County councillors back Hitchin scrapyard plans despite pollution concerns

Plans for a new scrapyard in Hitchin have been backed by the county council, despite pollution conce

Plans for a new scrapyard in Hitchin have been backed by the county council, despite pollution concerns. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Plans for a vehicle scrapyard in the heart of Hitchin have been backed by Hertfordshire’s county councillors – despite some admitting there are pollution concerns.

The county council’s development control committee supported plans for a vehicle dismantling scrapyard in Station Approach on Wednesday, but will raise their pollution fears with the Environmental Agency.

According to the plans, one or two ‘end of life’ vehicles will be dismantled every day, and hazardous material, such as petrol, battery acid and mercury switches, will be removed in a ‘depollution shed’ using hand tools.

But some councillors expressed concerns about the potential for pollution at the site, and the committee has agreed to write to the Environmental Agency which reportedly will need to issue a permit for the business to operate.

At the meeting, Cllr David Andrews said he was a “big fan” of this approach to vehicle decommissioning.

But he said he did not want this to contribute to “a future serious ground contamination issue”.

He told the meeting that the vehicles – which may not be intact on arrival – could be leaking “all kinds of fluids”, and pointed to cracks in the existing concrete infrastructure, which he suggested could lead to pollution.

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Cllr Andrews said: “Any spills that take place outside of the de-pollution area will find themselves flowing into cracks and ultimately into the ground.

“what I don’t want this to be doing is contributing to a future serious ground contamination issue.”

Councillors were told that the day-to-day operation at the site would be subject to a permit from the Environment Agency.

At the meeting, councillors were informed that the site – which has been vacant since 2018 – forms part of a small industrial estate, and has been used previously as vehicle repair workshop and previously used by the Stevenage Oil Company.

Local councillor Derrick Ashley – who is also executive member for growth, infrastructure, planning and the economy – had raised concerns in relation to the application, suggesting it was a “totally unsuitable use of this site”.

It was also reported that the county council had received a number of objections, in relation to the plans.

Some had suggested that it would be inappropriate on an employment estate that also included a nursery and a gym – and that it should be located out of town or in a designated industrial estate.

Other concerns focused on the increase in traffic and the effect this may have on narrow roads in the area.

According to the application, de-pollution work on the vehicles will be allowed between 9am and 6pnm, Mondays to Fridays. Office based work will also be allowed at the site on Saturdays, between 9am and 5pm.

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