Of course, the spectre of Gateway 14 hangs over us still, but until the actual planning application comes in, we’re in limbo to a certain extent. However, we did have the application from Poundfield Products to expand their facility to consider. Their Managing Director had sought an invitation to attend - the same gentleman who had announced by e-mail that he would have nothing to do with the Parish Council whilst I was still Chair. You might guess that my welcome might be a less than entirely warm one.
The problem, I suspect, is that he has little understanding of what a Parish Council does. He seems to be under the impression that we should be supporting a growing local business, whereas our role is to represent the interests of our residents. That does lead to a degree of conflict.
It turned out that he wanted to do two things, firstly to explain what his company were doing to meet our concerns and why we should support expansion, secondly to express his unhappiness about the objections from local residents. I did have to politely explain that we had no control over the right to free expression of the citizenry, nor would we seek to influence them - they have a right to express their concerns, just as he does. However, we had to measure the likely impacts of expansion on our community.
We are concerned about the impact on local roads of additional heavy goods vehicles given that they are not designed to handle such weights and are suffering significant, and potentially dangerous, degradation already - the road edges are already collapsing in a number of places, offering hazards to traffic after dark. The rural location of the facility is already impacting on overlooking properties, and by encroaching towards the valley of the River Gipping, it jeopardises the ecosystem of the valley floor.
And finally, the expansion, combined with the company’s continued attempts to overturn the restrictions on operating hours included as part of the conditions for approval of the facility in the first place, will cause disturbance and loss of amenity to those living on Mill Lane and Fen Lane, as heavy lorries and staff arrive as early as 5.30 a.m.
In truth, it was a remarkably stupid place to put such an industrial facility in the first place, with poor infrastructure, no public transport for staff to use and little in the way of parking. However, that fight was lost long ago and whilst relocation to a more appropriate, better resourced site would probably be in everyone’s interests, it is acknowledged that too much capital investment has been sunk into the current site for that to be a credible option.
We voted to object, as was probably always likely, although there was some sympathy for what Poundfield Products are trying to do. The problem is that the business has a long and somewhat ignoble record of subverting planning conditions, and the initial exchange went badly wrong from their perspective. I do not, for example, take kindly to be talked over at a meeting by his local plant manager.
There was an unexpected ending though, when Mr Roddy offered us £7,000 towards Parish projects. I admit to having been taken somewhat by surprise, especially as we had just voted to object to his company’s planning application. I wasn’t really sure what to say in response but took the sensible view that, if in doubt, seek advice. Subsequently, I’ve let the Parochial Church Council know that there are funds potentially available, and that they should approach him - the Church Room needs work done on it, and £7,000 would go a long way towards funding that.
So, another eventful meeting came to a close, and I could retreat to my armchair and ponder over what I had learned...