Water company bosses have been accused of making “fools” out of planning officials for three decades over the operations of a sludge treatment centre in West Norfolk.
Members of the borough council’s planning committee voted 12 to one to lodge no objection to a proposed expansion of the Anglian Water facility in Clenchwarton yesterday.
But they did voice concerns over road links to, and screening of, the Clockcase Road site.
Anglian Water announced its intention to pursue a £4.5 million expansion of the plant, which they say will enable it to operate at full capacity, in July.
The company has repeatedly insisted that the scheme is needed, particularly following the rejection of its plans for a reception centre at West Lynn earlier this year. It also insists that the plans will reduce the number of large lorries using the surrounding road network.
But resident, and former parish council chairman, Richard Brown told the committee: “For the past 30 years, Anglian Water has made complete fools of the planners.
“The road is simply not fit for 30 tonne HGVs, let alone the 40 tonne HGVs they’re proposing. I don’t think they should be allowed to expand any further until the road problem is resolved.”
Committee chairman Vivienne Spikings and member Sheila Young, who represents the neighbouring Spellowfields ward, echoed the concerns about the road.
And Avril Wright called for a condition to be recommended requiring screening of the site.
But Geoff Hall, the council’s executive director of planning said he had to be conscious of assessments which concluded the scheme would not have a material impact on the road network.
However, Mr Brown’s son, Stephen, described the report placed before the committee as “quite unbelievable.”
He said that, though residents knew of at least two incidents where tankers had crashed into a dyke on Clockcase Road, the incidents had never been acknowledged by Anglian Water.
He claimed previous expansions had not led to a reduction of traffic and said: “They’ve never been trusted on this in the past and there’s no reason why they can be trusted on it now.”
Critics maintain the plant would not have been given planning permission today because of the site’s close proximity to the Wash, a site of special scientific interest.
And Stephen said the state of the road had put people off accessing that site because it was unsafe for walkers.
He said: “Just because there have been mistakes in the past, that is no reason for those mistakes to continue.
Meanwhile, county councillor Alexandra Kemp has called on the water industry regulator, Ofwat, to intervene on the issue.
She has demanded a meeting with officials on the scheme and answers on why a plan put forward by the regulator for a new road to the site was not completed several years ago.
She said: “As Ofwat said there was a need for a proper road, it is in dereliction of its duties to allow the matter to lapse and the treatment works expansion cannot go ahead until the road is built.”