We are now set to ask the Secretary of State to intervene in this long running saga.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will consider the environmental impact of building this factory on farmland and direct ECDC as to whether a full environmental impact assessment (EiA) is required.
This action is prompted by the council’s announcement that it wants to rush the controversial planning application to its April planning meeting, even though serious questions remain unanswered.
The council’s failure to properly assess the environmental impact in its “screening opinion” led to the first planning approval being quashed in the High Court last year. It seems they haven’t learnt.
The council’s next effort, rushed out to meet a deadline last August, was biased and full of holes. Most of it appeared to have been written by McCann - it even included page after page praising pre-cast concrete!
In the face of criticism, ECDC promised to reissue it. We have been waiting more than six months for this to happen.
Separately, the solicitor acting for the residents wrote to the council in September last year highlighting the flaws in the screening opinion and other areas of concern. No reply to this letter has been received.
Yet, at the same time, it has emerged that ECDC was having separate discussions with McCann and has announced its intention to put the application on the agenda of the April planning meeting.
We can’t allow a situation where the council takes more than six months to issue vital information and then publishes it just a few days before the planning meeting so that residents have no time to respond. ECDC must be more even-handed.
The formal approach to the Secretary of State will take the matter out of the council’s hands. Having already lost once in the High Court, ECDC would now be very unwise to proceed until the Government’s findings are to hand.
We think this factory site will have a major impact on the environment. We are not saying, and have never said, that it should not be built. But land has been set aside in ECDC’s local plan for industrial use. The concrete factory should be built on this land, not on high quality farmland near to where people live.