'˜Grave reservations' over new homes in shadow of Corby steelworks

Senior council officers and business leaders have raised serious worries over a plan for 160 new homes on land just five metres from Corby steelworks.

Friday, 16th November 2018, 8:00 am
Updated Friday, 16th November 2018, 8:11 am
The entrance to Deer Park. The office block is already being developed for housing under permitted development rights. NNL-181115-210921005

Steelworks owners Tata say that the outline plans will have a ‘very significant effect’ on their ability to run their operations.

And civil servants say that the new Deer Park residential development in Weldon Road could be blighted by odour from the nearby sewage works and land contamination problems.

The Deer Park masterplan. The steelworks is on the immediate right of the site. The existing gate 1 access to Weldon Road is in the bottom middle of the plan. NNL-181115-210911005

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The new low-cost housing is earmarked for the former British Steel Gate 1 site off Weldon Road.

Work has already started to convert a former eight-storey steelworks office block and another office building into a total of 103 flats. These blocks did not need planning permission as they fall under existing change of use permitted development rights, despite a Corby Council property manager saying in an original application that the proximity to the sewage works would make like ‘unbearable’ for residents.

But now the developers MPB Structures have submitted a further outline application to Corby Council for 160 more houses and apartments as well as a shop and green spaces. They say the ‘trailblazing’ scheme will fulfil a desperate need in the town for more low-cost homes.

Tata Steel themselves sold the land to Total Plant, a sister company of MPB Structures, for £900,000 in 2015. But now Tata, which manufactures 250,000 tonnes of thin-wall welded tube each year in Corby, say that the land is unsuitable for residential accommodation.

Corby's new Deer Park development. An artist's impression. NNL-181115-210901005

They say that they may bring the vacant 15m-high West Works, which is directly next to the Deer Park site, back into use within a year.

Responding to the plans through consultants Harris Lamb, a statement said: “This is an extensive site that consists of a number of very large industrial buildings. These buildings currently benefit from an unrestricted 24/7 operation. The proposal in this distinctly industrial location would have a very significant adverse effect on Tata’s ability to undertake their industrial operation.

“West Works is currently not operational, but it is planned to bring the building back into use in the next 6-12 months. The operation of the West Works is a key factor in the consideration of the proposal.”

Tata also say that an acoustic report shows noise will not be effectively mitigated by measures suggested by MPB.

The site off Weldon Road NNL-181115-211714005

They also have right of access through the site which they say will be used by very large vehicles.

Corby Council senior environmental health officer Paul Burrell said that a noise report carried out for the applicants was done during a factory shutdown so had to be repeated. A second report was done over a weekend and during the school holidays and at a weekend, so did not give a full picture.

He also noted that although filtration systems would be fitted so residents could keep windows closed to mitigate noise, this may have the effect of drawing in polluted air from the sewage works.

In his response to the planning application, he says: “Health Protection have grave reservations about the suitability of the site to be used for residential accommodation. Whether from the surrounding noise environment, Weldon Road, Tata Steel, UK Timber, Oakland International, Viridor waste disposal site and the electricity substation opposite the site or from air pollution from sewage treatment works opposite.

“If good acoustic design principles are used then kitchens may be on the noisy side, but have polluted air brought in by mechanical ventilation which Health Protection cannot recommend. However filters could be fitted to prevent this, but at whose maintenance and expense? If these are residential accommodation for low income families, increased maintenance would be borne as the cost of the servicing and maintenance of the filters would be on the tenants and property owners.”

Corby Council Local Plan officer Peter Williams, in response to the blueprints, said that there is a possibility that the land could be used for employment in the future. His response goes on: “In the absence of further evidence of a lack of developer interest for redevelopment as an employment use, and until the developer is able to satisfactorily demonstrate that a number of issues around amenity, including odour and contamination, can be adequately mitigated, development of the site for housing would not be supported in planning policy terms at this time.”

The joint planning unit, which oversees strategic planning across the county, has also responded to say that the housing is too dense. It also says: “Many of the residential dwellings will be overshadowed by large block buildings creating a sense of isolation and disconnection from the facilities, the local community and more generally, Corby itself.”

Northamptonshire Police’s Crime Prevention Design Adviser Richard Wilson said: “Currently the applicant has failed to demonstrate what measures have been applied to design out crime. It is therefore our opinion that designing out crime has not been fully considered,” adding that there are not safe footway or cycleway routes.

Another adjacent business, haulier HC Davis, has written to the council expressing worries over the fact they run a noisy, 24-hour operation and that they would not be able to alter their working hours to suit residents.

Chartered Town Planner David Shaw has written a response on behalf of MPB Structures addressing concerns.

In his report, it states that the responses from commenters do not take into consideration that there is already permission in place to convert the former office blocks into flats.

It also says that audio monitoring was designed to take into account the noise from the steelworks and the quieter roads actually gave a more accurate assessment of works noise.

The report continues: “.. residential properties throughout England are common beside arterial roads into towns and cities.

“The cost of noise mitigation, odour filters and mechanical ventilation is not a reason to refuse planning permission. It will be reflected in the house costs and values.”

The applicants say they are committed to providing access through the site for Tata HGVs. Their statement continues: “..residential use already exists on part of the site (the former office block).

“Given the residential planning permission it would be wholly inappropriate to bring industrial uses back onto the site.”

You can view all the documents and comment on the application here.

It is expected that a full application will be submitted in the coming months.