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Great Hallingbury residents' concern at Wren Kitchens' controversial plan to convert field by M11 into 24/7 depot

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Residents faced with development of a large-scale lorry park that will be in use 24/7 are mounting strong opposition to the scheme that they fear will devastate Great Hallingbury.

National chain Wren Kitchens has acquired the 12.7 acre (5.12 hectare) parcel of land off the B1256 at Start Hill, close to junction 8 of the M11, for use as a regional depot.

The lease on its existing base at Stansted Airport is due to expire in 2023 and it wants to create an open logistics facility where HGVs will deposit storage containers which will then be loaded onto smaller trucks for distribution across the area.

Google Maps view of the site with proposed layout overlaid (45154058)
Google Maps view of the site with proposed layout overlaid (45154058)

The site borders the historic Flitch Way cycle and pedestrian route, agricultural land and several listed homes along the narrow, but already busy Tilekiln Green road.

In a controversial move 18 months ago and with no warning to residents, the land, which had been "untouched for decades", was cleared of trees and undergrowth. A formal planning application was submitted last month to develop 7.6 acres (3.07ha), with around 4 acres (1.63ha) earmarked for lorry parking. The plans will go to Uttlesford District Council's planning committee for a decision.

An emergency meeting called by Great Hallingbury Parish Council via Zoom on Wednesday March 3 was attended by more than 30 concerned residents.

Proposed layout of the site (45154062)
Proposed layout of the site (45154062)

Chairman Cllr Alan Townsend said the community was "totally opposed" to the scheme, which they knew was coming after the site was cleared.

"They cleared and devastated the site so they could have a biodiversity survey, but, of course, it shows there's nothing on there now and we felt that was very underhand," he said.

"We've been waiting for this application, which is totally unacceptable traffic wise. You have the B1256, the M11 and a very small road into Tilekiln Green that's going to take all this extra traffic.

"There'll be car parking for 125 vehicles, 80 truck places and they're predicting 250 movements a day, in and out – that's 500 vehicle movements on that small junction. And for the poor people living opposite and next door, it's going to be operating 24/7.

Start Hill, Great Hallingbury. Cormac and Diane Conway by the border of their property. The field behind is set to become a distribution centre for Wren Kitchens. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (45001463)
Start Hill, Great Hallingbury. Cormac and Diane Conway by the border of their property. The field behind is set to become a distribution centre for Wren Kitchens. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (45001463)

"What is this going to do to the environment, on top of what has already been done? The pollution on an already polluted roundabout?

"We have a very long village road which is already a rat-run through to the airport, we have hardly any footpaths through the village and this proposal is too big for such a small area. It's just the wrong place."

Resident Carl Waring warned that traffic would become "unbearably dangerous".

Outline of site (45154060)
Outline of site (45154060)

"If approved, this facility will ruin Great Hallingbury and cause absolute havoc, not just to local residents, their enjoyment of their properties and their right to go about their business in safety. It will cause a traffic nightmare right next to junction 8 of the M11," he said.

"Our village road is already a rat run and I’ve started to badger the council and Essex highways about getting speed cameras, because I’ve nearly been killed twice whilst out running in the village. If Wren’s application gets the go-ahead, the traffic will be unbearably dangerous.

Cormac Conway has lived next to the site with his family for 15 years and will look out onto the planned lorry park.

"We can see about 80 per cent of the land and the area that they're proposing to put down to hardstanding for use as a lorry park, it's very concerning. They're hoping to get a couple of portable cabins on site and go into the existing drainage system, which just isn't up to it. And once they get planning for hardstanding, then they could quite easily put buildings on there."

Mr Conway, who runs his own landscaping business, said he suffered a brain injury following a car accident at the Start Hill/Tilekiln Green junction, which was already an accident hotspot.

"I have personal experience as I got hit coming out of the Esso garage opposite. The older generation in the village go up to the garage and bus stop and will have to negotiate all this movement of vehicles."

The owners of a 600-year-old grade II listed property opposite say they will go from seeing an abundance of wildlife out of their bedroom windows to a lit-up car park in constant use.

Debbie Ralph-Smith said: "We've been here nearly 25 years. We know first-hand what the traffic is like – we knew we were living under the flightpath, we've never complained and we accept that things change – but we just don't think this is a suitable place for 500 lorries.

"They have completely destroyed the habitat over there. It hadn't been touched in decades. I'm not against them expanding their business, but not in an area that is not an industrial site. It's heartbreaking. Nobody wants land that has been an open space for years to be built on."

Wren Kitchens has been approached by the Indie for comment.

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