A plan to expand a meat factory which produces Whoppers for Burger King in designated green belt has been approved despite councillors questioning whether it had met the “very special circumstances” requirement to develop in the protected area.
North Yorkshire Council’s strategic planning committee unanimously approved Dovecote Park’s ambition to increase the size of its steel-clad dry aged chiller building at Stapleton, near Pontefract to about 924sq m, to increase its operational efficiency and provide a better service for its customers.
Planning officers told the meeting at County Hall in Northallerton (pictured) the proposal was considered harmful to the green belt and that it had to meet “very special circumstances” to be approved.
The meeting was told the proposed development site was also in open countryside and not allocated as an employment or development site in the Local Plan.
Nevertheless, officers added the proposal would not have any adverse impact on the landscape, that the site was hidden from view and working hours be restricted to protect nearby residents from being impacted.
The meeting heard officers had concluded the firm’s explanation of its need to operate more efficiently outweighed the harm to the green belt, partly because the firm employed hundreds of people and its importance to the local economy.
In its application, Dovecote Park has stated the extension was required to be in operation by Christmas “to respond to the additional volume required for customers”, such as Marks & Spencer Hello Fresh, Waitrose and Hawksmoor steakhouses.
Councillor Bob Packham said: “Realistically, what we have here is a large industrial complex.”
Oher members described the proposal as “industrial” and questioned whether the firm had many any effort to offset the emissions it would be creating from the development.
Councillor Neil Swanick queried whether the proposal had met “very special circumstances, saying the reasons the firm had given were “less than convincing” and national planning policy was stringent over protecting designated green belt land.
He added: “It is strong for a good reason. Green belt should be protected.”
Councillors also questioned the firm’s unchecked statement that six jobs would be created with the development, saying they could be part-time or for a minimum wage, and urged planning officers to investigate such claims as they were often used to justify environmentally damaging proposals.
Councillor Paul Haslam added he was “very disappointed” with the proposal, saying it had been lodged “because the firm wants to make more money” without any consideration of environmental improvements.
Despite the committee focusing on concerns about more building in the Green Belt, they agreed proposal would save the firm from building elsewhere and said such food producing facilities were needed to increase the country’s food security.
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