Residents in Whittlesey protest over wood processing company's plans to retain its operations

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MP queries how firm was allowed to cause ‘two years of hell’ for residents

Residents in Whittlesey are protesting over a retrospective planning application after a wood recycling business has been operating from a disused brickworks for two years.

AW Jenkinson has a temporary premises at the former Saxon brickworks, off Peterborough Road, in Whittlesey, where it turns wood into a renewable and low carbon fuel.

The timber specialists moved on to the site in early 2021.

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Industry in the old London Brick Saxon quarry at WhittleseyIndustry in the old London Brick Saxon quarry at Whittlesey
Industry in the old London Brick Saxon quarry at Whittlesey

In September 2022, it submitted its retrospective planning application for a change of use of the site to enable wood processing to take place following a site visit on April 21 last year by Fenland District Council officers.

North East Cambridgeshire MP Stephen Barclay has queried how the wood recycling business has operated without planning permission while causing, what he described as, “two years of hell” for residents.

Protesters are against the retrospective application as they argue processing operations cause “dust, smells, noise” and are urging Fenland District Council to refuse to approve the application.

They have also set up a Facebook group, Saxongate, to highlight their campaign.

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Stephen Barclay, MP for North East Cambridgeshire. Stephen Barclay, MP for North East Cambridgeshire.
Stephen Barclay, MP for North East Cambridgeshire.

A planning document submitted by AW Jenkinson’s agents, Land and Mineral Management, states that after the visit ‘officers requested that a retrospective planning application should be submitted to regularise unauthorised development at the former Saxon Brickworks.’

The firm points to a planning approval in 2014, which widened the type of waste that could be brought and processed at the site, but the council says the existing waste use planning status for the site does not cover the wood processing.

The document also says that the nature of the virgin wood to be handled at the site means that odour should not arise.

It adds: “In recognition that odour is a sensitive issue locally a Odour Management Plan has been prepared.

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The document adds: “There is potential for dust to be generated by the proposal, for instance the processing of timber into woodchip and from site manoeuvres/vehicle circulation.

"This will be controlled by the adoption of the following dust management measures to reduce and control dust to a level where there will be no adverse impact on the locality.”

What are residents’ objections?

Some residents say they have suffered enough and the application should be rejected.

Resident Tony Ellingford stated: “We have already experienced far too much noise, smell and dust from what we believe to be this operation.

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"Other than having to clean away the dust frequently from windows, cars and inside our house, we are constantly breathing in what we believe to be a dangerous cocktail of wood particles and feel this in our throats and chest.

"This we believe will only get worse.

"There is an unpleasant smell associated with it and too much noise from Saxon Pit, although how much is from Jenkinson’s is unknown to us.

"We feel we are at a stage that it is becoming impossible to continue living in our house and with the summer coming the noise and dust will once again be a complete misery for us when windows have to be opened because of the heat.”

Richard Murphy objected: “I am concerned about the amount of dust, smoke and polluted air in Whittlesey.

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"The first time I realised how bad it was is when I was training in the garden and the fumes/smell made it difficult to breath, noting I was exhausted from training but the fact I had to stop due to the air is very concerning."

Kerry Dyer also objected stating: “My concerns are, what are my children breathing in when playing in the school playground on a daily basis and also within the their own garden?

"The smell is horrible and leaves you with a sickly feeling. The dust within the air isn't good for asthma suffers.”

Resident Stephen Willmott adds: “The noise, dust and smell from this none approved facility makes living at this end of Whittlesey very unpleasant at times.

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"I am also very concerned that businesses like this should not be able to apply for retrospective planning permissions as this opens the door for any business with a bit of clout to do what they want.

“I think residents at this end of Whittlesey have already been forced to suffer enough with emissions from this pit and surrounding businesses, and as such our quality of life is being negatively.

What is the local MP saying?

In his letter to the district council, Mr Barclay, who is also the Government’s Health Secretary, states: "This retrospective planning application would be hugely damaging to the local community.

"There are serious concerns about the increased noise levels, dust, odour and potential health implications.

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He adds: “It is baffling to me the site has been allowed to operate for so long without any planning permission or covenants.

"I also find it remarkable that given the level of community interest regarding activity at Saxon Pit, that any business has been able to operate at that location without adequate scrutiny.

"I am deeply concerned about the impact this planning application has on the environment and affect it has on the local population.

"I do not believe that this planning application benefits the local community in anyway.”

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A council spokesperson said: “This planning application is retrospective so the use has been operating without the benefit of planning permission.

"The application seeks to regularise the unauthorised operation.”

Councillor David Connor, chairman of the council’s planning committee said: “This has taken too long. No stone will be left unturned.”

The company has not yet responded to a request over residents’ concerns.