Anger at council over misery caused by Keynsham concrete factory

There is anger and dismay at the way Keynsham firm 4Concrete has been allowed to turn a site next to the town’s conservation area into heavy industrial use, causing misery for nearby residents and an extra 500 HGV movements a week along an already busy road.

4Concrete, which took over a lease at Old Station Yard in Avon Mill Lane from Hanson in 2019, has just been granted permission by Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Planning Committee to extend working hours on a one-year trial basis once new acoustic barriers are installed to reduce the noise being suffered by people living close by who are also worried about the effect of the dust on their health.

One fence will be 3.5 metres high on a part of the yard boundary and a 6m fence will surround a parking area opposite the entrance on the southern boundary.

There were 40 objections to the plans for the new fencing and to allow a 6.30am start and 6.30pm finish from Monday to Friday. Planning conditions attached to a historic permission have restricted weekday working hours to 7.30am-5.30pm.

Nearby residents say they were denied the chance to comment on 4Concrete’s original, retrospective planning application for two silos last December. At the time Keynsham Town Council supported the application and there were just two objectors who raised concerns about the health risks from airborne cement dust and noise, and the visual impact of the silos. B&NES approved the application, with planning officers saying that the silos replaced two previous ones and would not create airborne pollution.

The town council is now “frankly appalled” at what is happening at the site, vice chair Cllr Clive Fricker told B&NES Planning Committee: “The current occupant of this central Keynsham site operating as a cement depot is totally unsuitable. It is adjacent to a conservation area and a number of established residents. The access to the area for HGV cement vehicles is again extremely unsuitable.”

He said the previous occupancy involved a mason’s yard and production activity had taken place within a building, suppressing any noise: “The site has always been regarded as a B1 light industrial site or a warehousing site and we regard any attempt to now call it a B2 (heavy industrial) site is totally inappropriate.

“Excessive noise at all times, cement dust, blocked drains and the impact of heavy goods vehicles containing cement has really caused a complete reduction of wellbeing for residents in the area. Residents have called upon B&NES environmental staff and the police to enforce even current restrictions on operations.”

There is a 7.5-ton weight limit (apart from loading) on Avon Mill Lane and around 50 homes close by and a nursing home.

Cllr Andy Wait, who represents Keynsham East, told the meeting there have been “countless” breaches of planning conditions.

“Two silos for the manufacture of concrete were erected without planning permission; however, B&NES granted it retrospectively against the whole background of the site which was light industrial. B&NES now classifies the site as B2 though no application has ever been received. No certificate of lawful use has ever been applied for or issued. There was no consultation with residents. Until 4Concrete’s arrival, the only B2 use on site was a temporary one working inside a building with the doors shut. 4Concrete only has 30% of the site yet now the whole site is classed as B2.”

Avon Mill Lane

He added: “It’s time to stand back and ask the fundamental question as to whether 4Concrete or any other B2 business should use this site. No consideration was given to the increase in HGVs on the access road. This was an already very busy minor road and has a 7.5-ton weight limit on it. Now there are an extra 500 additional HGV vehicles per week.

“Noise starts very early even on Sunday mornings and goes on late into the evenings. I fear for the mental health of these residents. Their lives have been blighted. We have a duty of care.”

Bill Heslop, speaking on behalf of residents, said 4Concrete’s operations had sparked complaints about noise, dust, traffic and fumes.

He said: “During planning approval to erect the two silos which allowed the operation to commence, only one household was notified, meaning that many other local residents were denied the opportunity to present objections. 4Concrete violates the council-imposed restrictions to operating hours on an almost daily basis. Based on their track record there can be no expectation that the conditions offered in this planning application would be followed.”

He pointed out that Avon Mill Lane is next to children’s parks and is the only access road for the site and homes in the area. He said the extra 90+ HGVS a day frequently and dangerously block the road and mount the only available pavement.

Regarding the proposed acoustic barriers, residents have concerns that they won’t be effective. Mr Heslop said the noise impact carried out on behalf of 4Concrete was flawed, with some “highly noisy” activities not measured by the initial assessment. Residents are also concerned that 4Concrete have violated their statutory environmental permit and continue to do so.

He added that no environmental impact assessment has ever been carried out to consider the effect on Keynsham of heavy industrial traffic and air pollution and the resulting noise, dust and air pollution on people living nearby.

Daniel Millward, representing 4Concrete, argued that the noise impact assessment showed that noise issues will be successfully mitigated by the fencing so there should be no need for making permission temporary and reviewing it after a year: “The installation of the fence will cost in the region of £80,000 which is unlikely to be financed with such a condition in place. In short the imposition of such a condition would almost certainly force the business to fail.”

Council planning officer Christopher Griggs-Trevarthen told the meeting that the proposed condition restricting the extra two working hours a day to a year initially is a “belt and braces approach” so that once the acoustic fencing is in place, 4Concrete can achieve the lower noise levels they have said they will over the year.

His colleague Sarah James, told the committee that it is “a complicated site with a long history”. She stressed that councillors were not considering an application for a change of use but for an extension of hours and acoustic fences: “You are not actually considering today whether the use is a B1 or a B2, you are considering the application before you. That said, it is clear that the applicant has been invited to put a certificate of lawful existing use or development and they haven’t. We can’t insist they do.”

She said she could ask the council’s planning enforcement manager to bring a report to a future meeting to explore the use in greater detail.

4Concrete did not apply to change Saturday working hours of 8am-1pm. No working on a Sunday is allowed under the historic permission but it is permitted on bank holidays; however the committee said that the amended hours should not apply to bank holidays.

The Week In has asked 4Concrete to comment on the concerns raised and whether the fence is likely to be installed, considering its agent’s comments.