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Councillor warns of road safety risks as poultry plant’s bid to up production limit is approved

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Wednesday, May 15th, 2019.

A community leader in Wrexham has warned that road safety will be put at risk after a poultry plant’s bid to up its production limit was approved on appeal.

Proposals by Maelor Foods to increase the number of chickens it can process for meat at its factory in Cross Lanes to a million a week were previously rejected by Wrexham Council’s planning committee on two occasions.

However, those decisions have now been overturned by a planning inspector appointed by the Welsh Government.

It follows a public hearing beind held in the town at which inspector Hywel Wyn Jones was asked to weigh up the increase in lorries travelling on the A525 and Pickhill Lane against the economic benefits.

The plant’s owners have welcomed his conclusion and said it would lead to a minimum of 80 new jobs and an estimated £101 million boost to the local economy.

But Marchwiel councillor John Pritchard believes it will have a significant impact on the lives of people living nearby.

“I’m really disappointed because I thought the inspector would have come down on the side of the residents,” he said.

“It’s going to have a big impact on residents. It’s going to be disturbing for the people who live nearby and the rural area because country roads are going to be used more by heavy goods vehicles.

“It’s a bad junction on the A525 and residents had concerns about accidents.”

The state-of-the-art poultry processing plant opened in 2017 on the former First Milk site following an investment of more than £20m.

It was backed with a £3.15m grant from the Welsh Government’s Food Business Investment Scheme.

During the planning hearing some residents expressed concerns about the smell generated by the site last summer and said they had been kept awake at night by the noise from lorries carrying chickens.

In his decision notice Mr Wyn Jones concluded the application would conflict with the council’s policy on road safety and also impact on living conditions.

However, he said both the economic benefits and plans to use the neighbouring Lloyd Fraser site as a holding facility for lorries would outweigh the harm.

He also attached conditions requiring Maelor Foods to make improvements to the road network before the expansion takes place.

Mr Wyn Jones said: “I have found in relation to the first two main issues that the increased productivity would give rise to harm to highway safety and to the amenities of local residents.

“However, I have also identified measures that can be secured through planning conditions to partly mitigate or compensate for the harms identified, specifically the road improvements, the ability to control the future use of the secondary access, and the ability to prevent Sunday lorry movements.

“Without the scheme there is a likelihood that the Lloyd Fraser site would be used intensively as a haulage depot, without controls over matters such as hours of operation and volume of traffic.

“As this would result in potentially greater harm in terms of highway safety and living conditions, it is a matter which must attract significant weight.

“When taken with the identified economic benefits, it firmly outweighs the harms identified.”

Mr Wyn Jones has also ordered Wrexham Council to pay costs to the company after he said the decision to refuse the scheme was not backed by sufficient evidence.

Maelor Foods officials said it was happy with the outcome and has pledged to work closely with the community in the future.

Managing director Raj Mehta said: “We are very pleased to be able to draw a line under this protracted planning process.

“Having open communication between our neighbours, the community and local councillors is a priority and we will be looking to establish a formal and regular dialogue with them moving forward.

“We are grateful to the inspector for the time he spent understanding our intentions and the conditions we are prepared to operate to to mitigate any impact on the local community.”

By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).

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