A KNACKER’S yard and carcass incinerator is to be built in the Valley of the Racehorse.
For years, hundreds of local residents successfully opposed the project in the Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and it was twice refused by West Berkshire Council planners.
But now a shock reversal has come in a decision by Her Majesty’s Planning Inspectorate.
The scheme, first suggested in 2013, involves moving a knacker’s yard used for storing horse carcasses from its current location on the Turnpike industrial estate in Newbury, to the site of the former Wessex Saw Mill in Great Shefford.
An additional horse incinerator would also be built.
Planning permission was first refused in March 2015, after more than 300 letters opposing it were received.
A new, similar application, lodged in August 2016, was also opposed by the Environment Agency and the National Animal Welfare Trust in Great Shefford said allowing the project would “destroy” the charity.
There were particular fears from neighbouring residents that the entire water supply, drawn from a local borehole, could become contaminated during recurring bouts of flooding at the site.
Many in the horseracing industry warned that horses for miles around could be ‘spooked’ by the smells emanating from the yard.
That application was also refused.
But then applicant J Passey and Sons appealed to Her Majesty’s Planning Inspectorate.
A planning inspector’s report, published on Tuesday, has now overturned the refusal.
In the report, the inspector states: “It is asserted by the council that contamination from vehicles transporting carcasses would be likely to pollute nearby watercourses.
“This concern has not, however, been substantiated.
“It is reasonable to assume that containers transporting animals are sealed and the likelihood of waste seeping from them would be low.
“Local residents have ... expressed concern that, during times of flood, pollution to groundwater sources and nearby boreholes would be likely to occur.
“A photograph submitted in evidence shows water upon the site.
“Whilst considering that the flood event shown in the photograph was the result of a blocked culvert, the appellants have indicated that they would widen, deepen and reprofile the existing ditch and provide an overflow ditch to reduce flood risk to the site.”
The report adds: “In considering this matter, I note that the Environment Agency and the council raised no objections in this regard.
“I am satisfied that the proposed drainage measures would reduce the likelihood of contaminants from the activities on the site entering ground water sources in the locality, including nearby boreholes.”
The report also acknowledges the potential for bad smells, which are currently endured by residents surrounding the existing plant.
It states: “There is the potential for odours from animal carcasses polluting air quality which could be detectable over a wide area.”
But it goes on: “By being stored within the building, odours from animal carcasses would be contained and would be unlikely to be detected outside of it.”
Regarding the incinerator, the report states: “Fumes from this process would be unlikely to result in complaint from nearby occupiers [and] unlikely to result in levels of odours or pollution that would be harmful to the health or living conditions of nearby occupiers.”
The inspector also dismissed fears that the incinerator flue would be unsightly in an AONB, stating: “The submitted drawings indicate that it would not project significantly above the existing ridge line.
“I conclude that the proposal would conserve the landscape character of the area and the AONB and would not have an adverse effect upon the enjoyment of the countryside by its users.”
The inspector flatly dismissed the claims of nearby racehorse trainers and owners that their prize animals would be ‘spooked’ by the smell of death, stating he had been provided with “no convincing evidence” of that.
The report concludes: “For the above reasons, and having regard to all other matters raised, the appeal is allowed.”