Congratulations to the Lordswood Against Asbestos Action Group, who yesterday achieved a noteable victory for local campaigning when Medway Council Planning Committee voted 14-1 to reject an application by the company Asbestos First Limited to change the use of an old storage depot from that of a depot for the storing of gritting salt and gritting lorries to an asbestos waste transfer station. The depot being sited in very close proximity to large numbers of homes in the Lordswood area of Chatham in Kent.
The decision of the 14 members of the Committee is to be applauded as one of common sense. Whilst the applicant company were able to show that as a company they are fully licensed for dealing with asbestos, and their staff are fully trained, the fact remains that it is very easy for procedures to be short circuited (read my previous HMS Belfast post), and accidents to happen. But of course the nature of asbestos is such that those exposed will only discover decades later that they were exposed to asbestos when they develop an asbestos related disease.
The fight may not be fully over for the Lordswood campaigners as there is always the possibility that the applicant may appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.
This case highlights another issue. The Medway Council Planning Officer who was allocated the application actually recommended that the application be approved. Whilst this was a high profile case and ended up being decided by the full Medway Council Planning Committee, far fewer planning applications are being decided in this way, and with local councils adopting a policy of working with applicants to seek to get as many applications approved as possible, it can clearly work to the detriment of those objecting and who are affected in some way by a planning application. Consider for example what the position might have been if in this case the depot was in a rural location where only one home was right next door to the depot. Would that householder have been able to prevent the change of use?