Lambeth council has wasted little time in trying to progress plans for a large metal recycling plant at the end of a residential road in West Norwood that would affect roads across the borough.
A meeting of its planning committee last Tuesday (13 July) ran out of time before a decision on plans for the plant could be agreed.
Local campaigners against the plant, Royal Mail and Croydon council, among others, have warned that traffic to and from the plant will affect roads across Lambeth, including Brixton, and wider areas of South London.
An apparently unchanged proposal for the plant in Windsor Grove will be considered by Lambeth council’s planning committee on Tuesday 27 July.
As the previous meeting came to an end after nearly four hours of evidence, councillors on the planning committee had begun to give their views on the proposal.
Jessica Leigh said there were concerns about “residents’ lives” and how to mitigate the harms of the site, including access to Royal Mail services and transport in and around West Norwood.
She had “very serious”, concerns that vehicles would not be able pass through the proposed plant quickly enough to avoid idling vehicles waiting outside and nearby.
Green party councillor Becca Thackray said that plans for the site itself were a very positive part of the proposal, the committee had not “touched on” the pupil referral unit and two schools next to the site.
It was apparent from a site visit that vehicles do park up and wait there, notably those from nearby builders’ merchant GNK and Royal Mail, she said.
“We haven’t talked about the buses and the pedestrians and the school children, the cycles and the e-scooters we saw,” said Thackray. “It just feels far too dangerous.”
She could not support the application.
Scarlett O’Hara said the site was suitable for waste use, but the impact on roads, and particularly on West Norwood High Street, would be significant in terms of safety and air quality.
She was concerned there would be queuing on Windsor Grove, partly because of the activity of other HGVs in the area, and enforcement would be an issue.
O’Hara said there were very few benefits to West Norwood itself – certainly not in terms of jobs or the community. “On balance, it isn’t an application that I can support,” she said.
At this point, committee chair Joanne Simpson asked Robert O’Sullivan, the council’s head of development management, to “wrap up” on transport.
He wanted to advise councillors on how they should assess the transport impact of the proposed plant.
He explained the national planning policy framework said a development should only be refused on highway grounds if it has a “severe” impact.
“You have to be very clear in your own mind that there would be a severe impact,” he warned.
He said five sets of “technical experts” who had “exhaustively scrutinised” this aspect of the application “have come back to advise that they have no objection to scheme”.
His advised that “actually hitting that threshold of ‘severe impact’ would be an extremely hard reason to defend if members were minded to refuse to the scheme” on the grounds of highway safety.
Despite the council’s often stated aim of increasing cycling and walking in the borough, he said one reason why the plant’s impact on road safety would be acceptable was that surveys showed there was not a lot of “cycle activity or trips” in the area.
He concluded: “I don’t see any evidence before the committee that would justify a reason for refusal” on the grounds of road safety.
Committee member Malcolm Clark responded that, as a member of the committee who attended the site visit, he had seen “evidence in front of me in the real world” that was different from “modelling evidence”.
He said the London Plan quoted by officers in other contexts also said waste processing facilities should be developed and designed in consultation with local communities.
Councillor Mohammed Seedat said he was minded to vote against the application. He disagreed that the plant would have little impact.
“Some of the most disadvantaged kids in the borough” go to Park Campus referral unit next to the proposed site,” he said.
“There’s not any other schools we’d entertain putting a metal recycling facility right next to,” he said.
The impact on children, especially ones coming from the most disadvantaged households in South London, could not be overlooked.
When time ran out, with council legal officer Susan Boucher explaining that the meeting had to end, five of its seven members has expressed outright opposition or serious concern.
A sixth, committee chair Joanne Simpson, had attempted to find a form of words to explain the reasons for rejection that councillors could approve, but did not have time.
This is. not the first time recently that the council’s planning committee has run out of time and had to return to a controversial application.
In August 2020 it first deferred and then, in November, approved, on a split decision, the application by the Amsterdam-based company AG Hondo Pope’s Road BV to build a complex including a 20-storey tower at the junction of Popes Road and Brixton Station Road.