Cambridgeshire County Council digs in to take legal action against companies over access to Block Fen Drove at Mepal
- Credit: Archant
Three companies are facing legal action after failing to carry out work to upgrade a Fenland road as part of their planning permission.
Cambridgeshire County Council’s planning committee is set to order enforcement action against mineral firms: Aggregate Industries, Hanson UK and Mick George Ltd’s waste operations when it meets next week.
A report points out all three companies were supposed to carry improvements to Block Fen Drove at Mepal as part of their planning permission, with some of the conditions imposed dating back more than 10 years.
Despite numerous negotiations with all the companies and changes to conditions, including time extensions, little work has been carried out to the actual road, although a roundabout has been built at the junction with the A142.
Councillor Bill Hunt said: “We have all had enough. Everyone should support officers to take legal action and do it today, not tomorrow. Prosecute if necessary and do it as soon as possible to get that area back on track.”
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The committee report says the roundabout has ‘significantly improved the junction but adds: “The remainder of Block Fen Drove, even with the passing bays, is not considered satisfactory for the size and volume of HCVs that use it to get to the mineral and waste firms.
“Vehicles overrunning the edge of the carriageway and damaging verges and other users of the road report drivers or mineral and waste vehicles being unwilling to wait in the passing bays and intimidating drivers of other vehicles, principally those who are obliged to use the first 300m of Block Fen Drove to access the residential and business units.”
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Planning permissions for the extraction of sand and gravel on a relatively small scale in the Block Fen area were granted in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
More recently permissions for larger areas of land have been granted, some with restoration to agriculture at original ground level using imported waste.
The result is three major mineral operators with planning permissions covering large areas of land and the capability, if market conditions are right, to produce 1.5 million tonnes of sand and gravel per year.
Planning permissions granted since the 1990s have included a requirement for the mineral operators to improve access to their sites.
The report pointed out firstly this was to provide a right hand turn land and deceleration lane for left turning traffic from the A142 into Block Fen Drove and the provision of passing bays on and resurfacing of Block Fen Drove.
A roundabout rather than the right hand turn lane was installed in 2004 with contributions from the three mineral operators and the passing bays are in place.
Three years ago planning officers try to encourage a joint approach between the three companies as this was considered the best way of ensuring delivery of a scheme that is ‘appropriate for Block Fen Drove as the sole vehicular access to long term mineral and waste operations.’
Work was undertaken by Aggregate Industries and highway engineers to see if a less costly scheme was possible to deliver the necessary improvements.
But the firms have still not complied with their planning conditions, and will now face legal action.