OBJECTORS to proposals for a knacker’s yard and carcass incinerator in the Valley of the Racehorse can heave a collective sigh of relief... for now.
Planners have rejected the latest application by J Passey and Sons to relocate from the Turnpike Industrial Estate in Newbury to the former Wessex Sawmill premises in Great Shefford.
But this time the decision appeared finely balanced and, as previously, there is no guarantee that the respite is permanent.
One of the main concerns raised – that the smell of death would spell the end for nearby horserace training yards – was rejected as a viable objection.
The planning officer’s report noted: “Whilst it is acknowledged that this may have a potential adverse impact on such business operations, without the submission of scientific evidence on this basis, such concerns cannot be considered within this application.”
It also pointed out that the Environment Agency had “softened their attitude to the proposal compared to their previous stance”.
Meanwhile, the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) group lodged no objection.
And West Berkshire Council’s own environmental health officer stated: “Environmental health supports this application given the benefits of this facility moving for residents currently living in close proximity to the site at Turnpike Drive (sic), and the fact that there are unlikely to be any impacts on residential neighbours at the proposed site.
“Impacts on air quality will be low; fugitive odour will be effectively managed and is unlikely to give rise to complaints... the impact on residential amenity from air quality is not sufficiently adverse to warrant refusal.”
An initial application for planning permission was made in 2013, but withdrawn while the applicants tried to meet planning officers’ concerns.
A revised application was submitted, but was refused in March, 2015.
Around 240 people objected to the current application.
Nevertheless, the planning officer’s report stated: “It is considered that the proposed development would bring a currently vacant unit back into use.
“It would also potentially support the objective of contributing towards the maintenance of a strong rural economy.”
This second application addressed many of the planning department’s previous concerns and the report noted: “The council’s drainage engineer has reviewed the submitted information, which has been revised following the refusal of the previous scheme.
“There are a number of issues which could potentially be resolved through the implementation of conditions.”
The scene appeared ripe for approval.
But one major stumbling block remained.
The officer’s report noted: “The overriding concern regarding contamination from animal waste causing pollution to the ground water supply remains unresolved.”
Critics feared that repeated flooding at the site posed a risk that the highly- protected River Lambourn, and the residents’ drinking water, could become contaminated by pollutants from the site.
The officer’s report stated: “This issue is increased by the proposed siting of the [carcass storage] tank which is considered inappropriate in terms of supervision for any leakage, access for emptying operations and proximity to soakaways.
“The site is particularly vulnerable... and there have been flooding issues with water running through the site and flowing down into Great Shefford.”
It added: “Whilst the Environment Agency no longer raise an objection, this is subject to the implementation of suitable mitigation measures.
“Council officers conclude that, from the information provided and their in-depth knowledge of the site combined with extensive negotiations over time, it cannot be proven under the information submitted that satisfactory mitigation measures can be secured to prevent pollution being released.”
This last stumbling block proved fatal to the application in its current form.
The officer’s report concluded: “It is considered that, on balance, the proposal is unacceptable in this location for the reasons discussed and therefore the new use would result in an unsuitable use of the site which would have an unacceptable impact on the character and appearance of the surrounding rural environment and the designated North Wessex Downs AONB.”
The application was duly refused.