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Corkers Crisps face further delay to new factory after catastrophic blaze

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Three years after fire destroyed Corkers Crisps in the Cambridgeshire Fens, planners are yet to give the go ahead for a replacement factory.

November 12 is the latest date being given to Corkers Crisps for a decision by East Cambridgeshire District Council over their proposals for a new factory after a catastrophic blaze destroyed its original plant in May 2020.

Simon Ellis, the council’s planning manager, has told the company it was not possible to determine the application by the target date of April.

He says a delay is necessary to “allow additional information to be submitted and reviewed prior to a decision being made”.

PIC BY GEOFF ROBINSON PHOTOGRAPHY 
Picture dated May 31st 2020 shows the fire still smouldering at Corkers Crisp factory near Ely, Cambridgeshire,on Sunday morning after a fire broke out on Saturday afternoon.
The application for a replacement has been backwards and forwards between the council and the company’s agents since January 2021 when plans for the new Corkers Crisp factory were first submitted.

The fire was tackled by over 60 firefighters from Cambs, Suffolk and Norfolk.

It completely devastated the family run business at Willow Farm, Westmoor Common, Ely, which employed over 100 people and had an approximate turnover of £10 million.

All of the buildings on site except for one were destroyed or demolished following the fire.

Planning consent had been approved to extend the premises prior to the fire and the new application proposes a new office block at the south west corner, a new vegetables in and storage to the north of the side and then a new production unit to the east.

PIC BY GEOFF ROBINSON PHOTOGRAPHY 
Picture dated May 30th 2020 shows the fire at Corkers Crisp factory near Ely, Cambridgeshire, on Saturday afternoon. The smoke could be seen up to 50 miles away in Bedfordshire.
A crisp factory was burnt to a crisp after major fire broke out in Cambridgeshire with black smoke seen in the sky 50 miles away.
“The proposal will largely be the same as currently undertaken on site to include the farming of crops, storage, cooking of crisps and packaging plus the associated supporting and ancillary buildings,” Corkers agents told the council.

County highways say the reconstruction will not result in an increase in staff and will operate the same as that existing so therefore “trip generation for the site is not expected to change following the delivery of the proposals.

“Taking into consideration the existing staff shift patterns, it is anticipated that all staff-related development trips and staff changeover periods will fall outside of the network peak periods.

“The development is anticipated to generate 20 HGV movements per day. When taking into consideration a robust 9-hour working day, this calculates to 2 HGV movements per hour which is minimal”.

Highways says the proposes that all HGVs will travel to/from the south along the B1411, to the A10 as existing. From here, vehicles are anticipated to split north and south along the A10.

“The application as submitted is not expected to have any significant impact on the surrounding highway network,” says their report.

“Therefore, the Highway Authority does not wish to object to the application as submitted.”

 

Facebook message from Corkers Crisps, June, 2020.“Dear friends of Corkers Crisps, the business suffered extensive fire and smoke damage at its Willow Farm site in Ely, Cambs at 3pm on Saturday 30th May. Once the alarm was raised all colleagues were promptly evacuated and we are pleased to confirm that no one was hurt. We would like to thank the emergency services for their skill and their speed in getting to the site.

We thank all customers, suppliers and friends of Corkers Crisps who have sent kind messages of support.

We are working towards having a limited range of Corkers back on the shelves as soon as we can.
With our best wishes, the Corkers team.

Facebook message from Corkers Crisps, June, 2020.
“Dear friends of Corkers Crisps, the business suffered extensive fire and smoke damage at its Willow Farm site in Ely, Cambs at 3pm on Saturday 30th May. Once the alarm was raised all colleagues were promptly evacuated and we are pleased to confirm that no one was hurt. We would like to thank the emergency services for their skill and their speed in getting to the site.
We thank all customers, suppliers and friends of Corkers Crisps who have sent kind messages of support.
We are working towards having a limited range of Corkers back on the shelves as soon as we can.
With our best wishes, the Corkers team.

 

Highways says they anticipate there will be a maximum of 60 staff on-site at any one time.

“Parking provision at the site is proposed to comprise 128 car parking spaces, 5 HGV loading bays, and 10 cycle parking spaces,” says their report.

“Such provision is an increase of 57 car parking spaces and 1 HGV loading bay from the current provision (71 car parking spaces and 3 HGV loading bays).

Given the proposals will result in a slight reduction in floorspace to that existing and will operate the same as that existing “it is unclear why car parking provision has almost doubled”.

But they note that “it is ultimately up to the Local Planning Authority as the parking authority to agree parking provision for the development”.

Not all villagers are happy with the proposals for Corkers.

“The proposed redevelopment is very large in scale,” says one objector.

“I support other residents’ comments both about the environmental impact, noise, and odour from the site as well as the fact that the surrounding area does not have the infrastructure to support a processing / manufacturing plant of this size.

“The roads going into and out of the site pass through small villages and Fenland B roads, not major roads.

 

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.

PIC BY GEOFF ROBINSON PHOTOGRAPHY 
Picture dated May 30th shows the fire at Corkers Crisp factory near Ely, Cambridgeshire, on Saturday afternoon.

“There are already traffic management difficulties and roads quite literally falling apart within the surrounding villages and the roads are not wide enough or of sufficient construction to support the heavy traffic and haulage transport that would be required to support this facility.

“On the face of it, it is obvious to see that a development of this size and scale just does not fit within the location of this development.

“Notwithstanding the many issues a plant of this kind creates in terms of noise and environmental factors, the infrastructure is also just not there, and it creates both nuisance and risk to residents in both Little Downham and Pymoor.”

Aftermath of fire at Corkers Crisps

Aftermath of fire at Corkers Crisps

Another resident told planners: “We would like to express how badly impacted our property was by the noxious fumes emanating from the previous factory. “

The resident poses question about safeguards on emissions, roads, and questions the size of the proposed new factory.

One other objector says: “Since the previous factory burned down, people in this area have been breathing clean air. This proposal threatens to take away that basic right, yet ECDC seems to have scant interest in defending it.

“I hope and trust that the ECDC Planning Dept – people we pay to keep us safe – will deny the application until such time as the proposers can prove (and ECDC would continuously verify) that indeed our air would remain clean and safe to breath.”

Among other objectors is this that “the proposed development is at a site which cannot sustain it.

“The local roads and villages are unable to bear the weight of traffic, particularly HGVs, that the proposed development would involve. It’s impact on the surrounding area would be overwhelmingly negative”

Corkers, however, believe they have covered all aspects of concerns.

Aftermath of Corkers Crisp fire

Aftermath of Corkers Crisp fire

“Following the devastation of the fire the proposed layouts seek to significantly improve the use of the site and indeed the surroundings to create a sustainable development,” their agents have told the council.

“It will help stimulate the economy and create employment.

“Socially it will maintain an important business to the locality and restart a well-known and award-winning brand.

“Environmentally the layout will provide good synergy with the surroundings and the development will seek to maximise sustainable principles in the production process and construction process.

“It is expected that the improved layout will also allow works to commenced in phases to try and expediate the operation of the business.

“This application is supported with separate reports relating to Ecology, Lighting, Transport, Landscaping, Noise, Odour and Drainage.”

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