Published: 12:25, 11 July 2019
| Updated: 12:25, 11 July 2019
Residents left a council meeting angered after plans to redevelop a recycling centre in Kent were approved at County Hall despite fears it would cause significant environmental damage.
Despite almost 200 opposition letters from Swale residents, Kent county councillors voted in favour of revamping an existing recycling centre at Oare Creek, Faversham, during a public meeting at Maidstone County Hall yesterday.
Opponents have vowed to fight the decision with the town’s county councillor describing the decision as a terrible move for residents.
Have your say in our poll below
Cllr Antony Hook (Lib Dem) says he is hugely disappointed, branding it a “rubbish decision”.
The applicant, Watermans, which had submitted the application on behalf of East Kent Recycling last year, was heavily criticised by several speakers at the meeting, including residents and councillors.
Former Swale council leader Andrew Bowles, who was one of the objectors concerned about the added noise and air pollution impact for residents, told the committee: “This site is causing a totally unacceptable deterioration in the quality of life of residents in my division.”
Oare forms part of a small industrial complex where many of the buildings are derelict or in disrepair.
It contains an office shed, concrete yard and disused two-storey building.
The site was originally used for waste disposal activities in the 1990s but it fell dormant for several years. East Kent Recycling bought the site in 2013 and submitted a revised proposal 12 months ago to revamp the area.
The approved proposal will see the creation of a new 12m-high reception building, which is four metres higher than the existing buildings on site, as well as the refurbishment of an existing derelict building for office use.
It is expected there will be about 80 visits from HGV lorries each day. The vehicles, however, will be upgraded Euro-6 emissions standard, which means they will mitigate air quality impact, according to the applicant.
Some 194 residents in Swale objected to the proposal on the grounds of added noise and environmental pollution. More than 10 objectors visited Maidstone County Hall for the crunch planning meeting, which lasted more than two hours.
Faversham residents described living next to the current recycling centre as a “nightmare” and feared it would only get worse with the redevelopment.
One resident, Paul Bate, who lives directly opposite the site on Church Road, told the committee: “The noise levels have made my life a nightmare over the past five years.
“It’s like a natural amphitheatre and I feel like a prisoner in my own home.”
Faversham and Mid Kent MP Helen Whately and Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson raised objections to the proposal along with several borough and parish councillors.
Faversham town councillor Julian Saunders (Lab), speaking on behalf of the local authority, told the committee: “I want to emphasise there is total opposition to the proposal from the local MP, parish councils and Swale Borough Council.
“The existing development has a negative impact on the health and well-being of local residents and will have additional negative impacts if conditions are not met.”
Oare parish councillor Janet Hill, who has lived in the area for 40 years, said she could not “comprehend” how the application has been recommended for approval.
She said: “Oare was once a peaceful village but recently, when I was at a funeral at a local church, the service had to compete with the noise of these operations.”
A spokesman for Waterman laid out the reasons permission should be granted for the application.
In the meeting, the spokesman said: “More than 20 years ago this committee granted planning permission for a waste facility on this site.
“The council will help to secure the future of the applicant’s business, including 21 jobs on this site and 50 full-time jobs and several part time jobs elsewhere.”
The spokesman also said environmentally-friendly HGVs would be used to minimise air pollution and more 20 trees would be planted on the site in an effort to shield the tall buildings from residents.
Despite the committee saying they regretted the impact the proposal would have on residents, five of the seven members voted in favour of the application, with just two against.
Chairman Alan Marsh said he hoped the new application would improve the current lifestyle of residents by implementing “modern 21st Century” controls to reform the site to control air and noise pollution.
Gravesend councillor John Burden, who proposed to recommend the application, said: “I fully accept no one wants the recycling centre there.
“The fact is it is an existing operation.
“I think granting permission of this will improve the appearance and quality of the site.
“Any highways infringement needs to be prosecuted by the police and I recommend to refer this to the police for special attention.”
Maidstone councillor Paul Cooper, who seconded the application, added: “I’m afraid I see no reason in planning terms to refuse this.”
After the meeting, Bob Morrison,secretary of Swale residents group Uproare, said he was hugely disappointed with the result.
The 67-year-old, who lives with his wife on Church Street, opposite the site, said: “It’s a shame.
“The applicant currently exceeds the limit and I count 200 lorries a day. It’s noisy and there is no enforcement. I worry the applicant will not serve the conditions.”
Cllr Hook says he cannot understand how it was approved given the weight of objections and comments criticising the scheme.
“It will inevitably have a detrimental impact on our local environment, with additional congestion lengthening journey times and coughing out extra carbon monoxide at a time when councils should be taking steps to reduce air pollution,” Cllr Hook said.
“It’s a beautiful area which people use for many outdoor pursuits including bird watching, and the impact on wildlife will not be insignificant. I cannot understand or back this very poor decision.
'It will inevitably have a detrimental impact on our local environment,' Cllr Antony Hook
“I will be working with colleagues and local campaign groups to see if any further action can be taken.”
He was unable to attend the meeting but wrote to committee members listing five points outlining why it should have been rejected.
Cllr Hook said noise, dust and light pollution early in the morning and late in the evening will be “devastating” for neighbours. The development will also add more congestion to roads and add to air pollution through the Ospringe air quality management area which is already above dangerous limits for health.
He also highlighted risks of vehicles encroaching on to the Saxon Shore Way footpath and an “obvious risk of pollution to Oare Creek” from material dealt with by the site.
Faversham MP, Helen Whateley, says she is "shocked" the development has been given the go ahead.
She is concerned about lorries “thundering up and down narrow roads” and wrote to the head of planning at KCC ahead of the meeting.
She said: “I’m shocked this development will go ahead despite nearly 200 objections from MPs, councillors and campaigners.
“Just because Oare Creek has been an industrial site in years gone by, doesn’t make it the right place now. A better approach would be to actively plan what should go where in and around Faversham, siting industry where there’s the right infrastructure.”
Ms Whately also fears EKR will not adhere to mitigation measures, pointing out previous breaches reported by the Environment Agency.
Watermans declined to comment on the result immediately following the meeting.
More by this authorCiaran Duggan, local democracy reporter