Friday, 27 November 2020

Residents oppose plan to expand industrial estate

RESIDENTS are fighting an application for retrospective planning permission for an industrial estate on the outskirts of Watlington that was

RESIDENTS are fighting an application for retrospective planning permission for an industrial estate on the outskirts of Watlington that was hit by a huge fire last week.

They claim that using the former feed mill and other buildings at Lys Mill for storage and industrial use means more heavy goods vehicles will pass through the town and increase noise and air pollution.

Copas Farms, which owns the estate, currently has permission to use 1,020 sq m for storage but is actually using more than three times that.

Neil Foreman, who chairs the group of residents opposed to the application, has written to South Oxfordshire District Council outlining their objections.

He says the application should not be considered until a traffic impact assessment, environmental impact assessment and noise survey have been produced by the owner.

Mr Foreman, of Spring Lane, Watlington, said: “The amenity and environment of the application site and the local community which is affected by its use is deleteriously impacted by the use of the site in its current form, particularly in connection with the volume of heavy goods vehicles and articulated vehicles using the site and the noise, dirt, dust and fumes they emit in accessing the site through Watlington.

“The site lies within an area designated as within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and while it might be partially screened (at the moment), the impact through noise and vibration, fumes and dust caused by the traffic generated by the unlawful use of some of the buildings on the environment and streets in Watlington and adjoining narrow roads, which do not have anything like the appropriate vehicle capacity, is not acceptable.”

Christian Wolf La’Moy said residents’ concerns had increased after the fire at the industrial estate.

Firefighters spent eight hours tackling the blaze in a workshop. An acetylene cylinder exploded and flames leapt almost 200ft.

Mr Wolf La’Moy, of Couching Street, said: “We are much more concerned about what type of materials are being stored at the site and what is going to happen in the future if Copas is granted permission and is able to expand the site further.”

He has attached a webcam to his home to track the number of HGVs passing through the town.

“We have always had lorries going through Watlington but the number has increased in the last six months,” said Mr Wolf La’Moy. “There used to be 20 lorries a day and now there are up to 100 passing through very early in the morning and very late at night.

“We live in an area where we can’t put certain windows in our houses due to certain restrictions but Copas can increase the number of HGVs passing through our town, causing noise and air pollution, road damage and danger.”

More than 30 letters of objection were submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council during the consultation period.

Judith Crockett, chairman of the Henley and Mapledurham district of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “The change of use of these buildings neither conserves nor enhances the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty — on the contrary, it is damaging to the countryside.

“Such a large-scale enterprise should be sited on an industrial estate with direct access to a major road network. It is entirely inappropriate in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

Watlington Parish Council has recommended the application is refused on 15 separate grounds, including noise disturbance to local residents and the damaging impact on the AONB.

Geoffrey Copas, of Copas Farms, said: “The site has planning permission as a mill and what we are trying to do is to reduce the number of lorry movements to less than when it was operating as a mill.

“I accept that the High Street in Watlington was originally designed and built in a time of horse and carts but society as a whole has to accept some lorry movements.”

He said all acetylene cylinders would be stored away from buildings following the recent fire.

The council is expected to make a decision by May 29.

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