Controversial plans by Keynsham firm 4Concrete to extend their operating hours have been blocked and both the company and council officers have been criticised.
Councillors on Bath & North East Somerset Council’s planning committee voted against 4Concrete’s latest planning application on the grounds of loss of amenity for nearby residents after hearing of the devastating impact they are suffering from current operations at Old Station Yard, off Avon Mill Lane.
Council officers had recommended approval of the revised and partially retrospective application for barriers to reduce noise and dust, allowing 4Concrete to start filling concrete mixing vehicles an hour earlier on weekdays (at 6.30am) and to finish an hour later (at 6.30pm), but only once the fences had proved to be effective.
4Concrete’s agent said that the fencing, once complete, would be equally effective as the more costly plans that had been approved by B&NES last November.
Council officers supported the findings of a noise assessment report funded by 4Concrete and judged that the impact of the extra two hours a day would not have a significant impact on people living nearby.
As we have previously reported, B&NES Council has come under fire for its handling of 4Concrete’s initial planning application for two silos, permitted retrospectively in January 2020. The Local Government Ombudsman is currently investigating.
At Wednesday’s meeting at the Guildhall in Bath, Keynsham councillor Andy Wait delivered a deeply critical attack on 4Concrete and B&NES Council officers. He said that B&NES had been unable to provide any proof that an application changing the whole site to B2 (general industrial) had ever been granted and that since December 2019, the lives and mental and physical health of people living near the site had been damaged and disrupted by the “totally inappropriate behaviour” of 4Concrete.
He said that Keynsham Town Council had objected to the latest application as the site had become noisy, dangerous and air polluting, adding: “There’s been an increase in traffic, which is totally unacceptable. 4Concrete are working outside permitted hours; a further extension of these hours would be detrimental to the neighbouring residents and the town.
“The town council find it unbelievable that B&NES highway department have not objected to this application for an additional two hours of work per day, resulting in 2,000 extra HGV lorry journeys per year along an already congested highway through a conservation area.”
He also said the ecological information provided for the application did not provide an impact assessment.
Cllr Wait said that nearby residents, some of whom have lived there for more than 40 years, were never consulted by B&NES Council about 4Concrete’s initial planning application: “I believe that B&NES made an error in 2019 and this whole sorry mess stems from that mistake. This may explain why throughout the process B&NES officers have appeared to support 4Concrete.”
He said they had accepted the findings of a year-old, 4Concrete-funded report on noise, “based on two and a half hours of limited data collection, not covering any of the noisier operations like jackhammering” When residents commissioned their own independent thorough report covering the whole site, whilst part of the barrier was already in place, the conclusions contradicted the other report but council officers had “ignored” it.
Cllr Wait said that last November, B&NES planning committee had agreed to acoustic barriers with a 12-month check on their effectiveness before working hours could be increased: “Since then 4Concrete have built a different inferior set of barriers and now want retrospective planning permission for the ones they have already built, which are ineffective due to the huge gap from the continuously open gate. They want the committee to accept these and a further barrier yet to be built. They also want to increase their hours now and want the 12-month check on barrier effectiveness removed.
“Since then, they have broken their hours of working, continued to use equipment breaking B&NES own noise barriers, polluted the area with concrete dust and had dirty water draining out of the site on a regular basis, flowing into the River Chew in contravention of the Highways Act. This water continues, despite B&NES serving 4Concrete notice weeks ago.”
Cllr Wait said that residents had not been supported by B&NES officers “who have been ineffective in reinforcing their own rules and have often appeared politely indifferent or arrogant towards the residents”.
Officers have said they are satisfied that the site has a B2 planning use class.
The committee voted by a majority of six to two with one abstention to refuse the application, even though members had been warned that refusal would be difficult to defend at appeal.
The Week In has asked 4Concrete if it wishes to comment on the refusal of the plans.
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