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Fresh salvo fired in battle of the knacker's yard

Council chairman uses Freedom of Information Act in bid to undermine inspector's decision

John Garvey

John Garvey


01635 886628

Wessex saw mill

A PARISH council chairman is preparing to use the Freedom of Information Act in a battle against siting a knacker’s yard and carcass incinerator in Great Shefford.

Grahame Murphy, chairman of nearby Chaddleworth Parish Council, has vowed to fight on, despite having been told a planning inspector’s decision in favour of the move was final.

In his latest letter, he has told Planning Inspectorate chief executive Sarah Richards: “We will not go away – this is where we live and we will do whatever it takes to get this decision overturned.”

For years, hundreds of local residents successfully opposed siting the business in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The scheme, first suggested in 2013, involves moving the business from its current location on Turnpike Industrial Estate, Newbury, to the site of the former Wessex Saw Mill in Great Shefford.

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 rejected.

There were particular fears among neighbouring residents that the entire water supply, drawn from a local borehole, could become contaminated during recurring bouts of flooding at the site. 

But in January, applicant J Passey and Sons successfully appealed to Her Majesty’s Planning Inspectorate.

Since Mr Murphy, a retired scientist with expertise in water chemistry and effluent control, has taken up the fight on behalf of hundreds of residents who opposed the move.

In his letter to Ms Richards, he said “The (planning inspector’s) decision was vitally flawed in one major area”.

Far from flooding in the area being caused by a blocked culvert, as suggested in the inspector’s conclusions, said Mr Murphy, “the flooding is caused by fluvial ground water and will not be addressed by any amount of dredging”.

His letter added: “This site has flooded in 1993/4, 1995, 2007, 2012/13 and 2014 – sometimes for up to four months.

“Next door to the sawmill site... the National Animal Welfare Trust were cut off for eight weeks and had to use snorkel-exhausted Land Rovers to get staff into and out of the site.

“Down the road in Great Shefford 18 houses were flooded by water coming up through the floor and the occupants had to live elsewhere.

“One family I know were living in a neighbouring village, Brightwalton, for 18 months.

“There is a plan for a Flood Alleviation Project in Great Shefford and the village will have to raise £80,000 themselves to get other organisations to help.

“Does this strike you as the right area for such a business?”

Mr Murphy has vowed to continue the fight and is preparing to seek the draft notes of the planning inspector’s site visit to the Wessex Saw Mill site.

He said he will use the Freedom of Information Act to unearth the documents which, he hopes, will prove that the inspector’s decision was based on flawed evidence

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