WEB EXCLUSIVE: Up to 100 Fenland jobs at risk after council rejects expansion bid

EXCLUSIVE By JOHN ELWORTHY UP to 100 jobs are at risk after planners did a U turn and withdrew support for a major extension at a Fenland packaging company just 24 hours before it was due for debate by a council s planning committee. PG Packaging had won



UP to 100 jobs are at risk after planners did a U turn and withdrew support for a major extension at a Fenland packaging company just 24 hours before it was due for debate by a council's planning committee.

PG Packaging had won officer support for a 2,400 square metre new building at Kingsland Farm at Coates which they planned to use as a fruit sorting and packing unit and which had been recommended for approval.

However last Tuesday, the day before the recommendation was due before Fenland District Council Planning Committee, officers announced they would no longer be supporting the application and the company's advisers promptly withdrew it.

Had the scheme been approved, councillors were told in the written report they had received but were not allowed to debate, the scheme would have created an extra 50 jobs. This would have been on top of the 25 existing jobs and a further 25 jobs expected following earlier acceptance of a new warehouse application which promised another 25 jobs.

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Now the company - which has lodged nearly 30 successful applications since 1992 to develop the business -is faced with the dilemma of whether to try and overcome officers' objections or move elsewhere.

Their agent, Peter Humphrey, was furious that a recommendation for approval had been scuppered at the last moment after "something made them change their mind."

Mr Humphrey said he was advised of the change of mind "but how can we address the council's concerns if we think everything is rosy.

He said Fenland was now threatened with "a loss of jobs and an existing employer who will now reconsider his future in Fenland. I think Fenland District Council could think of another award for this!"

However senior officers believe the company has not addressed concerns over HGV movements to the site, nor had they firmed up operating hours.

Last Tuesday Nigel Brown, Fenland's business and community development manager, wrote to Mr Humphrey to say he had not received sufficient assurances about possible 24/7 operations and had not been given assurances about late night noise from refrigerated lorries which had prompted complaints from a neighbour.

"I must say I am a little surprised, bearing in mind the contentious nature of PG applications, the enforcement history of this site and the balanced nature of our recommendations, that you did not feel fit to furnish us with the further information," Mr Brown said in an email to Mr Humphrey.

Only in one respect - that of providing multi lingual directional signs for foreign drivers- had the company met officers' concerns.

Mr Brown claimed that PG Packaging and its owner Paul Grice "was given a clear opportunity to address existing problems in the pursuit of this latest application."

He told Mr Humphrey: "It is clear that your client did not take this option seriously"

Mr Brown denied it was "a sudden turn around of recommendation on the part of officers" but was based on "strong advice by expert colleagues."

However Mr Humphrey is furious at the late change of heart and claimed planners were "well aware of lorry parking issues- why now change your view?"

He felt his client had more than met objections raised at earlier meetings with officials which should have ensured officers were "completely comfortable with this application- not to have last minute issues. "

More talks will now take place before PG Packaging decides their next move.

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