Celebrations in order for Meadowcroft residents as chimney application is rejected

Unhappy Meadowcroft residents

Unhappy Meadowcroft residents - Credit: Archant

Whoops and cheers rang out during a planning committee meeting as councillors voted unanimously to refuse a retrospective application for a chimney which had been spewing “noxious fumes” into nearby homes and gardens for seven months.

Citygate Automotive had been using a warehouse on the North Orbital Commercial Park in St Albans to spray cars since March, despite a lack of permission. It subsequently lodged a retrospective planning application for a change of - and therefore continued - use.

Donald Munroe spoke on behalf of the residents of nearby Meadowcroft and New Barnes Lane and urged councillors to reject the retrospective application.

He said: “The noxious fumes have prevented people sitting in their gardens this summer, prevented children from being able to play outside, can be smelt inside with the windows open, and have caused residents to suffer headaches, sore throats, and display respiratory difficulties.

“The officer’s report said the environmental officer had not experienced the fumes. But please believe us local residents, that these fumes can be very strong and are intermittently present on an almost-daily basis.”

Mr Munroe also told councillors that the application, which included moving the chimney to the front of the warehouse, would not solve the problem and would instead cause the fumes to affect the residents of New Barnes Avenue more prominently.

He said: “We plead that you as councillors, as guardians of our local community, should not allow this retrospective change of use. Please reject this insidious application so that residents can once more enjoy our homes and gardens without the threat of environmental nuisance.”

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More than 50 residents appeared at the meeting, including many young children, and Mr Munroe’s speech was met with enthusiastic applause, leading Cllr Rob Prowse to request that clapping and cheering be limited.

Cllr Geoff Harrison told the committee: “To have to sit in your own back garden in a domestic area with this going on is totally inappropriate and I am afraid Citygate haven’t done their homework in the first place.”

Cllr Chris Brazier added: “I do not really like retrospective applications. I do not really like that sort of operation when you put an application in only when you have been caught.”

Councillors voted unanimously against the application and agreed that enforcement officers would visit the site to make sure Citygate were complying with the decision.

Jonathan Smith, managing director of Citygate,had told councillors that he had not intended the installation of the chimney to cause so much disruption to the lives of the local residents and insisted that he had not known, prior to moving on to the site, that it was not to be used for car spraying.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Smith said: “I was shocked and quite upset at the level of bad feeling from the residents. I wish we had had a chance to speak to the residents beforehand.”

He maintained that Citygate was exploring a number of options - including liaising with residents - but refused to rule out appealing the decision.

Resident Meredith Bennett said after the decision that she was pleased with the result and added: “There was a lot of concern among the other residents that it might have gone the other way but it was great that we all came together as a community and showed that level of objection. The children were very well behaved and saw a little bit of community spirit in action.”