North Yorkshire villagers set for sugar beet planning battle


Villagers preparing to fight against coming plans for a £350m sugar beet factory in rural North Yorkshire have launched a crowdfunding campaign to form a battle strategy.

A public meeting is to be held in Marton-cum-Grafton tomorrow (Sept 5) with representatives from Northern Sugar set to discuss their plans for the site on land close to Allerton Castle.

Building here would bring a “huge boost” to the region’s rural economy, developers say, but campaigning residents have raised concerns over traffic and the impact on nearby villages.

Now, ahead of a planning application set to be formally submitted in November, a committee of villagers is crowdfunding to prepare for a campaign against developers.

“It’s aimed at the company themselves, to try and dissuade them from coming here, and also at the district council if and when a planning application is submitted,” said Ian McNeill, of the newly formed Reject Allerton Gridlock and Stink committee.

“The community here is a wonderful environment, characterised by relatively small villages and small farms. This is not a few silos, this is an industrial plant on a huge scale.

“It will stand out like a blot on the landscape for miles around. We are prepared to fight this with all it takes.”

Plans for the new plant are at an early stage and are due to be submitted in November. Developers have confirmed they would see Northern Sugar, backed by Al Khaleej Sugar of Dubai, invest £350m to create a “stable” supply of sugar to the UK and potentially for export.

Developers say it shows a “big vote of confidence” in the region’s rural economy, and would be a huge boost to the farming community.

But campaigners have expressed deep concerns over the impact on neighbouring villages, and have launched an online campaign to raise £10,000 towards the costs of fighting the plans, as well as a petition which has secured 1,000 signatures.

Concerns raised include the environmental impact - and in particular any smell which may result from the processing of sugar beet - and over the visual impact amid plans for four 80m high silos. Of key concern to villagers is the impact of traffic, with the plan involving a supply chain of about 3,500 British farmers.

“A factory of this size would see an inconceivable amount of traffic,” said Mr McNeill, from nearby Whixley. “It’s not just about the impact on local roads, but on the wider network. This is an industrial plant and should be in an industrial location.”

Concerns have previously been raised about the impact such development could have on the landscape surrounding Allerton Castle’s historic property.

Dr Gerald Rolph, on behalf of the trust set up to preserve the Grade 1 listed castle, said it is important England preserves its heritage.

“Further commercial development on agricultural land within the environment of the castle should not be allowed,” he said.

Northern Sugar has previously said it would use the land to shield the site as much as possible, with the silos potentially to be built in a dip in the landscape.

And a spokesman has said traffic modelling assessments are currently being carried out, with the results to be available in October. Initial numbers, he said, indicated that traffic would represent one per cent of the volume on the A59 to York.

A public meeting is to be held tomorrow, at 7pm, in Marton-cum-Grafton village hall.