Frustrated residents protest over handling of recycling proposal
VILLAGERS who are opposing plans to permanently site a plasterboard recycling operation close to a dale village held a protest march to highlight their frustrations over the way the issue is being handled.
Protesters say they fear county planning officials are “stonewalling” and “not listening” to their concerns, which centre on Agricore, a business which was given permission in 2015 to extract gypsum from plasterboard at Hill Top Farm, near Winston, for five years.
With the time limit nearing expiration, the company applied to Durham County Council at the end of 2019 to continue operations at Hill Top Farm in the long term.
This led to opposition from residents in Winston and other nearby villages, who voiced concerns about road safety, dust and the location of the business in a rural area at a special meeting of Winston Parish Council, in January.
Agricore was subsequently asked to provide more information about its proposals and details were submitted in June, which led to another round of public consultation.
Last week, protesters converged at the entrance to Agricore with banners and placards to voice their concerns.
Protester Kate Nicholls said a number of issues had been raised by those opposed to the plan, which they felt had not been adequately addressed.
One of the placards implored Durham County Council to “Do your job”.
“They (county planners) are stonewalling us and not listening to us and there is every indication they are going to support this application,” said Ms Nicholls.
“We feel the council have not listened to us at all.”
She said the point of the protest was for opponents to vent their frustration – there was no intention to cause any disruption to Agricore’s operations or stop any vehicles from entering the site.
Stuart Timmiss, head of development and housing at Durham County Council, said: “We are aware of the concerns being raised over this application and can assure residents that the points they have made will be carefully considered as part of the planning process, along with the other representations we have received.
“This application will be determined by a planning committee, the date of which has not yet been confirmed.”
Ms Nicholls said following the protest, Durham County Council officials had been in touch to arrange a meeting to discuss protesters’ concerns.
Agricore director Ian Bainbridge said he had not been aware of the protest, which lasted less than one hour.
“All of the relevant Durham and North Yorkshire consultees have responded positively to our proposals and the granting of permission will secure over 20 jobs, which will otherwise be lost, vital at a time when hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk countrywide. The pun used by one demonstrator to liken our business’s impact in County Durham to racially motivated violence against African Americans in the USA is at best an absolute disgrace.”