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”.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
“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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