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New twist in sugar factory expansion saga

PUBLISHED: 07:55 15 April 2009 | UPDATED: 08:56 06 July 2010

A village campaigner is claiming that a £35m scheme to expand British Sugar's factory at Cantley, near Yarmouth, should be considered again - for a third time - because of further alleged administrative blunders by the Broads Authority.

A village campaigner is claiming that a £35m scheme to expand British Sugar's factory at Cantley, near Yarmouth, should be considered again - for a third time - because of further alleged administrative blunders by the Broads Authority.

The plans, which would pave the way for all-year-round working, with imported sugar cane being processed during the summer, were unanimously approved by the Authority's planning committee earlier this month - two months after they were originally given the go-ahead.

The re-run was agreed after the Authority admitted its error in not informing villagers of the date and venue of the first meeting after promising to do so in an email to Cantley Parish Council chairman Robert Beadle.

Now retired barrister and Cantley resident Gary Simons, who represented villagers' views at the last meeting, is alleging two further blunders have been made and is demanding that the application be heard again by the Authority, or that is should called in by the Secretary of State for a decision to be taken at government level.

Mr Simons has lodged a formal complaint over the decision by David Thompson - a member of Yarmouth Borough Council as well as the Authority - to speak and vote on the plans.

He claims he should have declared a conflict of interests because of the council's ties with the outer harbour, through which it is being proposed to import the sugar.

“The borough council contributed about £1.6m to the outer harbour project. Its interest in the success of British Sugar's application is manifest: no planning permission for British Sugar, no import of raw cane sugar through the new harbour and no benefit to the council's investment policy,” he said.

Mr Simons claims the second error was the Authority's failure to make clear to parish council representatives that views expressed at the first meeting would not be considered at the second meeting unless they were restated - under the assumption that their previously-expressed views would stand no parish council spokesman therefore turned up for the second meeting.

He said: “I actually tried to raise this at the meeting but got no response.”

Cantley council chairman Mr Beadle last night backed Mr Simons' claim, saying that a letter sent to him by the Authority before the last meeting gave the impression that only new points would be considered, and there would be no need to restate views expressed at the first meeting.

He said: “What the Authority has done has been a catalogue of errors and I think the plans should be reconsidered because of the way we have arrived at this point.”

Authority solicitor Keir Hounsome confirmed that a complaint had been received about Mr Thompson and that it would be processed in accordance with statutory procedures through the standards committee.

He said the Authority had received no complaint concerning whether or not parish councils had been told that verbal submissions at the first meeting would be disregarded.

Mr Thompson, who had expressed his enthusiastic support for the sugar factory plans at the meeting, last night declined to comment about the complaint against him.

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