Residents' group to fight chemical plan

PUBLISHED: 04:16 15 March 2007 | UPDATED: 10:14 31 May 2010

David Chater with copies of the action group’s petition - Pic: Sarah Lucy Brown

David Chater with copies of the action group's petition - Pic: Sarah Lucy Brown

CANCER fears have led to people calling for support in a fight to stop a chemical plant expansion. American-owned firm Hexcel is planning to expand its current site at Duxford to create a factory, which would use the highly-toxic chemical Acrylonitrile. T

CANCER fears have led to people calling for support in a fight to stop a chemical plant expansion.

American-owned firm Hexcel is planning to expand its current site at Duxford to create a factory, which would use the highly-toxic chemical Acrylonitrile.

The Hinxton Action Group wants villagers in Duxford, Ickleton, the Chesterfords and Pampisford to back their calls for South Cambridgeshire District Council to reject the application.

Group member David Chater said: "This proposal involves serious health implications for those living and working in the area, as Acrylonitrile is so toxic it causes cancer, damage to vital organs and birth defects.

"It would also have a major impact on the environment and would lead to an increased number of lorries on the roads.

"Some of the proposed buildings would reach a height of more than 95 feet and that is completely unsuitable in such a rural area."

The application is currently pending a decision while the Health and Safety Executive reviews the plans.

Fellow group member Laurence Ball, who has organised a petition that 90 per cent of Hinxton residents have signed, said feelings are running high.

"I knew the strength of feeling in the village but I was amazed how keen people were to add their names to the petition," he said.

"I felt the village needed a collective voice to demonstrate not just the strength of feeling, but the breadth of concern."

Villagers are also concerned the use of Acrylonitrile on the site would pose a significant threat in the event of fire due to the volatile nature of the chemical.

They also say that because the land is not zoned for employment purposes the proposals fail to comply with the Local Development Plan.

Mr Chater added: "This is an absolutely critical stage, because if the outline planning consent is granted, it will be very difficult for us to stop it.

"We have to try and get our points across and heard now."

A spokesman for Hexcel, which specialises in producing materials used in aerospace, wind energy and sports equipment, explained that the new factory would combine carbon fibre with other materials to create a new product, which is much stronger than any of the original materials.

"As part of the planning process, Hexcel has engaged consultants to fully consider all of the environmental, health and safety, engineering and landscaping aspects of the project," he said.

"All of these are covered in the company's application and the extension of the site would involve the creation of 80 to 100 jobs.

An SCDC spokesman said: "The plans are pending a decision as

we are currently waiting for the Health and Safety Executive's comments, which we need before we can proceed. No date has been set for the planning committee to make its decision."

A public meeting for people living in the potentially affected villages was postponed on Monday as MP Andrew Lansley could not attend.

It has been rearranged for April 11 at Hinxton Village Hall at a time yet to be arranged.

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