No to affordable homes on noisy site next to industrial estate in Derbyshire

Plans for ‘affordable’ houses on a former coal mine in Derbyshire next to a noisy industrial estate, which could cause ‘statutory nuisance’, have been rejected. The proposal, from Hodgkinson Builders Ltd and the Nottingham Community Housing Association, was to build 54 supposedly affordable homes on land off Upper Marehay Road near Ripley.

If approved, the affordable housing, earmarked for those most in need, would have been built right next to Denby Hall Business Park and over a former coal mine. A report compiled by Amber Valley Borough Council details that attempts have been made to mitigate the noise impact of the industrial estate for over a decade, but with “little apparent success”.

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This was linked to disruption to existing Marehay houses, which are “considerably” further from the industrial estate than the proposed houses, the council says. The authority confirms that noise is so significant from the adjacent industrial area that potential residents of affordable housing should keep their windows and doors closed and would be asked to reduce the time spent outside their properties.

Industrial area generates noise throughout the day and night, residents say

It says the council must also be wary of imposing “unreasonable restrictions” on companies in the industrial zone, including HL Plastics, “due to permitted development after their establishment”. The authority’s pollution manager says the suggested noise abatement measures – doors and windows closed – ‘could lead to unacceptable living conditions for future occupants of the accommodation, both inside and out’ .

They say the authority’s environment team would be legally required to ‘investigate any subsequent complaints from occupants of the proposed accommodation to establish whether a legal nuisance existed’. In a report debated at a borough council meeting last night (June 13), officers clarified that industrial activities on the nearby site may face additional restrictions due to the proposed homes, but it ” may not be possible to achieve a satisfactory level of mitigation so close to industrial activities”.

Garner Holdings, owner of Denby Hall Business Park, declined to comment on housing plans or noise issues. When the Local Democracy Information Service visited the Marehay site, the noise of the industrial zone was immediately felt. Constant buzzing and buzzing replaces the sound of birds and passing vehicles as you arrive at Upper Marehay Road.

Once on the southern half of the proposed site, in a grassland and wooded area, the noise of the industrial area is prominent, with inconsistent thumping and reversing noises, the roar of engines and other equipment. A constant noise that repeats itself every few seconds – and is said to continue all day and night – is the hiss of a compressor on site releasing air.

The site already holds previous building permits for housing plans
The site already holds previous building permits for housing plans

A fenced dyke has been built along the boundary with the industrial area, but it has only partially obscured the complex itself – with buildings around 20 meters high – and seems to do little to the noise generated by industrial activity, which seems to echo around the area. The meadow itself seemed to be home to many butterflies and other wildlife.

At last night’s meeting, borough councilors unanimously rejected the plan because part of the land is within the protected green belt, and they felt it was detrimental and unsustainable . This went against the recommendations of the enforcement officers, who made it clear that the main lines of objection presented by the advisers would not withstand scrutiny on appeal.

A considerable hurdle faced by councilors, planning officers and the applicant’s agent, was that plans for 12 houses and 41 houses had already been approved on site – but not yet implemented – and these could be restored even with the rejection of the 54-unit program. Cllr Matt Allwood, a councilor in Ripley, told LDRS there were 87 properties in Upper Marehay Road and said he could not bear the burden of other vehicles.

He called the development plans “ridiculous” and said affordable housing needed to be built in a more “sensitive” location closer to facilities. Cllr Allwood told the meeting that the plans represented “over-development” in an “already over-developed” area.

Amina Burslem, who has lived near the site for more than 40 years, said noise from the industrial area affected the enjoyment of her walks. She said the traffic problems would be unacceptable and schools in the area did not have enough capacity to accommodate other students. Chris Ward, an objecting resident who lives close to the site, told the meeting that the plans were a “very emotional subject for our community”.

The proposed site is right next to Denby Hall Business Park
The proposed site is right next to Denby Hall Business Park

He said the plans were “a proposal to destroy the greenbelt” and unduly affect residents “who may be the most vulnerable in our society”. Ripley Councilor David Williams told the meeting that the proposed homes did not meet the “exceptional circumstances” required to approve new housing in the greenbelt.

Cllr Ron Ashton, Vice Chairman of the Planning Committee, said: “Noise and lighting at HL Plastics is a recurring problem and we don’t want to put more people behind this. We need land for wildlife and for wild grasslands.

“The development would be a densification of the area and the standard of housing is too high.” Charlotte Stainton, agent for the plaintiff, said: ‘You are probably fed up with people like me telling you that your local plan is outdated.

She pointed to previously approved plans for 12 houses and 41 houses and for an extension to the industrial zone. Ms Stainton said: ‘Either way the site will be developed.

She said the noise and ground contamination issues had been resolved and highlighted the contributions the developer would make to schools and the local library. This would include £119,000 for Street Lane and Denby Primary Schools and £154,000 for John Flamsteed Community School.

Sarah Brooks, a borough council planner, said officials believed 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 greenbelt. We certainly shouldn’t build on the greenbelt.

Cllr Fay Atkinson said the project represented an “invasion” of the green belt and did not meet the circumstances required to circumvent the harm offered by the new accommodation. Cllr Emma Monkman said the habitat was “incredibly valuable” to the surrounding region and that it would take 10 to 20 years for new trees – planted to replace trees that would be felled on site – to store carbon.

Cllr Matt Murray said: ‘It’s just not acceptable that there is so much housing on offer in the greenbelt. Cllr Alison McDermott said: “We are told decisions have already been made that limit what we can do here.”

Forest runs through the center of the site, with half facing the industrial area and the other half facing Upper Marehay Road
Forest runs through the center of the site, with half facing the industrial area and the other half facing Upper Marehay Road

She said that as an architect she knew the biggest problem at the site was its acoustics and said housing designs should aim to undo them. Cllr McDermott said: “The first thing that hits you is the noise.

“If you’re going to build on this site, you have to design to defend the noise. This design misses the opportunity to build a defensive barrier for the whole neighborhood. Ms Brooks said she disagreed with Cllr McDermott’s ‘interpretation’ of noise policies.

Mr Ward, speaking to the LDRS after the meeting, said: ‘We have issues with noise from HL Plastics. We have a good relationship with the management team who did what they could to keep the noise down, but it is a profitable and successful business and needs to be allowed to operate.

“If people were allowed to live on this site near the border (with the industrial zone), I just thought ‘oh my God, I wouldn’t want to live there’. It (the noise) has probably gotten worse over time as the factory has grown, it’s a successful and growing business.