Planning row erupts in Etchingham

Nortrade in Etchingham. Picture courtesy of Google Maps SUS-191109-170531001
Nortrade in Etchingham. Picture courtesy of Google Maps SUS-191109-170531001

A food processing warehouse is at the centre of a row that has broken out in a village.

The facility, located at Bracon Place, High Street, Etchingham, - previously known as the old timber mill - was bought in 2017 by Auscot Holdings Limited, the parent company of Nortrade Foods Limited, based in Hawkhurst, Kent.

That year, it applied to Rother District Council for permission to build a front and rear extension including loading bay.

But angry residents said developers did not declare the installation of refrigeration compressors at the time of submission to the authority.

Villagers also claim that the machinery has caused noise pollution in Etchingham for more than a year, with the district council recently serving the firm with a Noise Abatement Notice in June.

Developers have since submitted a retrospective planning application regarding the compressors.

Daniel Lach, a long time resident of Etchingham, is calling for a cessation of all work at the site.

He said: “The unwillingness of Rother District Council to call into question the planning application from 2017 raises many questions.

“The residents of Etchingham and the Rother Valley have been living under the constant clattering din of this machinery without respite for more than a year. The condensers emit a sound described by some residents as a low-pitched ‘whine’ or ‘rumble’.

“If we had known that the compressors were to have been installed, we would not have agreed to the planning application in the first place.”

Mr Lach said he has written to the Local Government Ombudsman in protest.

Etchingham Parish Council said it has written to the district council expressing concern regarding the accuracy of the documents provided on the initial planning application from two years ago.

A Rother District Council spokesman said: “The council did serve a Noise Abatement Notice (S80 Environmental Protection Act 1990) on this company at the end of June, requiring them to carry out works to the external ventilation units and giving them three months to comply. The company is working on complying with the notice.

“An application has been submitted seeking retrospective approval for the installation of compressors at this site, a feature which was not included in the original planning application.

“It is not uncommon for a retrospective planning application to be made after works have begun and such applications are considered in the same way as any other planning application.

“The application will include assessment of any noise mitigation measures that might be required, and residents, the parish council and other interested parties will have the chance to comment.

“We have taken legal advice on the suggestion by Mr Lach that the application is in breach of planning law and our advice is that this matter doesn’t meet the criteria for legal action on this basis.

“We understand that a complaint has been made to the Local Government Ombudsman regarding this matter and the council will co-operate fully with them as we would with any other complaint.”

John Greig, director of Nortrade, said: “As a company, we have done everything possible to alleviate any problems. We have been in this area since 1974. We are trying to stop any noise pollution coming out of the site, and it’s costing me tens of thousands of pounds. I am doing everything within my power.”

To comment on the application visit www.rother.gov.uk, click on Online Applications, Decisions and Appeals and search under application number RR/2019/1887/P.

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