Kent faces recycling quandary

Kent County Council could be facing a problem over the location of recycling facilities, with three proposed recycling sites in Ashford within 300 metres of a housing estate, causing considerable concern among local residents over noise, dust and traffic congestion.

The County Council, whose planning department is currently considering the three planning applications for waste recycling centres, largely for aggregate recycling and municipal waste, could be facing a waste recycling quandary, how to carry out its obligations under the National Waste Strategy, whilst ensuring quality of life for local residents.

Residents from at least 3,000 homes are up in arms against the developments, says Les Smith, who lives within 25 metres of one of the proposed sites. The industrial estates currently contains almost only light industry, although there was once heavy industry. However, when the site was first built it was surrounded by fields, says Smith. The problem of housing estates growing up around industrial facilities was highlighted two weeks ago when a French chemicals factory in Toulouse exploded, killing 29 people and injuring at least 650 (see related story).

Traffic is already “horrendous”, especially at school times, says Smith, and has resulted in concerns over high levels of particulates.

The first planning application has been submitted for Chart Leacon Waste Management Centre, on Brunswick Road Industrial Estate, Ashford, as a new civic amenity facility for household waste, a waste transfer station, a concrete batching plant, and an inert waste recycling centre for aggregates. An important role of the facility would be to recycle construction and demolition wastes, according to Robert Brett and Sons Limited, the company that has submitted the application. The site is currently home to council offices and an existing civic amenity waste site, which will be redesigned. Under the proposal the facility will process 38,000 tonnes of domestic waste, 11,000 tonnes of civic amenity waste, and 24,000 tonnes of aggregates per year. There will be 109 lorry visits per day – 25 more than is currently at the site, and 1000 car visits per day to the redesigned civic amenity site – the level currently occurring.

Under the plan, the facility will be open to receive waste at the transfer station between 5am and 8pm, Monday to Friday, although waste will only be exported between 6am and 6pm, and the civic amenity site will be open, as occurs now, 8am to 4:30pm Monday to Saturday, and 9am to 4pm on Sundays and bank holidays. The plans include measures to mitigate noise, dust and the visual impact of the facility.

Mike Courts, General Manager of Planning and Development for Robert Brett and Sons, is satisfied with the expert advice that the company has received and the planning application that has developed from this. “It is an industrial use on an industrial site,” he told edie. The facility will be surrounded on three sides by other industrial plots, with the waste transfer station, which is enclosed in a building, and therefore quieter than other facilities on the site, on the land closest to the housing estate. The rest of the site would be shielded by this building. “All the advice that we were given said that there would be no problem,” he said. “For all those reasons, there is no reason for it to be a bad neighbour given the thought that has gone into the design.”

The facility also conforms with planning policy, environmental design standards, and the waste local plan, said Courts. With regard to the traffic problem, he believes that some of the current congestion can be attributed to work being carried out for the Channel Tunnel rail link, and explains that the planning application includes the use of traffic lights. However, he believes that the fear among local people is over the cumulative effects should all three sets of planning permission be passed by the Council.

Smith admits that the company has probably taken all precautions that are necessary under UK legislation, and is in favour of recycling in principle, but fears that once the facilities are built it will be extremely difficult for local residents to bring about change should problems arise. He also doubts the adequacy of the proposed dust mitigation measures. “I don’t blame Brett,” Smith said to edie, in fact, he thinks that the plans are a good idea – except for the location.

The second application is from Terance Butler Holdings for a waste recycling, storage, treatment and transfer centre on Cobbs Wood Industrial Estate, situated next to the Brunswick Road estate, which would include some asbestos and clinical waste. The facility would process 50,000 tonnes of waste per year, with 200 lorry visits per day, and would be open from 7am to 7pm during the week, from 7am to 1pm on Saturdays, and would be closed on Sundays and bank holidays, a Kent County Council planning officer told edie. The final planning application is from GR Capital for a material reclamation facility – including aggregate crushing, situated next to the Terance Butler Holdings facility, which would process 25,000 tonnes of waste per year, with 112 lorry visits per day, and will be open from 7am to 6pm during the week, and 7am to 1pm on Saturdays.

According to Kent County Council, one of the most significant issues is the impact of the three proposals on the highways. Area Officers are currently looking at the effects that each of the facilities will have on road use, and at the cumulative effect of all three, Bill Murphy, Head of Kent County Council’s Planning Applications Unit, told edie. Approval of the plans may result in highway improvements in order to meet the increased traffic, with the costs being met by the companies concerned.

Final consideration of the applications is expected to take place either in November or in early December.

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