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Greenham car wreck depot wins appeal to extend opening hours

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Copart UK wins 10-month battle with West Berkshire Council

A CAR auctioneer has won its 10-month battle with West Berkshire Council to extend its opening hours, despite warnings of noise and disturbance to nearby residents.

US firm Copart UK was granted permission to hold more than 4,000 accident-damaged vehicles at a site at New Greenham Business Park last May, subject to conditions limiting its opening hours.

Condition 17 restricted hours to between 5am and 6pm Mondays to Fridays, with vehicle handling from 7am.

West Berkshire Council twice blocked efforts to extend hours to 8pm and to allow operations for 15 Saturdays per year between 9am and 5pm, citing the impact on local amenity.

But the Planning Inspectorate has now overturned the decision and sided with Copart UK, judging the longer opening hours to be acceptable.

In making the decision, the planning inspector said that any noise impact from the development “would not occur overnight” and added that the actual weekday and weekend daytime noise levels would meet established standards.

The inspector said: “Whilst additional noise from the appeal site would be noticeable at the nearby sensitive properties, the potential for complaint would be less than with the previous use in place on the appeal site and any degree of adverse impact would not be unacceptable in planning terms.

“It is therefore not necessary for the appeal development to be fettered by the limitations imposed by Condition 17 of the original permission, which would therefore be varied as proposed.”

The inspector added: “The wider economic benefit of allowing the business of the appellants to proceed with fewer constraints upon its operation adds weight to the case for approval.

“That is not to say that the stated prospect that the appellants might withdraw from the development altogether if Condition 17 were to remain in place has much influenced this decision, as it is made on a fresh appraisal of the individual planning merits of the particular case.”

Greenham Parish Council, which had been a staunch opponent of the proposal, reacted with dismay to the appeal decision.

Deputy clerk Heather Westbrook said: “Greenham Parish Council is extremely disappointed.

“Obviously this is going to have a detrimental effect on our local residents who live in close proximity of that location.”

Chairman Phil Barnett said that he, too, was disappointed by the decision.

Former Greenham Parish Council chairman Tony Forward called the decision “astounding” and said: “The whole emphasis seems to be on business.

“West Berkshire Council had already said at the planning committee meetings that there were concerns about the level of noise.

“They tried hard to do the right thing for the public, but in one stroke an inspector can wipe all of that aside from a democratically-elected body following the advice of officers.”

He added that, in the wake of far-reaching cuts to local services, costly appeals could be one area targeted to reduce costs.

Greenham parish councillor Julian Swift-Hook was more positive of the increased hours, however, and said: “It’s always difficult balancing the legitimate concerns of the handful of immediate neighbours with the needs of the business park.

“But I think this proposal is actually an improvement for residents because the operation it replaces was making noise 24 hours a day.

“The 3m-high acoustic fence will further protect the amenity of residents, and meanwhile the development will bring much-needed employment and economic benefits to Greenham.”

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