Replacement building will 'reduce noise' from fire-hit South Ribble sawdust firm

A wood-processing firm whose South Ribble base was ravaged by fire has been given the go-ahead to build a bigger-than-planned replacement building designed to reduce the impact of the business on nearby residents.

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 4:35 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 4:36 pm

A huge blaze ripped through Whitfire Shaving and Sawdust Suppliers on Church Lane in Farington Moss back in June 2016. The company was later granted permission to construct two new units, the first of which - to replace the most fire-damaged of the facilities on the site - is already operational.

However, the family-run firm has now been told that it can “significantly” increase the size of a planned second building in order to reduce the noise experienced by its neighbours.

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Firefighters battling the blaze at Whitfire Shaving and Sawdust Supplies in Farington Moss in June 2016

A meeting of South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee heard that the changes would also address local concerns about emissions from a chimney stack used as part of the process to refine wood and then compress and package it into shavings and sawdust.

The wagons that deliver the raw materials to the plant are currently unable wholly to enter the unit where that work takes place, meaning that its roller shutter doors have to be open for two minutes in every ten - during which a “whining noise” can be heard in the surrounding area, planning officer Catherine Lewis told committee members.

The bigger building would enable the delivery vehicles to pull in to the facility fully, with the doors being open for only two minutes every two hours - reducing the time during which noise can escape.

“There have also been historical issues with emissions - including dust - and the vast amounts of heat, energy and steam that are wasted through [the] existing stack - the new building would take the majority of that out,” Ms. Lewis added.

Smoke billowed across the surrounding area from the plant off Church Lane

Ward councillor Karen Walton acknowledged that the business - which has operated from the site since the 1930s - provides welcome employment for around 45 people, but said that it must not be “to the detriment of the lives of existing residents”.

“This site has had its problems in the past and must have careful monitoring of the conditions, which should resolve the impact and the concerns of local residents,” Cllr Walton added.

Robert Rawlinson, the agent for the application, said that the plans for the second phase of the redevelopment represented a £5.5m investment in the plant - on top of the £7m already made since the fire. He added that it was an opportunity to address the “longstanding residential amenity issues” raised by those living nearby.

“Significant technical work has been undertaken by independent consultants. The scheme has been designed specifically to provide improvements to both noise emission and a reduction in dust particles leaving the site.

“Crucially, we have been able to reach a stage where there are no objections from statutory consultees, “ Mr. Rawlinson added.

Committee member James Flannery said that blaze-hit businesses often “struggled to come back”.

“There is always a balance when you have got businesses and residents [in close proximity], but there is an improved environmental sustainability proposal here,” Cllr Flannery noted.

The proposal was approved unanimously by members. As part of the permission, other fire-damaged buildings on the site will be demolished, along with the existing chimney stack.

A landscaping scheme designed to screen the site over time will see 60 “robusta trees” planted, along with 400 “feathered whips”.