'Lot wrong' but opponents admit concrete plant expansion defeat
- Credit: FP McCann
Pressure group Save our Fens conceded defeat after a five-year campaign to halt expansion of F P McCann’s concrete plant at Littleport.
“The plans will now go ahead despite fierce opposition from residents as well as objections from the council, Environment Agency, Flood Authority and Drainage Board,” said a spokesman.
It means using up to 30 acres of agricultural land off the Wisbech Road and the site will house a 50 ft building covering 33,000 sq. feet as well as two silos, each 64ft high.
“What was a beautiful fen landscape will be an ugly, noisy and dusty industrial site,” said the spokesman.
“Lorry after lorry is going to create a road hazard. The cement dust will blow across the new schools.”
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But Save Our Fens believe “celebrations have been tempered” at the company following the disqualification of managing director Eoin McCann and fellow director Frances McCann.
They were disqualified from holding directorships for more than 10 years over the company’s involvement in a price-fixing scandal.
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The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) took up the case following which F P McCann was fined £25m in 2019.
Michael Grenfell, executive director of enforcement at the CMA, said: "The length of these disqualification periods reflects the seriousness of this case.
"The CMA will continue to take strong action, where necessary, to protect the public from illegal anticompetitive practices.
"The message to directors is clear - you are personally responsible for ensuring that your company complies with competition law, and if it doesn't you risk disqualification."
But the CMA ruling is separate from the company’s ability to trade and Save Our Fens say they had “now admitted defeat – we will not contest the plans in the High Court.”
Resident Peter Preston said “There is a lot wrong in the planning inspector’s decision, but the council put up no sort of fight and we just don’t have the funds to take the case to the High Court again.
“Many of us who live around the proposed factory are pensioners and we just can’t take the risk of allowing this to destroy our financial security as well as our quality of life.
“Big business has won, and we must now live with the consequences”.
Fellow resident and businessman Rick Parisi said he was amazed by the decision which he said seemed to “fly in the face of government and local commitments to carbon reduction targets”.
He said: “This industry is a massive producer of greenhouse gases. If it were a country, the cement industry would be the third largest producer of carbon dioxide in the world.
“This makes an absolute mockery of the council’s supposed commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our area and just blows all of the targets out of the water.”
Fellow resident Hassaan Khan said “I have a one-and-a-half-year-old child.
“How can I promise him the quality of life he deserves, when a giant concrete factory next door leaves a massive carbon footprint and pollutes the very air he breathes on a daily basis?
“In the battle for the Fens' soul, the local residents stood no chance against the big business.”
Resident John Bosdet said “We put up the best fight we could and tried to explain that the information before the planning hearing was unreliable.
“But, at the end of the day, the planning inspector chose to believe everything FP McCann said.
“And that was despite the fact that its involvement in an illegal cartel and the disqualification of its directors for dishonest practices was in the public domain.”
“It is just our misfortune that we happened to live here when this company moved into our area.
“We will suffer the consequences but it is our children who will need to deal with the environmental damage.”
Save Our Fens says: “The expansion will more than double the size of the entire existing industrial site.
“A request has been submitted to extend into another two fields as soon as this application is approved. The vast site will be the defining feature of the area and Littleport; in the words of the Ely Standard, will become ‘the concrete capital of the Fens.’”