Martin Mere: 'ridiculous' waste plans near wetlands site kicked out by councillors

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
A bid to create a waste facility barely half a mile from the Martin Mere Wetland Centre has been thrown out after the popular attraction claimed it posed an environmental threat to it.

Lancashire County Council’s development control committee rejected the proposal to use an existing agricultural building at Bank Farm in Burscough to sort, store and recycle non-hazardous rubbish.

Members also refused retrospective permission for an already operational open-air development elsewhere on the Martin Lane site, which is being used to process construction, demolition and excavation waste. That application had been recommended for dismissal by County Hall planning officers on the basis that it damaged the openness of the greenbelt plot on which it stands.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However, the same officials had said the other proposal should be approved, because – as an indoor operation housed in a current building – it would not have any greater impact on its greenbelt location.

The agricultural building (inset) where a waste facility was proposed, less than a mile from Martin MereThe agricultural building (inset) where a waste facility was proposed, less than a mile from Martin Mere
The agricultural building (inset) where a waste facility was proposed, less than a mile from Martin Mere
Read More
Mobile phone mast bid for Beacon Fell Country park near Preston

The prospect of the venture – by applicant Daniel Bolton – prompted outrage from locals, more than 300 of whom signed a petition opposing it.

Meanwhile, a representative of Martin Mere operator the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust told committee members that they would be taking “a massive gamble” on the future of what is a site of special scientific interest if they permitted the nearby waste development.

Nick Brooks presented photographs which he claimed showed “evidence” of material already having been dumped on farmland to the south of Martin Mere, alongside a brook which flows into the ecological site – contrary to the applicant stating that work had not yet begun He pointed to metal and plastic which he warned “presents a massive risk to our wetlands centre”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Martin Mere attracts up to 200,000 visitors a year, we employ 50 local people [and] we bring £6m into the local economy every year, which supports a further 29 full-time jobs. Damage to the wetland damages the wildlife, damages visitation, damages employment and damages the local economy – do you want to risk all that for a couple of small waste companies wanting to save a few pennies?” Mr. Brooks asked.

That was a reference to what the committee heard was a nearby industrial facility which West Lancashire borough councillor John Gordon said was a “perfectly good” option for the type of waste operation being proposed – and had “better infrastructure” to accommodate it.

Laura Brough, speaking on behalf of the Martin Lane Residents’ Group, said that Bank Farm was also still “a working arable farm”, parts of which had been rented out to salad and potato growers. She added that the county council had failed to consider the impact on those neighbouring land uses, as required by national waste policy.

However, Rob Hope, principal planning officer at the authority, said that the selfsame policy states that “you should look at using redundant farm buildings for waste management purposes” – but avoid greenbelt areas if such development would be “inappropriate” there. He explained that the authority considered there to be “no issue in terms of appropriateness” once the applicant had dropped an earlier plan for an outdoor storage area.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

That premise had already been revealed as a bone of contention for West Lancashire Borough Council – which objected to the plans – with the authority’s planning services manager Steven Faulkner asking how “realistic” it was to expect the storage of material to be kept “solely within the building, without reliance on external areas” – especially in view of the photographs presented by Martin Mere.

Development control committee member Eddie Pope agreed and branded the proposal “completely ridiculous” and “totally inappropriate”.

“Basically, you’ve got a farmer who’s given up farming and is looking to rent his hand out to anybody he can. This is not a building that…can contain all [of] this operation – it is open-fronted,” County Cllr Pope said.

Fellow members lined up to lay out a litany of concerns, with Stephen Clarke warning: “The last thing we want is…contamination into the water system.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Proposing refusal of the plans, County Cllr Barrie Yates said that a development like the one suggested should be “guided outside of the greenbelt to a different location”.

Mr. Bolton’s application to change the use of the agricultural building was unanimously refused, as was that for the proposed outdoor waste facility, which had been lodged by Nathan Field and Jake Wallbank.

None of the applicants or their agents addressed the committee. The Lancashire Post attempted to contact Mr. Bolton, via his agent, to respond to the claims made during the committee meeting about the dumping of waste close to a brook.