporting letters were not material planning considerations and could not be afforded any weight when assessing this proposal.  For the reasons set out in the Committee report, and taking account of the fact that technical consultees had raised no objection to the proposal, it was recommended that Members resolve to raise no objection to the application, subject to the planning conditions - as amended by this application - being attached to the original planning permission.

20.3          The Chair invited a local resident speaking in objection to the application to address the Committee.  The local resident explained that the MRF at Wingmoor Farm was given planning consent based on a very special circumstances case for development within the Green Belt and had been presented as having no potential negative impacts as the items coming into the building for sorting would be clean, dry recyclables.  Now, residual waste was taken to Wingmoor Farm which included nappies, pet waste, soiled hygiene products, food wrappers which were too contaminated for recycling, food waste when collections were not made – this was all tipped out and scraped up into an articulated lorry.  In her view this was not a MRF, it was a waste transfer station.  The planning history set out in the Committee report highlighted how the site had grown through variation and its impact on the neighbouring community had intensified with every one – this latest variation had certainly had a negative impact with a significant increase in the number of odour complaints to the Environment Agency over the last 18 months.  The applicant had objected strongly to the proposal to build housing opposing the site because of the risk of negative impacts and the pressure it would put on their ability to operate; at the Wingmoor Farm Liaison Forum, both the applicant and the Environment Agency had reiterated many times that odour was expected around waste sites.  On that basis, she questioned why a new activity would be added which increased the odour problems – the applicant demonstrated how likely odour would be by the very long list of actions needed to mitigate those odours.  Odour complaints were notoriously difficult to substantiate as, unlike spillages, there was rarely any evidence left, so the vast majority of complaints were unattributed to the source.  In her view, the original purpose of the facility was being undermined.  Last year, over 36,000 tonnes of residual waste had gone through a recycling facility so she questioned what was happening to Tewkesbury Borough Council’s recycling policy and pointed out that, if this application was granted, the MRF would no longer have capacity to accept recyclables.  On that basis, she questioned whether the special circumstances which allowed for a huge building in the Green Belt were being abandoned as the proposed variation of the wording of condition 7 completely detached the MRF from the rest of this site which suggested the transfer process did not need to take place in this specific location and should certainly not be situated opposite, or close to, residential areas.  She hoped Members would see the enormously negative impact of the application, raise an objection and insist that condition 7 remained and a protective odour control system be installed to protect both workers and local residents.

20.4          The Chair invited a local Ward Councillor to address the Committee.  The local Ward Councillor indicated that he wished to voice his opposition to the application and ask Members to object due to the potential adverse impact from odours, additional lorries and pollution.  Residents regularly complained of odours from the existing activities at Wingmoor Farm; the air temperature and wind direction could carry these odours over a long distance and affected many people, not just those living opposite the site.  Residents reported being unable to open their windows at times due to the odours being so unpleasant - something he had personally experienced - and one had even reported that the odours triggered coughing which forced them to use their inhaler more often.  This was a really serious issue that was depriving local people of the quiet enjoyment of their homes and gardens to which they should be entitled.  He regularly attended the Wingmoor Farm Liaison Forum and there had been a significant increase in odour complaints made to the Environment Agency.  As a result, the Environment Agency had increased its checks on the area from monthly to weekly.  With so many operators there were multiple causes and a cumulative impact.  97 members of the public had submitted written objections to this application, all citing the negative impacts of the site, predominantly odour.  The two variations suggested would make possible a process likely to result in further odours and allow the applicant to radically change the original process upon which planning consent had been given.  The location was entirely unsuitable and was set to become even less suitable following the planning consent given at appeal to build 215 houses less than 500 metres from Wingmoor Farm.  The applicant and Tewkesbury Borough Council both objected on the grounds of pollution risk – in his view, the Council should not be arguing there was an odour risk to residents in 2019 only to agree to more odours in 2021.  In addition to odours, the traffic around the site was already a substantial burden on homes along the approach road with 12 articulated lorry movements each day due to the increased size of vehicles needed for this process which added to the existing noise disruption and pollution.  When the site first opened, a total of 93 traffic movements per day was proposed for the whole of the applicant’s operations at Wingmoor Farm; through the many variations and additional planning consents, there were now 80 traffic movements per day for the MRF alone.  This proposal would have a detrimental impact on many people and, if the MRF was no longer linked to servicing the landfill, there would be no end in sight for residents.  Tewkesbury Borough Council aimed to deliver a good quality of life for all and this application ran contrary to that so he urged the Committee to oppose it.

20.5          The Chair indicated that the Officer recommendation was to raise no objection to the application and he sought a motion from the floor.  In response to a Member query, the Development Manager confirmed that an Environmental Impact Assessment would have included assessments of all the relevant matters in terms of pollution.  It was proposed and seconded that the Council should raise an objection to the application on the basis of the adverse impact from odours, additional lorries and pollution.  The proposer of the motion pointed out that the lifetime of the site was supposed to be three years but with the relinquishing of conditions it could be never ending. In his view, the Hempsted site would be much more appropriate.  The seconder of the motion felt the County Council was being cavalier about the operation as the site was never supposed to be for residual waste and she was aware of many complaints from residents of Bishop’s Cleeve and the surrounding areas.  In her opinion, it would be irresponsible if the Council did not raise an objection to the application.  A Member shared this view as it was the current residents and the occupants of the 225 houses being built opposite the site who would have to deal with the consequences.  The odour from the site along Stoke Road was really quite terrifying at times.  Another Member indicated that she had an issue with this being a retrospective application and felt it was obviously being driven by economic reasons which was not a consideration for residents – the County Council should have taken this into account a long time ago.  A Member echoed the concerns that had been expressed regarding the odour which he had experienced when playing rugby at Cheltenham North Rugby Club on Stoke Road; it had got to the point where the team had abandoned the club due to the smell.

20.6           In response to a query as to what would happen if the Council objected to the application, in particular whether operations would cease, the Borough Solicitor explained that the County Council would be required to take the objection into account in its determination of the application.  It would be open to the County Council to decide whether or not it was expedient to take enforcement action and, if so, what the requirements of any Enforcement Notice might be.  Upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED          That the Council OBJECT to the application on the basis of the adverse impact from odours, additional lorries and pollution.

Supporting documents: