Residents left angry after meeting no-show

ANGRY residents say they have been left searching for answers after Harborough District Council officers failed to attend a heated public meeting over a waste contractor's controversial move to Great Bowden.

The council's waste contractor Focsa moved from its previous site on a farm near Theddingworth to premises in Welham Lane outside Great Bowden late last month despite not having planning permission or informing residents.

The deadline for comments on Focsa's planning application for the site has been extended to Wednesday, November 25.

Click here to view the application and make a comment on it.

More than 120 people attended a meeting at Great Bowden Church Hall on Tuesday night to discuss the issue but representatives from Focsa and the council declined to attend.

The hall echoed with groans as meeting chairman, Harborough Lib Dem group chief Phil Knowles, revealed the council's deputy chief executive Kamal Mehta would not be attending.

The council said afterwards this was because the meeting was organised by a political party – the Lib Dems – and it was not appropriate for impartial officers to attend.

But Welham Lane resident Pete Goold said at the meeting it had been jointly organised with residents and was not political.

Mr Knowles added: "This has got nothing to do with politics. We have involved our MP, a Conservative, and Kevin Feltham (a Tory county councillor]. It has denied people the chance to have their questions answered.

"It's a slap in the face to the people of Great Bowden."

Focsa said afterwards it was unable to send a representative due to "short notice" given.

Several Harborough district councillors attended and Cllr Feltham read out a letter of support for the protesters from MP Edward Garnier.

The meeting also heard from Roger Clarke, Focsa's former landlord at Pebble Hall Farm, Theddingworth, who said Focsa had been asked to leave his site after it placed increasing demands on the farm.

Focsa moved onto the farm in April after it took over the district council's waste contract from Veolia. Focsa did not have planning permission at that site either and submitted a retrospective application to Northants County Council.

Mr Clarke said: "The goalposts kept moving. Their demands grew and we felt we couldn't meet those demands. They were given until October 21 to leave but they asked for a stay of execution. We agreed to a two-month extension but they decided they already had another site and moved."

Residents raised a number of objections at the meeting, including noise and light pollution, the dangers of increased traffic and anti-social working hours at the site.

Focsa has submitted a retrospective planning application for the Welham Lane site and, because of a planning loophole, the council is not able to take enforcement action until after it has determined the application.

To comment on the application write to The Development Control Manager, Council Offices, Adam and Eve Street, Harborough, LE16 7AG, quoting reference 09/01253/FUL.

Great Bowden Parish Council is holding a special meeting to discuss the issues at Great Bowden Village Hall, The Green, tonight at 7.30pm