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4-year battle to rebuild Corkers Crisps, Ely, destroyed by fire

Manoeuvring the new design concept through the planning system is proving a challenge

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Nearly four years after fire destroyed Corkers Crisp factory near Ely, entrepreneurial farmer Ross Taylor remains submerged in a battle with planners to build a replacement. Simultaneously he is also appealing against enforcement action by Cambridgeshire County Council for depositing waste.

Mr Taylor told the BBC: “An appeal has gone in. It’s not that we have started a waste business or anything like.

“It’s material we have taken up from the old foundations which will have to go back in when we build the new factory.”

He added: “When the factory was destroyed 110 jobs were lost; we just want to build our factory up again.”

Picture dated May 31st 2020 shows the fire still smouldering at Corkers Crisp factory near Ely, Cambridgeshire. PHOTO: Geoff Robinson

Gateley Smithers Purslow, the architects acting on his behalf, reminded East Cambridgeshire District Council planning department last year that until the fire, Corkers had been “a long-term local employer.

“The reinstatement of this sustainable replacement will allow local people to be again employed producing local produce for a national and international market”.

Not everyone agrees the new plans, despite being reworked, are suited to a rural location such as Willow Farm at Pymoor Common from where Corkers began business in 2010.

But Gateley believes Willow Farm should remain the HQ for Corkers.

“One of the key selling points of Corkers Crisps is the unique flavour that is obtained through growing the potatoes in the peaty soil surrounding the factory,” it told planners.

“Siting the factory so close to the adjacent fields allows for minimal travel during the harvest season decreasing the overall carbon footprint of the business.”

But manoeuvring the new design concept through the planning system is proving a challenge.

Just days ago, Cambridgeshire County Council, as the lead local flood authority, said they continue to object to the re-development.

It says Corkers has failed to address issues previously raised about flood risk and drainage.

Concept photos submitted by Corkers Crisps to East Cambridgeshire District Council offering an impression of the entrance to their proposed new factory and an idea of what it might look like.

Concept photos submitted by Corkers Crisps to East Cambridgeshire District Council offering an impression of the entrance to their proposed new factory and an idea of what it might look like.

Another consultee, Natural England, believes the application could have “potential significant effects on the Ouse Washes site of special scientific interest (SSSI), Special Protection Area (SPA), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Ramsar (protection of wetlands) site.

“Natural England requires further information in order to determine the significance of these impacts and the scope for mitigation”.

“Without this information, Natural England may need to object to the proposal”.

Some villagers have renewed their opposition to the proposals, one recently writing to East Cambs planners to complain about “highway safety, loss of public amenity, noise, pollution, residential and visual amenity”.

The objector tells planners: “Over the last couple of years we have experienced a significant increase in logistic HGV and grab hire/skip lorry movements through the village around the clock.

“As such there has been a loss of residential amenity from noise and vibration which is impacting sleep and quality of life.

“This application goes beyond the original application and now consists of significant number documents. It is difficult to navigate and assess what is actually being applied for, much of it amended and often inconsistent and ambiguous”.

The objector claims the original application said the site would employ 35 workers “but the application form states there are 120 currently employed at the site, what employment is there for 120 given there is currently no factory, also when did this increase from the 35?”

Working hours and lorry movements through the village are also given as causes for concern.

“Potatoes are well known for their ease of storage so what is the justification to have a frozen storage facility on site, as potatoes can be stored and processed on demand?,” says the objector.

“The proposed redevelopment states current parking for 36 cars with proposed 128, original application was for 15 cars and 1 LGV.

“Using the information from the transport statement there would be 120 car movements through the village at shift change (0700 and 1900). The village has a number of pinch points, including the school and church corner.

“The size and nature of the redevelopment is not best suited for this rural location; the roads are already in a poor state with the road surface breaking up and carriageway dropping away in a number of locations.

“The scale of the proposed redevelopment operating around the clock, every day of the year goes way beyond the original application and is on an industrial level with increased pollution and environmental impact, it would be better suited to an industrial estate location such as Lancaster Way where it wouldn’t impact residential areas and be better connected to the main road network.”

Another resident has queried why “the footprint of the site has massively increased.

“It is unclear as to why the factory is being expanded so much and the impact this will have on traffic. No justification is provided as to the need for this expansion. It is also unclear as to why the buildings are being moved back further from the highway than the existing buildings damaged by fire.

“The only route into and out of the site is the B1411, the route through Little Downham is not suitable for a large number of HGVs and a number of vehicles have been damaged.”

FOOTNOTE:

You can stay up to date with progress of the planning application by searching for this application on the website of East Cambridgeshire District Council.

21/00396/FUM | Redevelopment of Corkers Crisp/Taylor Farms complex | Willow Farm Pymoor Common Pymoor Ely Cambridgeshire CB6 2WA

 

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