Chicken giant should consider moral duty over Galley Hill LPG

IN response to your article dated February 22 (‘Campaigners’ fury at fuel storage plan’) we would like to make the following observations.

We are residents of Hemingford Grey who set up “OVG” (One Vocal Group) to inform villagers about and raise petitions against planning applications for a 77m high wind turbine and 37 tonnes of LPG at Galley Hill Farm, Hemingford Grey.

The site is adjacent to the A14. The entrance lies on the left, quite literally just beyond the eastbound slip road exit (junction 26), which then joins the busy A1096 to St Ives.

The applicant is Amber Real Estate Investments, based in Birmingham. The company is actually a subsidiary of the Boparan/2 Sisters Food group, which has an operating licence to run an intensive poultry farm (320,000 chickens in and out on a six-week cycle). They were granted planning permission in 2010 to erect eight (industrial) broiler sheds, but these have not yet been built.

In January 2011, the applicant applied for 37 tonnes of LPG – anything over 25 tonnes requires planning permission because it is a hazardous substance. In May 2011 they increased the amount to 49 tonnes, but for some reason then decreased it back down to 37 tonnes.

Local residents fought against the wind turbine and the volume of LPG on the grounds of safety due to the close proximity of the A14.

In December, HDC refused consent for the turbine. The Highways Agency also placed a holding order on the LPG application until the end of February.

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“OVG” continued to campaign further by writing letters and telephoning the Highways Agency and the Health & Safety Executive concerning the proposed siting of the LPG tanks, (which on the applicant’s drawing are set metres from the A14 carriageway).

The applicant’s agent was then told they would have to move the storage tanks at least 100m away from the A14, to a far corner of the site. For some reason, the applicant was not prepared to do this. So, once they realised they couldn’t just put the tanks where they wanted, someone decided to throw their toys out of the pram.

The applicant’s agent confirmed they are now looking at decreasing the number of tanks in order to avoid having to pursue consent. Thus they can put 25 tonnes where they like as it falls below the threshold for regulation, even though the tanks will be so close to the A14 carriageway. The reduction in quantity also means that LPG vehicle movements will be more frequent.

This is a large privately-owned global food company with annual sales worth �2.1billion – no small beer. If there should be a building fire at Galley Hill Farm or an LPG incident on site, there could be catastrophic consequences for drivers on the A14.

Simply, as a matter of safety and common sense, why isn’t this prosperous company prepared to move the tanks further into the site (and also away from the trees surrounding the A14 boundary as well) or store it underground?

We think it should consider the moral obligation, not only to residents of Hemingford Grey, Fenstanton and St Ives, but to other motorists who will be driving along the A14 blissfully unaware of such a potential hazard so close by.

This company is one of the biggest suppliers to M&S and Tesco, not to mention others such as Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. We wonder what the directors and shareholders of these companies would think about such a cavalier attitude. We can only assume that the owners of Galley Hill Farm put profit, not people, first.

Many members of OVG also believe this is no longer a suitable site for an operation of this nature. Yes, it used to be a chicken farm many years ago and has been disused for many years too. But the applicant is going to double the production now.

There will be heavier HGV movements on and off a site that’s situated at an unexpected, set-back entrance to a field just off a slip road leading from one of the most notorious trunk roads in the country – where there is now much more traffic and much more speed – an accident waiting to happen.

And what about the housing developments that have since sprung up on both sides of London Road, which will also be affected by the awful smell, as other residents were in the past when there were only 120,000 chickens at any one time.

We are very concerned about potential accidents happening on this stretch of road and, taking all things into consideration, we now feel Boparan shouldn’t even have been granted planning permission in the first place.



Hemingford Grey