Villagers confront the challenge of Corkers rising from the ashes
- Credit: Brian Starling
A parish council meeting was obliged to postpone debate on a new factory for Corkers Crisps after not enough councillors unconnected with the firm turned up.
Cllr Ross Taylor, who owns Corkers, was disbarred from voting and three other councillors declared either personal/pecuniary interests in the application – Cllrs Mark Taylor, Dale Parson and Gail Taylor.
With four other councillors sending apologies for absence, the council adjourned debate.
When it came back to the council in November –a month later – councillors approved re-building the factory with a call to ensure odour control is effective.
And it is how Corkers plan to control both odour and noise that feature heavily in comments submitted to the district council ahead of making a decision.
On odour, Corkers commissioned specialists DustScanAQ to assess odour risks.
"The proposed new operation will be beneath any production threshold requiring an environmental permit from the Environment Agency, for vegetable matter processing,” says DustScan.
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“By legal definition, this means that the operation is not regarded as having the potential for significant environmental impacts, including for odour emissions.
“However, it is understood that the local environmental health department has recommended that an odour assessment report be supplied to support the planning application.”
The report forms part of the planning application but also sheds light on complaints made over the years since the factory opened.
Christopher Smith, environmental health technical officer, told DustScan the council had received “intermittent complaints since 2017 concerning odour”.
These included “overpowering strong smell in the house” and “smell is of hot fat”.
He said: “These are the dates we have either received a complaint or tried to go out to evidence the issue - 23.10.2017, 23.04.2018, 25.10.2019, 30.01.2020.
“More visits were made but I can’t find a record of them at this time.”
Mr Smith added: “We were never able to witness the issue ourselves and I suspect that it was dependent on wind direction and perhaps just at the very start of the cooking/frying process.”
But residents say they did catch the odour from the old factory.
One resident tells the council they oppose the application “because the pollution that emanated from the original factory could be resurrected.
“This pollution was never ameliorated despite my repeated complaints to the company and to ECDC over a period of years”.
The resident complained of “gaseous emissions” and says it “spewed exhaust” from its chimneys day and night.
“The smell was often potent 3km away,” says the resident. “On many occasions it made me nauseous to the extent that I retreated indoors, and my house is 1.6 km away.
“Initially, I assumed that my distress was due simply to the cloying smell, but I became aware that frying fumes can be dangerous, especially with prolonged exposure.
“So, I searched the scientific literature and discovered that plausibly the Corkers fumes were causing irritation of airway mucosa and were potentially carcinogenic and mutagenic.”
The resident says they contacted the district council’s health department for reassurance and to find out what analysis had been conducted on the fumes.
“The answer was none. I was referred to Public Health England; in turn, PHE said it had no knowledge of what the factory was emitting, nor was it responsible.
“Neither did the Environment Agency.”
The resident adds: “In summary, my research led to the appalling conclusion that ECDC had consented to a factory that was emitting possibly very dangerous fumes.
“The cessation of crisp production brought a welcome return to clean, fresh air, and I trust that ECDC would not consider authorising another factory without proof that the fumes it emitted were free of (a) smell, and (b) any risk of harm to residents.
“Recalling that cigarettes were assumed to be healthy until proven to be fatally toxic, I seek assurance not that there's no evidence of the fumes being dangerous, but that there is proof that prolonged exposure to them is not dangerous.”
Another resident complains of the effect of the new factory on the village conservation area, lack of biodiversity, highway safety, landscape impact, loss of privacy, odour and pollution issues.
The resident says they are primarily concerned over external lighting and the affect it will have on villagers.
"I see that some attention has been paid to light pollution, which was appalling with the old factory, though it would appear that the large site would be richly illuminated throughout the hours of darkness, regardless of whether anyone might be actually using the light,” he says.
“The illumination of the previous factory, which turned night into day for kilometres in all directions, negatively impacted not only humans but also a wide variety of wildlife.
“The factory illuminated part of the Ouse Washes, a wetland of international importance and there can be little doubt that this drove away light-sensitive wildlife from the area, including the endangered Bewick swan.
“A significant proportion of the world population of this swan wintered in the Pymore area before the original factory was built, and by the time it ceased production they had practically disappeared - thousands of birds gone.
“This was an extremely rapid and dramatic distributional change, with only one likely cause. We hear daily of wildlife and wild places being damaged by human impacts.
“This one was predictable, unproductive and totally unnecessary, yet the factory owners declined to lift a finger to reduce the damage caused, and to this day the remaining warehouse throws intense light over the surrounding landscape.
“Any new factory would clearly need to be lit at night when people are working externally, but ECDC should be aware that to authorise external illumination on such a large scale throughout the hours of darkness would cause long-lasting damage to one of Britain's most important wildlife sites.
“As representatives of people who care passionately about our natural heritage, I hope and trust that ECDC will not again authorise such environmental abuse in our name. “Light pollution greatly affects human quality of life.”
Another resident has called for “more clarity and detailed analysis” of waste management at the factory.
He adds: “We are very concerned about the air quality, as previously the air smelled heavily of oil which was sickening. This requires detailed assessment before any consent can be considered.”
Some concerns have been raised, too, about traffic and whether the road network can cope with the number of projected lorry movements.
Corkers Crisps hopes the new Pymoor factory will restore the £10m a year turnover company to its former glory.
It says the new factory will “significantly improve the use of the site and indeed the surroundings to create a sustainable development”.
TO VIEW THE PLANNING APPLICATION CLICK here
21/00396/FUM | Redevelopment of Corkers Crisp/Taylor Farms complex | Willow Farm Pymoor Common Pymoor Ely Cambridgeshire CB6 2WA