Parents win battle over plans for dump next to nursery school

Plans for a rubbish dump next to a Bristol nursery school were thrown out after parents and teachers pleaded with city planners to put children’s health first.

Councillors rejected Grundon Waste Management’s proposal for a sorting station directly opposite St Philip’s Marsh Nursery on Wednesday (April 28), saying they were not prepared to “gamble” with children’s lives.

They cited concerns about unpleasant smells, rats and flies in their offical refusal, but their chief fear was that the waste transfer facility would worsen air pollution and harm the health of pupils, many of whom already have breathing difficulties.

The facility would have sat right across the road from the nursery on Albert Crescent, which serves children from some of the poorest families in Bristol.

It would have sorted up to 50,000 tonnes of commercial and industrial waste from local businesses each year, brought in and taken away by rubbish trucks operating day and night.

An estimated 116 lorry trips a day would have been made to and from the site, formerly occupied by Gulliver’s Truck Hire.

Members of a planning committee heard from parents and teachers that air quality in the industrial area was already very poor, and that many local children suffered with chest problems.

But Bristol City Council planning officers concluded the facility would have a “negligible” effect on air quality and advised councillors to approve the plans.

They said Grundon would introduce measures to mitigate any harm caused by odour and vermin and this would be controlled by the Environment Agency via a permit.

But councillors stood their ground and unanimously refused the application, having signalled their intention last month to vote against the official advice.

Neil Grundon, from Grundon Waste, told councillors that the family waste firm had invested tens of millions in Bristol and its application would “cut down vehicle miles, help sort waste at the point of origin, and provide well paid jobs”.

But headteacher at the nursery, Simon Homes, said it would be “ludicrous” to put a rubbish facility “opposite a nursery school in the middle of the city which already has the highest deprivation, highest degree of lung infections and hospitalisations in the city”.

“Please, put our children first, put our community first and follow your conscience,” he said.

The site where Grundon Waste Management wants to build a waste transfer station (left) opposite St Philip's Nursery (right) on Albert Crescent, St Philip's Marsh, Bristol
The site where Grundon planned to build a waste transfer station (left) opposite the nursery (right)
(Image: Google)

Emma Jones, whose three-year-old attends the nursery, said: “My youngest daughter is in and out of hospital with bronchitis. Surely my child matters as much as anybody else’s.”

Heidi Taylor, a teacher at the nursery, said many of the children lived in high-rise flats in Barton Hill and the nursery was their open space to play. “I implore you to stand up for our children’s right to freedom and fresh air,” she said.

“The proposal of a rubbish dump opposite a nursery bringing traffic noises, stench of rubbish, flies, rats down on the very oasis in the city I am trying to create is absolutely ludicrous.”

A planning officer told councillors there was no evidence the facility would cause harmful levels of air pollution and warned them the council would risk losing an appeal from Grundon if they refused the application on those grounds.

But officers could not rule out the possibility that smells and vermin would affect the nursery, and councillors had to decide how much faith they had in the ability of the Environment Agency to police that, the officer said.

Committee chair, Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston councillor Don Alexander, who has first hand experience of the fly problem associated with waste storage in Avonmouth, said he was not confident the agency had the “capacity and resources”.

Horfield councillor Ollie Mead said: “If I have to weigh up which could go wrong, children’s health or us losing an appeal, I personally would be more prepared to lose an appeal than take a gamble with children’s health.”

Hartcliffe and Withywood councillor Paul Goggin said: “I think the children of Lawrence Hill deserve the same consideration as any other, in fact, probably more consideration, considering the environment in which they live. There will be more traffic, there will be more noise, there will be more odour, there will be more vermin.”

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Holmes said the nursery school community was “immensely grateful” to the councillors who rejected the application.

“We appreciate they voted with the courage of their convictions and truly represented the views and feelings of the many hundreds of parents, nearby residents and neighbours who have repeatedly objected to harmful developments adjacent to the nursery,” he said.

“Most importantly of all though they have given a voice to those who don’t have one in this process, namely the children who live and breathe the air in this community.

“We sincerely hope this is now the end of the matter and that all future development in the Marsh puts the interest of its youngest children first.”

Grundon has said it is disappointed by the decision and will appeal it.

Philip Atkinson, the firm’s estates director, said: “Grundon is a market leader in sustainability, working with, and on behalf of, Bristol businesses looking to reduce their environmental impacts. A city centre location for the consolidation and sorting of recycling and waste is a key component in helping them achieve that.

“We nonetheless thank members for considering our application and, assuming our appeal is successful, working with them to promote sustainability across the city.”

Some 123 people objected to the application, more than six times the 19 who supported it.

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