Borough council backs protest against recycling centre in Northampton but campaigner calls for more tests
"I just want someone to put their hands up and admit they have done wrong letting it get to this point"
A campaigner fighting a retrospective planning application by a nearby recycling centre in Northampton has been backed by the borough council.
Mick George, the national construction firm, submitted a retrospective application last month to Northamptonshire County Council for an extension to its warehouse at its Lower Ecton Lane site in 2020.
Now Northampton Borough Council, which was asked for its opinion on the application, has objected to the plans, saying the warehouse has brought the company's activities closer to the residents of a nearby caravan park resulting in an increase in dust, odour and noise which affects the residents' day to day lives.
In response, Mick George says the borough council has "misinterpreted" the plans and will actually reduce the amount of dust and noise created.
The issue was first raised by Sheryl Hadfield, 44, who lives at the nearby caravan park with more than 200 other residents.
Although Sheryl still has concerns, she has welcomed the objection from the borough council, which reads: "The proposed building is located in a position that brings activities closer to residential properties and as a result is likely to result in adverse harm on the amenities of the occupants in terms of noise, dust and odour.
"The activities set out in the supporting statement include the separation of materials using air and magnetic sorting methods, but it is considered that insufficient information has been provided in respect of updated supporting assessments.
"As requested by this council’s environmental health officers, any new/amended odour and dust control scheme should be reviewed as part as the application process."
A Northampton Borough Council spokeswoman said there was a lack of detail provided on its environmental impacts in the planning application by Mick George.
The spokeswoman said: "Environmental Health note the lack of detail provided in the application on the environmental impacts of the proposed use of the new building, and the activities added into the site as a result of its installation.
"The lack of information on noise, dust and odour does not allow us to form an opinion on whether any proposed control methods are robust, in the opinion of the borough council. Environmental Health have the view that the controls should be fully scrutinised and auditable ahead of any approval for full planning permission.
"Environmental Health seek further clarity on the matters discussed above before forming a fuller opinion on the application in respect of noise, odour and dust.”
The borough council's objection comes after Sheryl attended an online meeting with Mick George on Wednesday (February 24) about the site, with representatives from Northampton Borough Council's Environmental Health team, Northamptonshire County Council, the Environment Agency and Northampton's Labour leader, Councillor Danielle Stone, also in attendance.
The result of the meeting was that the borough council would look into using air quality diffusers in the Lower Ecton Lane area, and that Mick George would carry out air quality tests and dust monitoring.
Although Sheryl and Councillor Stone have welcomed NBC's objection, they are still concerned about Mick George conducting the air quality tests. Instead the campaigners are calling for independent checks by the Environment Agency.
An Environmental Agency spokesperson said: "It was agreed that Mick George will come back to us with a proposal on how they intend to monitor dust, which we will then review."
Councillor Stone said: "I left the meeting thinking we had achieved a measure of success in that Mick George promised to do some testing of the dust that came from the site. We understood this to be testing over a period of time in different weather conditions.
"Since going back to the agencies to confirm their actions, we believe that Mick George is only testing the dust on one occasion. This is ridiculous. Weather conditions determine how much dust, how far it travels etc. Testing needs to be done over time."
Sheryl added: “I feel really let down. These issues are not going away and they get worse in the good weather. I want proper testing so we know what we are dealing with. How much dust is coming off the site? Is it toxic? What is the air quality around our dwellings? Are our residents safe? Are our children safe? We need to know.”
Sheryl and councillor Stone also feel the Environment Agency has "a lot to answer for" in its handling of the situation.
Councillor Stone said: "The environment agency has a lot to answer for. They need to come in and do some proper investigations about the waste that is coming in, how it is being disposed of and the environmental impact that is having on nearby households."
Sheryl said: "I find it strange that the EA won't do their own checks after attending that meeting. Someone, somewhere, can stop this. Someone should step up from the EA and do independent tests.
"I just want someone to put their hands up and admit they have done wrong letting it get to this point."
A Mick George Group spokesman said the borough council may have not "fully read or understood the application".
The spokesman said: “The objection from Northampton Borough Council is noted, although their stated reason would suggest it has not fully read or understood the application. Contrary to the statement of Ms Rousell on behalf of Mr Baguley, the application does NOT “bring activities closer to residential properties".
"The application does not change the existing consented activities but instead allows those operations approved under previous planning permissions to be undertaken within an enclosed environment, which will far better enable matters such as noise, dust and odour to be controlled.
"I have not reviewed historic files but I don’t recall Northampton Borough Council raising objections to the identical waste handling activities in an open environment which did not have the benefit of an enclosed structure.”
NBC said it has objected to multiple Mick George planning applications over the years.
A spokesperson from Northamptonshire County Council said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on the retrospective planning application at this time. The application is still being processed, and will be passed to the new West Northamptonshire Council for a decision to be made at a future planning committee meeting.”
An EA spokesperson said: "If any members of the public want to report an environmental incident they can call our incident hotline number on 0800 807060 and we will investigate.