Villagers who have spent years battling large-scale industrial estate expansion welcome council's move to drop part of plan

Villagers who have spent years battling a large-scale extension of a leading industrial estate have welcomed a council’s move to drop part of the expansion plan after Government inspectors found the proposal was unjustified.

Market Place, Bedale

After learning Hambleton District Council had abandoned its plan to “safeguard” ten hectares of land at at Aiskew Moor, near Bedale, to expand Leeming Bar Industrial Estate, residents have called on the authority to reconsider its plan to build over a further 20 hectares there, largely to facilitate the growth of a single business, soft drinks giant Cawingredients.

Leeming Bar Action Group campaigners issued the appeal to the local authority ahead of its cabinet members considering numerous changes to its Local Plan, the framework for development across the district until 2036.

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Following a Government examination of Hambleton’s Local Plan, changes being proposed by the council following “advice” given by the inspectors include abandoning proposals for housing estates in Brompton and Great Ayton and plans for a car and coach park at the west end of Bedale.

Inspectors Matthew Birkinshaw and Steven Lee said as it was not inevitable the safeguarded land, which includes farm fields, would be needed for the industrial estate, earmarking it as such in the Local Plan was “not justified and should be deleted”.

In response, Cawingredients, which employs about 400 staff at the site, said in a letter to the inspectors there was “an absolute necessity” to secure more land for the development of the business and enable both its production facilities to be managed as a single campus site to share knowledge, management, and culture.

The letter stated: “The proposition is not speculative, Cawingredients’ commitment to the site will result in a major investment and expansion project for a bespoke high quality built to order facility by a well-resourced and uniquely experienced Leeming Bar company.”

Despite the appeal the inspectors have maintained their finding, leading the council to remove the safeguarded land part of the expansion from the Local Plan.

Campaigners battling the expansion said it would solely service the future needs of a firm which had announced a £108 million turnover in December, and say Hambleton council should now focus on providing employment opportunities where there is unemployment, rather than on the edge of a village.

Dr Matthew Sawyer said hundreds of residents still had concerns over the health impacts of the proposed expansion and strongly objected to building on agricultural land.

He said: “Hambleton’s entire Local Plan seems to be to put employment and housing where the people are, except for at Leeming Bar. Whilst we are pleased that the council has started to recognise development at Leeming Bar is inappropriate for the circumstances, we remain concerned the majority of development is still planned to go ahead despite the opposition of residents.”

An officers’ report to the council’s cabinet states the council will hold a six-week consultation on the proposed changes to its Local Plan from the end of the month.

The report states the changes “are only proposed to ensure the Local Plan can be considered sound and suitable for adoption by the council”. It adds: “To be sound, the Local Plan must be justified by appropriate evidence, effective at achieving its policy objectives and in accordance with national planning policy.”