Blunder sees plan back on the table

A �35m scheme to expand the British Sugar factory at Cantley, near Yarmouth, is having to go back to the drawing board after an administrative blunder by the Broads Authority.

A �35m scheme to expand the British Sugar factory at Cantley, near Yarmouth, is having to go back to the drawing board after an administrative blunder by the Broads Authority.

The plans, which would pave the way for all-year-round working at the plant with imported sugar cane being processed during the summer, were approved last month.

However, some Cantley residents claimed they were not properly notified of the date and venue of the meeting at the Broads Authority's Norwich HQ and therefore lost the chance for a spokesman to put over their objections in a slot allocated for public speaking.

After taking legal advice the Broads Authority has decided that the application will be reconsidered at its planning committee meeting on April 3.

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The dispute centred on an e-mail sent to Robert Beadle, chairman of Cantley Parish Council, by a Broads Authority official, which gave an assurance that “all parties who comment in writing on a planning application determined by the planning committee are sent a copy of the agenda”.

Mr Beadle said he had passed on the e-mailed assurance to a lot of people in the village who were asking when the meeting would be - however, many who were relying on it received none of the promised information.

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Authority spokeswoman Cally Smith said their normal practice was to notify the parish council, the ward councillor and the applicant when an application was due to be considered so people could take advantage of public speaking arrangements.

It was not their practice to notify individuals and the emailed advice sent to Cantley Parish Council had been sent in error.

However, she said: “We have no problem taking it back as it is the right thing to do. We said we would let individuals know and we did not do so.

“Further, at least one person who was not notified has indicated that had he attended the last meeting he would have had new points to present.”

Letters notifying people of the 10am meeting at the Broads Authority's offices at Dragonfly House in Norwich have been sent to more than 200 residents who had lodged objections before the last meeting.

Ms Smith stressed the committee had only made its decision on the last occasion after a site visit attended by parish councils and district councillors, as well as representatives from Broadland District Council and the Highways Authority.

There had also been media coverage prior to the committee meeting.

Complaints by residents had been led by retired barrister Gary Simons, who lives in Cantley and shares concerns over the increase in lorry traffic and environmental impact of British Sugar's plans.

He said by failing to inform people after telling them they would, the Broads Authority had failed to follow due process.

A British Sugar spokesman said: “The Broads Authority has decided to reconvene its planning committee to consider our application covering energy efficiency and raw sugar refining at our Cantley sugar factory. We believe our application is of the highest technical and environmental quality and continues to offer significant benefits to Norfolk's economy. We will therefore be re-submitting our case on April 3.”

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