Villagers celebrate after plans to build massive waste-processing plant in a village near Harborough are rejected
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The controversial multi-million pound initiative to set up the recycling centre in Shawell, near Lutterworth, was resoundingly rejected by Leicestershire County Council’s 13-strong development control and regulatory board on Thursday afternoon (October 8).
Councillors decisively turned down the proposed project after hundreds of local people fought a fierce battle all this year to stop it dead in its tracks.
And, crucially, they were backed by the council’s planning officer dealing with the application, Sophie Hughes, who recommended that the Gibbet Lane blueprint be refused at the crunch meeting.
Ecstatic Natasha Raven, 42, who’s helped to spearhead the powerful protest, told the Harborough Mail: “We are absolutely thrilled and elated.
“This horrifying waste plant would have buried our whole beautiful part of Leicestershire under an avalanche of lorries.
“The smell and the terrible cost to our local environment would have been brutal.
“Thank goodness the county council’s planning committee listened closely to what we had to say – and come down unanimously on our side.”
Dublin-based waste processing giant Beauparc Group wanted to turn Cotesbach Mechanical Biological Treatment Unit, mothballed since 2016, into a vast waste-processing centre.
The unit would have processed over 150,000 tonnes of waste from all over the UK a year.
“The enormous scheme would have sparked thousands more lorry trips through Shawell and Cotesbach as well as many other villages around here every year.
“Our narrow rural roads, which are already very busy, would have been totally over-run,” declared Natasha.
“The carbon footprint imposed by all the HGVs would have been incredible.
“The odour spread through the air by stinking rubbish trucked in from all over the country would have been over-powering.
“Our entire quality of life would have been crushed overnight – this crackpot development was toxic from every single angle.
“We have stuck together, fought together and produced a real success story.
“We are very proud of our conservation village here in Shawell.
“We go back many hundreds of years – and we are determined to defend and protect it,” vowed the revved-up mum-of-two.
“We’ve shown here that the little guys can take on the big boy conglomerates and win.
“We punch well above our weight here in Shawell – and we won’t be messed about with!”
Natasha said Howard Jones, chairman of Shawell Parish Meeting, and Ed Hunt, the chairman of Cotesbach Parish Council, showcased their mission at Thursday’s make-or-break council meeting along with leading campaigners.
“They all did brilliant jobs and led from the front.
“Our MP Alberto Costa and county councillor Blake Pain have both been very supportive along with no end of other local representatives,” she said.
“But it’s the people here who have really fought this madcap project tooth and nail right from the start.
“We just knew it was wrong – and we knew we had to unite and stop it full stop.
“We have put so much time and effort into staging our campaign.
“And we’ve had to sift through mountains of documentation to make our case totally waterproof and make sure it didn’t sneak through.
“Councillors agreed that this was the wrong scheme in the wrong place in the middle of stunning countryside.
“We just had to win this argument.
“Some 240 people submitted objections to the council – and we didn’t even find out until very late in the day that it was being put forward,” said Natasha.
“We’ve worked closely with local politicians while the council’s planning officer, Sophie Hughes, has had a difficult job to do but done tremendously well.
“This is a fantastic victory for grassroots democracy.
“We can’t hold a big celebration, unfortunately, because of Covid-19.
“But we’ll all be walking along with a real step in our stride for months to come, that’s for sure.”
Local MP Mr Costa said: “This is a most welcome decision from Leicestershire County Council and a real win for local people who had been deeply opposed to the plans for a new recycling plant in Shawell.
“I was pleased to raise the views of my constituents with the Prime Minister directly earlier this year and with the Environment Minister Rebecca Pow MP in order to convey the strength of feeling here.
“I would like to sincerely thank both the district and county councillors for their work – and, of course, my constituents in Shawell and the village’s parish council who have worked tirelessly to oppose these plans from the start.”
Cllr Jonathan Bateman, the Harborough councillor for Misterton Ward, said: “I am very grateful to Alberto for his long-standing support in helping to obtain the refusal of this application and for raising the concerns of local residents at the very highest levels of Government.
“It has been fantastic to see such community engagement in opposing these plans which would have blighted the rural villages in Misterton Ward.”
Strongly opposing the scheme, planning officer Sophie Hughes told the planning meeting in her report: “The proposed development would conflict with the locational policies of the Leicestershire Minerals and Waste Local Plan, which seeks to locate new waste developments within or around the main urban areas.
“The proposed development would result in a strategic facility on a greenfield site in a remote rural location, contrary to policy W3 of the Leicestershire Minerals and Waste Local Plan.
“The site is poorly located in respect to waste arisings and to sustainable transport choices.
“The proposal lacks any demonstrable colocation benefits and involves the exportation of the vast majority of waste outputs by HGV to distant and dispersed locations.
“Furthermore, it has not been demonstrated as to why the facility could not be located in the urban areas.
“Therefore, the application, if approved would be contrary to policy W3.”