It began, as we are reminded, on January 25 this year with an ‘informal meeting’.
It was a meeting between Andrew Hodgson, agent for Chiltern Distribution, Fenland District Council, and others over proposals for a five-acre site adjacent to King’s Dyke bridge on the A605 at Whittlesey.
Mr Hodgson explained the proposals to the others present who included Fenland District Council head of planning Nick Harding and Cllr Ian Benney, portfolio holder for economic growth and Cllr Dee Laws, portfolio holder for planning.
Others presents included Brian Sageseta, the managing director and owner of Chiltern Distribution and representatives of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.
“The meeting was to discuss the urgency required to find additional storage space for the lorries relating to Chiltern Distribution who are located directly opposite the application site,” recalls Mr Hodgson of Pegasus Group in a recent email to Fenland District Council.
“Chiltern required immediate additional storage space for their lorries to allow for the expansion of the business by approximate 60 lorries.
“This site therefore offered the best solution given it already had planning permission and is so close to the existing business reducing any HGV traffic movements to other sites within the area / one of them already involves the juggernaut lorries driving through Whittlesey.
“In reality as Brian, the director of Chiltern made it very clear before and, in the meeting, that if the site across the road was not to become available, they were on the verge of signing for a site outside of Fenland taking with them the 100 + current jobs as well as all the others which would be created out of this expansion programme (up to 200 jobs).
“This still could be the case if this application were to be refused.”
Part of the background to the application, yet to be decided, has been explained by Mr Hodgson this month who says it is now a retrospective planning consent as HGVs are, clearly, there.
“At the meeting we outlined that we would be seeking to gain planning permission ASAP if we stood any chance of meeting Chiltern Distribution timetable (31st May tabled in the meeting) as new lorries had already been ordered and were going to start to be delivered by the end of May to meet their increased business schedule,” says Mr Hodgson.
“However, due to all the required surveys together with the delays caused by Easter and school holidays we could not get the application in any sooner.
“Ideally, we would like to have submitted the application quicker as suggested and agreed in the meeting to meet Chilterns timescale. We were only looking to resurface the site. A separate planning permission was sought for the boundary fencing which was recently approved.”
He is at pains to offer reassurance.
1: The application is for open storage however at present it is just lorry and lorry trailers as discussed.
2: There is already an extensive landscaping scheme in place delivered by the road scheme. When this matures the site will be well screened. He says 400 plus trees were planted by county highways.).
3: The hardcore surface is as per set out in their application and involves hard core being compressed onto the existing ground, so no intrusive ground works or foundations are required. It is therefore not impacting on anything below ground therefore surveys were not required to support this application.
A growing number of residents remain unimpressed with the proposed use
Whittlesey town council says that whilst there is no planning policy that they can find to refuse this application, they point out that “the site is already being used for the storage of refrigerated trailers and the hard standing has been completed over the last few weeks.
“The site presents itself as the first view of Whittlesey town, indeed the first town within Fenland after driving through the ‘Welcome to Fenland” signs on the A605.
“This we consider is ‘the gateway’ to Fenland and as such, should be considered for a site that showcases not only Whittlesey but Fenland also as a district that welcomes guests and business alike.
“A district and town that features not only industrial but hospitality, leisure, recreation, and tourism.
“In short, If this site is turned to industrial use, we are firmly hammering a nail in the coffin of our historic town. On these grounds, we would strongly disagree with this development.”
Among the large number of objectors is this one from a Saxon Road resident.
“Allowing a trailer park on that piece of land creates a huge eyesore for anyone coming to Whittlesey from Peterborough,” she says.
“It was noticed that clearing and making the site fit for the trailers has been done prior to the planning application being agreed to.
“The material that the site has been covered with looks very much like IBAA, can this be confirmed, as if this is the case, is there confirmation that that all the required guidelines have been met and documented and shared with the site owner and the Environment Agency?
“It has been suggested through previous investigation by the drainage board that there is a well on that site, will a drainage lake be enough to prevent any contamination from diesel / oil reaching the local watercourse?
“Refrigeration lorries produce noise and emissions can you say what mitigating action will be put in place to prevent these becoming a nuisance?
“The increase in traffic to the area for this new trailer park will have a detrimental effect on the roads to and from the area, the road surfaces aren’t great already, more lorries will make them even worse, emissions from the lorries will increase along the A605 to and from and through Whittlesey town centre, this cannot be good for the health and wellbeing of the residents of Whittlesey.
“In the application it says that the area is deprived, how has this been identified, what thought has been given to working with the people in the local area?
Can you provide details on how this new development will contribute to the growth of Whittlesey and what benefits it will provide to the local economy?”
Another Saxon Road resident observes that “once again, a company is operating without a permit and allowing this trailer park on the land proposed, creates a huge eyesore for anyone coming into Whittlesey from Peterborough.
“It was noticed that clearing and making the site fit for the trailers has been done prior to the planning application being agreed to and the noticeable increase in pollution is apparent to everyone. Whittlesey is already known as ‘The Dirty Town’.
“How much longer are councils going to allow this to continue.?”
A third Saxon Road resident told the council that “it is absolutely disgusting the amount of businesses starting up without permission; it is an absolute eyesore making Whittlesey look like a dirty industrial town”.
And a resident from Peterborough Road, Whittlesey, has told Fenland planners she objects on several grounds, not least work being carried out with planning consent.
“After the ongoing smell, dust and noise from Saxon Pit especially from a company working for two years with no planning, then having planning refused, but still allowed to work and pollute our area, Whittlesey and associated planning department is getting beyond a joke in how they operate,” she says.
“Surely the point of planning is you do not carry out works until it is passed. We are being taken advantage of by large companies who have no respect for the local area and especially the health (physical and mental) of the local residents.
“This application will add to the already excessive lorry movements through our town, adding to the existing poor air quality, destroying the roads even more, and increasing the noise from trailers thundering by and further decreasing residents health, not to mention the running of chilled trailers being a further noise issue.
“All we hear day and night is lorries going past, making our house vibrate with the noise. This has increased drastically since Saxon Pit has had the new companies operating in the last few years, and the expansion of Chilton will only make this worse.”
She appeals to the council to “them to do what you were voted in to do, to start standing up to these bully companies and not allow Whittlesey to turn into the dumping ground for everything other towns like March, Wisbech and Cambridge don’t want.
“This needs to start now as Whittlesey is just turning into a huge eyesore and health nightmare for us all”.
The site, on land at Churchfield Road, will only be used for storage, says Chiltern, and “by virtue of this use, no buildings are proposed to be erected within the site, and instead the site area will be used for flexible open storage purposes, with a permeable compacted material laid across the site to provide a workable surface”.
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