Change of use for St Albans commercial park is rejected

Suzie Wyeth and her neighbours are being affected by another storage unit on the North Orbital Tradi

Suzie Wyeth and her neighbours are being affected by another storage unit on the North Orbital Trading Estate being used for manufacturing purposes and causing fumes and noise. - Credit: Archant

Applause erupted in the council chamber after a controversial planning application to approve industrial activity next to residential houses was rejected.

Neighbours of Unit 9 in the North Orbital Commercial Park, Napsbury Lane, St Albans, say since wooden staircase manufacturers CAD Stairs started operating from the building they have been blighted by noxious fumes, thick smoke, strong odours, and constant noise.

They say it is so intrusive they cannot open their doors, use their gardens, or have a full night’s sleep.

When the company originally received planning permission to operate from Unit 9, it was only used as a warehouse for storage and distribution – and stairs were not physically constructed on site.

Permission was subsequently changed to ‘light industry’, under the condition that there would be no nuisance to the neighbours.

If the planning permission had been approved, the estate would change from light to general industry, and the business would have been able to use the site to cut wood and use wood burners from 7.30am-4.30pm Mondays to Saturdays.

It was a retrospective planning application - CAD have already been using it this way for some time.

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At a meeting of St Albans planning referrals committee on Monday, Suzie Wyeth, who lives next to the unit on Meadowcroft, argued against the application.

She said: “It is absolutely causing great distress and inconvenience to nearby residents, some as close as 10 metres to the building.

“We don’t feel that the environmental report takes into account the severity and volume of complaints received.”

She went on to discuss worries about the potential health problems from frequently inhaling smoke from treated wood.

Richard Woodford, representing CAD at the meeting, argued the environmental tests over a long period had found no statutory nuisance to the neighbours, none of the work is done outside in the open, and the business owner had taken voluntary steps to minimise disturbance with the neighbours.

He said: “[CAD Stairs] leased this unit in good faith and didn’t know it didn’t have a consent.

“From day one as soon as he found out, [the business owner] Mr Bradley wanted to be a responsible neighbour and wrote to everybody and said ‘if you want to come and have a look at my factory and talk to me I am more than happy to do that’, and I know that several people have taken him up on that.”

Suzie said she was ‘pretty delighted’ with the outcome, but does not think it is the end of the issue.

She said: “For the residents association the next step is not to leave it, but to enforce it and work with the council to make sure this doesn’t keep happening.”