‘Berlin Wall’ fear over noise barriers at old ambulance station

Installing noise barriers up to five metres high around a car tyre and repairs business at a former Nelson ambulance station would look like the Berlin Wall or a prison, Pendle councillors and residents fear.

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 3:45 pm
The proposed site

Numerous concerns about current activities and future plans for a former ambulance station at Rakehouse Road were raised at the latest meeting of Pendle Borough Council’s Nelson, Brierfield and Reedley Committee this week.

Worries centre on a planning application from Hussain Jamal Ahmed, seeking permission to change the use of the former ambulance station to mixed uses, including storage and distribution, vehicle mechanical and body repairs and tyre fitting.

The tyre fitting element is classed as retrospective because it has been carried out there for the past nine months without planning permission.

The planning application was deferred from the committee’s previous meeting in October to allow for noise and environmental health assessments. The area is described as residential and neighbours have raised fears about noise from repairs, spray paint and extraction fans, traffic disruption , long opening hours, storage arrangements and fire risks linked to tyres and other parts.

A revised plan was unveiled late at this week’s Nelson committee meeting. The latest recommended measures included reduced business hours, installation of higher noise barriers up to four and five metres in height, changes to PVC curtains and restricting the number of workshop doors allowed to be open.

In a public questions slot, resident Linda Metcalfe said: “I am very concerned about the ambulance station. I’m alarmed to find out that the agenda in front of me is not what the councillors now have on their tables tonight. We have not been advised that the recommendations have changed. It would have been courteous for us to have the amended application rather than just hearing about it here and now.

“It is incredible that the tyre business has been allowed to operate for nine months. It’s previous use as an ambulance station caused no problems because it was quiet. It was used solely as a car park and no repairs were carried out there. So there is no precedent for the current business purposes nor for the ludicrous proposed car mechanical and body business.

“The site has never been used for commercial use. It was once an NHS despatch site but that could not be described as commercial. The Pendle Borough Council description of it having a ‘commercial use’ is misleading and wrong.

“We have to endure the tyre business operating up to seven days per week until 7pm including weekends. We have asked the borough council and environmental health department to act.

“Limits could and should be put on the business until plans are sorted. We feel very let down by the borough council and environmental health. It seems like the council is going out of its way to help this business at a totally inappropriate site. We deserve better than this. We are heartened that some councillors seem to agree with us.

“This business is suited to an industrial site not a residential area. How about putting it in Lancaster Gate? That might sound preposterous. But it would be similar to this site. It should be refused outright.” Her speech drew applause from other people in the public gallery.

However, a spokesperson on behalf of the applicant in the public gallery, who did not give his name to the meeting, said: “It’s a family business. Once we got into the premises, we realised we did not need such a large building. So it was split up. We had several enquiries from several businesses and decided to take a business similar to ours. They began operating because they did not think they needed to get planning permission because the site had previously been used for vehicles.

“Regarding residents’ concerns, the site has ample parking spaces – 18 spaces – which has been confirmed by the county council. We have worked closely with Pendle Borough Council on a noise mitigation strategy which should be acceptable. Door shutters will be controlled and litter problems will not happen again. We assure you that we will address concerns.”

However Coun. Mohammad Sakib said: ” The area is very nice and quiet. I am very hesitant to talk in favour of this. I support businesses but this is the wrong location for this type of business. Car parking and noise are serious issues around repair workshops. Cars can be left on the roads outside for weeks and weeks.

“These noise barriers would be nearly two storeys in height next to nearby houses. These would be totally out of character with the area. I don’t know how planning officers can come to this position? When someone applies for a small extension to a house, officers typically talk about 45 degree angles for visual amenity. So how is this application OK?

“The residents have been coming here for three months. This is seriously effecting their lives. It would be unfair to them to make this process longer. We should sort this out sooner rather than later. ”

But Coun. Ruby Anwar said: “I support this application and would recommend approval. There are a number of mitigation features.”

Coun. Neil McGowan said: “I am familiar with the area. I don’t think what is put on paper here (the latest mitigation measures) would be adhered too. I’m no numpty. Residents know these measures would not be adhered to. How can we really go forward with this? if we don’t deal with it, the chances are it’ll come back to bite us. The noise barriers would be like Risley Remand Centre. You cannot in your conscience pass this application.”

But Coun. Mohammad Iqbal said: “We all know the planning system is not fit for purpose. The lady who spoke earlier raised many points of concern. With these latest measures, we would be faced with the Berlin Wall in Nelson.

“However, I think we should defer this to the Policy AND Resources Committee for one month to get all the full facts and look at things like reduced hours. I have some compromise ideas. We shouldn’t make decisions based on emotions.”

Councillors agreed to defer the application to the more senior Policy and Resources Committee on November 29th.