Plans for “affordable” homes on a former Derbyshire coal mine next to a noisy industrial estate, which could be causing a “statutory nuisance”, have been rejected. The proposal, from Hodgkinson Builders Ltd and Nottingham Community Housing Association, was to build 54 so-called affordable houses on land off Upper Marehay Road, near Ripley.
If approved, the affordable housing, reserved for people most in need of accommodation, would have been built directly next to the Denby Hall Business Park and on a former coal mine. A report compiled by Amber Valley Borough Council details that attempts have been made to lessen the impact of the noise from the industrial estate for more than a decade, but with “little apparent success”.
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This was in relation to disturbance caused to existing Marehay homes, which sit “considerably” further away from the industrial estate than the proposed houses, the council makes clear. The authority confirms that the noise is so great from the adjacent industrial estate that would-be residents in the affordable housing would have to keep their windows and doors closed and would be advised to reduce time spent outside their properties.
It says that the council also has to be wary of placing “unreasonable restrictions” on the businesses on the industrial estate, notably HL Plastics, “as a result of development permitted after they were established”. The authority’s pollution officer says the suggested noise mitigation measures – closed doors and windows – “could result in unacceptable living conditions for the future occupiers of the dwellings, indoors and outdoors”.
They say the authority’s environment team would be legally required to “investigate any subsequent complaints from the occupants of the proposed dwellings to establish if a statutory nuisance existed”. In a report debated at a borough council meeting last night (June 13), officers detailed that industrial activities on the neighbouring site could have further restrictions put on them as a result of the proposed homes but it “may not be possible to achieve a satisfactory level of mitigation so close to the industrial activities”.
Garner Holdings, which owns Denby Hall Business Park, declined to comment on the housing plans or noise issues. When the Local Democracy Reporting Service visited the Marehay site, the noise from the industrial estate was immediately apparent. A constant hum and buzz overrides the noise of birds and any passing vehicles when arriving in Upper Marehay Road.
Once on the southern half of the proposed site, in a meadow and wooded area, the noise from the industrial estate is significant, with inconsistent banging and reversing vehicle noises, the whirring of engines and other equipment. A consistent noise which repeats every few seconds – and is said to continue all day and night – is the hissing sound of a compressor on the site releasing air.
A bund with a fence on top has been built along the boundary with the industrial estate but it only partially obscured the complex itself – with buildings around 20 metres tall – and appears to do little for the noise generated from industrial activity, which appears to echo around the area. The meadow itself appeared to be home to many butterflies and moths and other wildlife.
At last night’s meeting, borough councillors unanimously rejected the plan because part of the plot is in the protected Green Belt, and they felt it represented harm and was unsustainable. This was against the recommendations from the authority’s officers, who made clear that key lines of objection pitched by councillors would not stand up to scrutiny at appeal.
A considerable hurdle facing councillors, planning officers and the agent for the applicant made clear, was that plans for 12 homes and 41 homes have previously been approved on the site – but not yet actioned – and these could be reverted to even with the rejection of the 54-home scheme. Cllr Matt Allwood, a Ripley town councillor, told the LDRS that there are 87 properties in Upper Marehay Road and said it could not take the burden of further vehicles.
He dubbed the development plans “ridiculous” and said affordable housing needed to be built in a more “sensible” location nearer to facilities. Cllr Allwood told the meeting that the plans represented “over-development” in an “already over-developed” area.
Amina Burslem, who has lived close to the site for more than 40 years, said the noise from the industrial estate affects the enjoyment of her walks. She said traffic issues would be unacceptable and that schools in the area did not have enough capacity for further pupils. Chris Ward, an objecting resident who lives close to the site, told the meeting that the plans represented a “very emotional subject for our community”.
He said the plans were “a proposal to destroy Green Belt” and unduly impact residents “who may be the more vulnerable in our society”. Ripley town councillor David Williams, told the meeting that the proposed homes did not meet the “exceptional circumstances” required to approve new housing in the Green Belt.
Cllr Ron Ashton, vice chair of the planning committee, said: “Noise and lighting from HL Plastics is a recurring issue and we do not want to put more people next to that. We need the land for wildlife and for wild meadows.
“The development would be intensification of the area and the level of housing is too much.” Charlotte Stainton, agent for the applicant, said: “No doubt you are fed up of people like me telling you your Local Plan is out of date.”
She pointed to previous approved plans for 12 houses and 41 houses and for an extension to the industrial estate. Ms Stainton said: “Either way, the site will be developed.”
She said noise and ground contamination issues had been resolved and pointed to the contributions the developer would be making to schools and the local library. This would include £119,000 to Street Lane Primary and Denby Primary schools and £154,000 to John Flamsteed Community School.
Sarah Brooks, a borough council planner, said that officials felt the scheme was “appropriate” and “sustainable”. Cllr Jack Brown said: “The borough definitely needs affordable housing, but there is one thing I agree with and that is not to build in the Green Belt. We should definitely not build on the Green Belt.”
Cllr Fay Atkinson said the scheme represented an “invasion” of the Green Belt and did not meet the circumstances required to bypass the harm proposed by new housing. Cllr Emma Monkman said that the habitat was “incredibly valuable” to the surrounding area and that it would take 10 to 20 years for new trees – planted as replacements for trees which would be felled on site – to store carbon.
Cllr Matt Murray said: “It is just not acceptable for this amount of housing to be proposed on the Green Belt.” Cllr Alison McDermott said: “We are being told there have already been decisions made that limit what we can do here.”
She said that, as an architect, she knows that the largest issue to solve on the site was its acoustics and said designs for housing should aim to quash these. Cllr McDermott said: “The first thing that hits you is the noise.
“If you are going to build on this site, you need to design to defend the noise. This design does not take up the opportunity to build up a defensive barrier for the whole neighbourhood.” Ms Brooks said she disagreed with Cllr McDermott’s “interpretation” of noise policies.
Mr Ward, speaking to the LDRS after the meeting, said: “We do have problems with the noise from HL Plastics. We have a good relationship with the management team who have done what they can to restrict noise, but they are a profitable and successful company and have to be allowed to operate.
“If people were allowed to live on this site close to the boundary (with the industrial estate), I just thought ‘oh God, wouldn’t want to live there’. It (the noise) has probably got worse over time as the factory got bigger, it is a successful business and is getting larger.”