A scrap is brewing

PUBLISHED: 15:08 21 September 2006 | UPDATED: 10:54 06 May 2010

The scrapyard next to Hitchin railway station

The scrapyard next to Hitchin railway station

A SCRAPYARD being used by two companies is facing criticism from residents and commuters. The yard, situated beside Hitchin railway station with an entrance from St Michael s Road, is currently being used by H Williams and Sons and Cemex, a cement produci

A SCRAPYARD being used by two companies is facing criticism from residents and commuters.

The yard, situated beside Hitchin railway station with an entrance from St Michael's Road, is currently being used by H Williams and Sons and Cemex, a cement producing company.

Between them the companies deliver and take away granite and fragmentised metal from the yard. They lease the yard from Freightliner, which in turn has leased the land from Network Rail.

Nearby residents have spoken out about the amount of dust and noise coming from the yard, and the amount of heavy goods vehicles which they complain are "wrecking the road". Others, including one Comet reporter, have been covered in dust from the site while waiting on the nearby railway platform.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said: "There has been damage done to the road surface outside the yard and there is dust everywhere. It's getting into people's gardens and people are not impressed. We want to get it sorted out as soon as possible.

"No one knows what is happening and the council isn't even sure if they have the right planning permission."

Speaking yesterday (Wednesday) Hertfordshire County Council said it had just received notification that the companies have "permitted development rights" which means they do not need specific planning permission and the council cannot impose any restrictions on the number of vehicles travelling to and from the site.

A North Herts District Council spokesman said the its environmental protection team has received complaints about the noise and dust.

She said: "There are several issues involved in resolving the above complaints. Officers from NHDC have been in contact with the companies involved, are liaising with internal and external regulatory bodies and are awaiting their responses."

On the other side of the yard complaints have been made to First Capital Connect, which manages the station, by commuters who have been covered in dust from the site.

A First Capital Connect spokesman said the two companies spray water on all the materials to cut down dust levels. This was checked on Monday and was deemed to be in use.

However, after the incident with the Comet journalist on Tuesday, a First Capital Connect spokesman said: "Our safety section is getting in touch with Network Rail to get copies of all paperwork completed prior to the licence being given to the company and our safety department wants to see everything including the risk assessment that was done so we can work out if they are working in compliance with all the terms and conditions."

Network Rail said it has "requested that screening be erected around the yard to further ensure that materials do not escape from the yard" and that the leaseholders of the site have agreed to this.

However, John Rice, the director of legal and compliance for the Metal and Waste Recycling Group, which runs H Williams and Sons, said this was not the case.

He said: "There was some discussion with Network Rail as to whether it would be practicable for screens to be erected but that was not agreed during that discussion.

"We as a company have a policy where we require every action to be taken to try and overcome complaints made as a result of our activities.

"We have not however received a single complaint from any resident.

He added that the material in the yard was non-hazardous and that the company had made a conscious decision to transport material by rail rather than the road for environmental reasons and had made attempts to cut the levels of dust.

Nobody at Cemex was available for comment.

There is a public meeting to discuss these matters at the St Michael's Community Centre at 7pm on Tuesday, September 26.

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