Opponents of a controversial plan for major building works at a Bressingham agricultural site say they are happy their voices have been heard, after persuading planners to carry out a site review.
South Norfolk Council’s Development Management Committee was due to vote on Wednesday on an application by Openfield Agriculture, to demolish five buildings and construct more than 30 new facilities, including 27 silos, at Harvest House in Low Road.
But following an influx of public objections, a parish council refusal recommendation and the warning of a possible judicial review, the committee said it is deferring a decision until members had visited the site to assess the proposal’s potential impacts.
Businessman Mervyn Lambert, who helped lead the village opposition of the plans, told the Diss Express: “We are pleased that South Norfolk Council has listened to the people of Bressingham.
“The members voted to do a site meeting. They will be able to see for themselves.
“It would be a complete carbuncle on the landscape.”
If the proposal was green lit, it would see the addition 17 storage silos, 10 intake silos, six load hoppers, three grain driers, a machinery building and a dust box at the site.
The applicant claims this £10 million upgrade will lead to six new direct jobs and “many indirect jobs”, and also secure the current Harvest House workforce.
However, after residents complained via a solicitor they had not been properly informed about the plans, a new public consultation period was launched.
Chief among the concerns raised during this consultation were that the rise in HGV traffic would cause significant congestion and safety issues, while the noise and visual impacts of the silos would be a detriment to businesses, the local heritage and tourism.
In addition, Bressingham and Fersfield Parish Council recommended refusal on the plans, reversing its prior vote of approval in August, on the grounds it did not have the required details at that time.
One of the local objectors — Chris Lantsbury, of Fen Street — said he had written two letters to South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, and was “hugely disappointed” he had not obtained a response.
“The vast height of the 27 silos is totally out of proportion for such a site, sitting as they do in the open countryside,” Mr Lantsbury stated.
“The noise will be a great annoyance bearing in mind the setting.
“The head of the Waveney is nearby and you can hear a pin drop at night.”
Another opponent, Claire Porter, told the Diss Express she and her husband Mervyn had happily lived by the facility for 11 years with no issues, but they felt the site would be “totally overdeveloped”.
“A local estate agent has estimated this development will reduce the value of our property by £100,000. It will also impact many of our neighbours,” she said.
Prior to Wednesday’s planning meeting, however, South Norfolk planning inspector Chris Watts gave a recommendation for approval, subject to various conditions.
He wrote: “Whilst some adverse landscape impact would occur as a result of this scheme, the level of harm is not considered to represent a significant adverse impact.
“Therefore, in balancing the impacts, against the clear economic benefits, it is considered that the application is, on balance, acceptable.”
Openfield, which has run the site since 1999, says the proposed improvements are needed to keep pace with modern farming advances and food storage regulations.
The company insists environmental and traffic impacts can be mitigated, and believes the investment will make the site fiscally solvent.