Residents who say their lives are blighted by a decision to allow an enormous warehouse to be built next to their homes say their views are still being ignored by the council.
The 18-metre tall warehouse looms over houses in the Blakelands area of Milton Keynes after what even remorseful councillors say was the worst decision they’ve ever made.
Now, residents who spoke at yesterday’s (Thursday) meeting of MK Council’s development control committee say they are unable to sleep because the council has allowed the warehouse to switch on lights, which are too bright.
And they say the council is not doing anything to enforce the light levels.
Residents say the decision was made by council officers with no expertise in lighting matters before the end of a public consultation process.
They had engaged their own lighting expert with a view to submitting their evidence, only to find that approval had already been granted.
They also say they are being treated in an offhand way by council staff, and the council’s own planning enforcement and Environmental Health teams have failed to visit the site to even consider residents’ complaints.
Campaigning resident Linda Wardlaw, who launched a judicial review into the decision, said: “Immediately the lighting plan was submitted the residents engaged a lighting expert.
“Is it coincidence that the day after the lighting expert made contact with the company, the council approved the lighting plan?
“It was more than two weeks before the consultation period deadline and before the residents were able to get the report from the lighting expert. How can that happen?”
She added that residents had been assured by service director Tracy Darke and deputy chief executive Paul Simpson, “Here in this chamber and also audit committee that they will ensure they get it right this time and protect the residents. This is what we were told.”
Mrs Wardlaw is also concerned about the validity of the lighting approval after council officer admitted that he did not have the necessary experience but that it “looks ok”.
“On the strength of that comment the lighting plan was approved,” she said. “I’m very much of the opinion that it does not look ok.
“If Environmental Health does not resolve this issue residents will, once more, recourse to take legal action.”
Resident Ms Davina Scholefield mirrored her neighbour’s comments
She said: “We believe all through this process decisions appear to have favoured the needs and desires of the developer. The residents have been let down with the approval of this lighting plan.
“My own home is unbearable at night. When the warehouse lights are on they are double the recommended light levels. There is too much light when the curtains are closed to be able to sleep.”
She said she complained to the council but the response I received was: “While we sympathise with your situation, there is not a lot the council can do. The warehouse is not council land. We would recommend reaching out to the private company regarding their lights.”
Tracy Darke, the council’s service director of growth, economy and culture, told the committee that the council does not normally consult on items involving a discharge of conditions, including the lighting plan. She said it was a software issue which the council has so far failed to solve.
She added that the decision-making process on the lighting plan is: “Going to be part of the independent review that is being carried out into the Blakelands situation. So that is being picked up by the independent reviewer.”
Cllr Keith McLean said: “We promised residents that there would be no more mistakes. On a daily basis, we should be making sure that no decision is taken about Blakelands without knowing about it.”
He added that he is “very, very, annoyed, upset” by the council’s response to complaints about lighting. “They failed to respond by giving incorrect answers.”
He called for a very strong comment to be sent to the council’s head of customer service.
“I don’t want a witch hunt but there is a lesson to be learned by that person, and all his or her colleagues about how you treat people,” he said.
Councillors, despite residents’ pleas, decided not to use section 102 power to impose planning conditions on the site. It was explained to them that it only applied to a planning permission which has now been superseded.
The developers have since agreed to abide by planning conditions, making the power not relevant.
Councillors did, however, request that their officers report back on what they could do about the levels of light, which council officers said residents should not have to put up with.