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Rethink on mushroom farm expansion

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A proposed expansion of a Southwell mushroom farm was refused on Tuesday after being considered for a second time by district councillors.

An application to double the number of polytunnels from 12 to 24 at the Premier Mushroom Company on Crew Lane, was refused by seven votes to six votes. One councillor, Mrs Marika Tribe, abstained.

The decision was made on the grounds it was against planning policy and the expansion would detract from the character of the surrounding landscape and be detrimental to the amenities of local residents in terms of noise and general disturbance created by the increase in traffic.

The application was approved by the planning committee in December but members later said they were wrongly told before the meeting that Nottinghamshire County Council’s highways department had withdrawn its objection to the application.

That was not the case but, at a meeting on January 3, it did withdraw its objections subject to two passing bays being provided.

The district council’s strategic director of corporate services, Mrs Kirsty Cole, said it was a very unusual situation.

She said case law confirmed that the committee was entitled to reconsider the application because a decision notice had not yet been issued.

She said her original advice that the committee had no grounds to alter its original decision was incorrect.

She said legal advice had been sought that confirmed the committee was not bound by its previous decision.

The council’s head of legal and democratic services, Mrs Karen White, read extracts of a solicitor’s letter sent on behalf of a resident of Crew Lane, Mr Ray Bush.

The letter included objections to projected figures provided by the applicant about the number of vehicles that would use the site.

She said Mr Bush had done his own research into the number of vehicles using the road over a ten-day period.

There were also concerns about crime and disorder at the proposed passing bays and an increase in noise.

The district councillor for Southwell North, Mr Brendan Haigh, who is not a planning committee member, said during the ten-day period 133 vans, 610 cars, 40 HGVs, 237 pedestrians, cyclists and horses, and 14 tractors used the lane.

He said there were other properties and small businesses in Crew Lane and not all were travelling to the farm.

He said if the polytunnels were to be light grey instead of green as originally proposed, they would be even more intrusive.

“This is much more than a farm,” said Mr Haigh.

“It will largely destroy the peace and calm of a quiet country lane where many people live and that is used by others for pleasure and relaxation.”

Mr Stuart Wallace said there was no evidence that the site currently produced sufficient complaints about noise or environmental issues.

He said he wanted definitive figures on vehicle movements so he could decide whether it would make life intolerable for nearby residents.

The applicant, Mr John Horgan, made the cold store building smaller, moved it and removed a pack house building from the scheme.

The changes meant the concentration of vehicle movements would be further away from an existing bungalow.

He also agreed to provide two passing bays, provide details of noise mitigation measures for the cold store and an appropriate landscaping scheme.

Staff currently travel to the site in a total of seven vehicles. He said that would rise to 11 vehicles by the end of the first year and up to 14 vehicles when the buildings were completed.

The farm is served by 14 vehicle movements a week. That would increase to 21 a week with the expansion.

Mr Horgan said the small increase was because compost would be removed in 26 tonne lorries instead of in ten tonne loads by tractors and trailers.

Mushroom collection vehicles would leave the farm fully loaded, not partially loaded as at present.

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