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‘How on earth?’ Farm firm’s move called in as highways objections dropped

PUBLISHED: 09:22 20 September 2020 | UPDATED: 09:22 20 September 2020

A computer-generated image of the proposed Ben Burgess headquarters at Swainsthorpe. Pic: Ben Burgess.

A computer-generated image of the proposed Ben Burgess headquarters at Swainsthorpe. Pic: Ben Burgess.

Ben Burgess

A company’s controversial bid to move its farm machinery headquarters is to come under the spotlight, with opposition councillors questioning why Norfolk County Council’s cabinet decided not to object to it.

Dan Roper, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Liberal Democrats.Dan Roper, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Liberal Democrats.

Ben Burgess wants to move from its base from near County Hall in Norwich, to a new two-storey headquarters off the A140, near Swainsthorpe.

The company previously warned jobs could be at risk if it is not permitted, with a decision due to be made by South Norfolk Council in due course.

But, as highways authority, Norfolk County Council was consulted. In January last year, highways officers said a new junction on the A140 to serve the new site would be against the council’s policy and refusal would be recommended because of the potential for “traffic conflict”.

Highways officers said a new roundabout incorporating an existing junction would overcome refusal, but when an application was lodged, it was for a roundabout solely serving the development, so officers recommended refusal.

The plans were amended in August, but the access via a roundabout was unchanged – so the concerns of officers remained.

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Yet the Conservative-controlled cabinet recently voted not to object on highways grounds. The committee was told Grahame Bygrave, County Hall’s director of highways and waste, had said a “stand-alone roundabout constructed to the current design standards will be a safe form of junction”.

The cabinet said the economic impact, alongside the safety and appropriateness of a roundabout on the A140 overcame the objections on highways grounds.

But the opposition Liberal Democrat group at County Hall has questioned that and asked the council’s scrutiny committee to investigate the decision.

Dan Roper, deputy leader of the Lib Dem group, who requested the call-in for Wednesday’s scrutiny meeting, said: “I have called this matter in for scrutiny because I want to know how on earth the cabinet can decide there are no highways objections, when there are pages of safety concerns from its own officers and experts.”

A council spokesman said the authority would not comment ahead of the meeting.

The proposals are opposed by Swainsthorpe parish council and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.


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