Fears over 'noxious gases' spouting from new chimney on St Albans industrial park
Residents are urging the council to reject a retrospective planning application for a chimney which, they say, is spewing "noxious gases" into their homes and gardens.
Citygate Automotive, the automobile repair shop and retailer, put up the four-metre funnel without planning permission in February on a warehouse on the North Orbital Commercial Park in St Albans.
However, residents of Meadowcroft, say they were not warned or consulted and are now concerned about the effects the chimney is having on their health.
Mum-of-two, Sarah Baker, had to bring a group of children in from her garden when the fumes became too thick to bear.
She said: “The smell from the chimney got so strong I started getting a headache, so I moved all the children inside.
“When the wind is blowing toward us, the smell gets so strong that you can taste it. It actually leaves an aftertaste in your mouth.”
Another parent, Heidi Ringshaw, said: “It smells like nail polish remover. I’ve had a sore throat and a bad headache – it’s difficult to prove any link between that and the fumes, but either way, it can’t be doing any of us any good.
Peter Dickley, commercial director of Citygate Automotive, submitted a retrospective change of use application in April - two months after the chimney was installed. He said that there had been a degree of confusion surrounding the premises’ use.
“To a certain extent, we were misled by the landlord. Our application includes moving the chimney from the rear of the building to the front.
“We believe this will solve the noise issue, the chimney will no longer be visible from homes and garden and it will massively decrease the level of fumes in the residential area.”
He added that although Citygate staff wear masks inside the unit, “a sophisticated filtration system is in place to deal with the fumes” and the any fumes were safe and complied with all relevant emission regulations.
The application, on which a planning committe will rule on August 17, is for a change of use from a ‘storage and distribution facility’ to ‘general industrial’.
But St Albans district councillor, Robert Donald, is backing residents and urging the council to reject the application.
He said: “I have concerns both about the principle of doing it without permission in the first place and now about the health hazards.
“I strongly agree with the residents’ concerns and I will be putting their case before the planning committee very strongly.”
Mike Lovelady, head of legal services at St Albans council, said: “Our environmental compliance team has visited the area on several occasions to verify whether a statutory nuisance has been committed and we are continuing to monitor the situation.
“In the meantime, we have negotiated a restriction of the hours of operation on a voluntary basis by the company concerned.”