Villagers await decision of plant expansion

Today a small village near Fakenham looks set to become one of the first battlegrounds in the country over the government's controversial proposals to reform planning laws.

Plans for a major expansion of The Crisp Malting Group's malt processing plant in Great Ryburgh are due to be decided upon in a special meeting of North Norfolk District Council's development committee in Cromer today and a council planning officer has recommended approval.

The officer's report refers to the Department for Communities and Local Government's Draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which was published in July and aims to streamline planning, introducing a 'presumption in favour of sustainable development.'

It states that 'when deciding whether to grant planning permission, local planning authorities should support enterprise and facilitate housing, economic and other forms of sustainable development.'

While NPPF is not yet adopted as government policy, the planning officer states it is a clear indication of the government's intent and is, 'considered to be a material consideration to which the development committee should afford appropriate weight when making its decision.'

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While the NPPF is viewed positively by many, there are also several opponents, including the National Trust and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, who believe it will lead to over development of the countryside.

And members of the Ryburgh Village Amenity Group (RVAG), made up of residents of Great Ryburgh and set up to fight the plant expansion, are angry that the NPPF has been highlighted as a material consideration for the development committee.

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RVAG member Matthew Champion said: 'It appears that the council is trying to push this development through on the back of a piece of draft legislation that may or may not see significant amendments.

'The development of more than eight acres of pasture and meadow would always have been controversial.

'However, the NPPF is being used to support a proposal that, for no other reason than commercial gain, will see the destruction of yet another green field site.

'The draft legislation appears to make it easier to cover green fields in concrete.'

The Crisp Malting Group's plans to construct two silos, a 20,000 square metre lorry park with wash bay, a three metre tall earth bund, a surface water infiltration basin and an office and staff car park at its Great Ryburgh site were given planning permission in January last year.

However, the RVAG persuaded the district council to refer the matter back to the development committee for further consideration.

The RVAG is concerned that the development will damage the local environment and could pollute the River Wensum, a site Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation.

It also fears it would cause excessive amounts of noise and light pollution.

The group is angry that no Environmental Impact Assessment has been carried out but the district council insists, following advice from Natural England, that no assessment is needed.

Supporters of the scheme argue that it would benefit the local economy, safeguard jobs and reduce lorry movements in Great Ryburgh.

The planning officer recommends approval subject to conditions related to highways issues and limiting the tonnage output of malt.

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