Washing Bay factory granted extended operating hours much to residents’ bemusement

There was near unanimity at a recent Mid Ulster District Council Planning Committee, to allow DMAC Engineering, Annagher Road in the Washing Bay area will begin daily operations at 6 a.m., instead of 7 a.m.

The council's recommendation to extend operating hours was proposed by Councilor Eimear Carney (Sinn Féin, Torrent DEA).

Despite the company's assurances that a compliance officer has been appointed to ensure doors are locked and forklifts do not operate outside between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., residents remain of the opinion that Extending operating hours would affect sleep times in the morning.

Environmental Health officials carried out their own survey between 6.45am and 7.30am on 18 January 2022, and the noise emanating from the DMAC was clearly audible and consisted of fan noise, forklift movements, alarms reverse and metal/steel clunking and clanking.

Mid Ulster District Council has received letters of objection from nearby residents citing health implications, as nighttime exposure above 55 dB can increase blood pressure and cause heart attacks. Mid Ulster District Council's Deferred Consideration Report notes that some of these residents have these conditions.

The objectors also claim that the noise from the factory can already be heard at 5:30 in the morning.

Although the company highlights that strict measures have been taken to mitigate noise nuisance, opposition to extending opening hours remains strong among residents living near the operation.

Speaking at the Planning Committee meeting, Cllr Christine McFlynn (SDLP, Magherafelt DEA) said she felt strongly about this issue: "This industry was approved with a condition on its hours of operation, and there are 37 objections, according to the report , so it is very clear that DMAC continually abuses that condition that exists there, so I would not be happy if this was approved to extend the hours of operation and that they would now operate from 6 am.

“Are the residents who live there not being taken into account? Some of them have children or are elderly. “I propose that we do not extend the opening hours and that we enforce the condition that already exists.”

A senior council official maintained, however, that satisfactory mitigation measures could be implemented that would allow longer working hours while ensuring local residents were not adversely affected by noise: “The applicants have advised that they need modify the condition to remain competitive, or they will not be able to retain the workforce since other companies offer a four-day week.

“They have warned that this is not for all staff, and only a minority of them work with these employers. On a visit to the site I was informed that they had implemented a number of procedures and processes to limit activities on site before 7am, to ensure that disruption was limited.

“The company has appointed a compliance officer to ensure that the doors are not opened before 7 a.m. [and have taken steps to ensure] No need to move products or do noisy activities in the morning.

“They have extractors with a timer. [so they] does not create potential for noise disturbance.

“Neighbors were notified about the proposals and about these mitigations. They have indicated that they still experience noise on site from 5.30am and are concerned about the health implications of exposure to noise at night.

“Environmental Health officials were again asked to examine this proposal. They reported that they have received approximately 37 complaints from residents about the facility regarding noise, odors and other loss of services, however, none of these 37 complaints have been substantiated.

“There are no conditions restricting when vehicles can be on site or in relation to the operation of the fan on site. Conditions may be attached to restrict activities within extended hours of operation.

“In light of the mitigations that have been proposed and additional conditions to restrict the site, I recommend that this application be approved with conditions restricting activities between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., and restrictions on fan operations and also restrictions in vehicle activity on the site. , which is currently not addressed.”

One of the objectors, James Hughes, was given three minutes to present arguments against the request to extend opening hours: “Before I begin, I find it surprising that there is no record of any confirmed complaints, given that we had a meeting in the place in a neighbor's house with a good number of councilors present, and afterwards we had a meeting with Environmental Health.

“I am here speaking on behalf of local residents in relation to this planning application. I submitted a written objection to this request.”

He went on to claim: “This [operation] has already operated outside planning conditions. It is currently under investigation by Environmental Health due to fumes. DMAC cannot keep fumes within the site boundaries.

“A number of objections have been raised to this planning application. It does not adequately take into account the fact that fumes and odors are not limited to the location.

“The odors and vapors emitted by the applicant are dangerous to health and interfere with our services and with everyone who lives in the surrounding area. It breaches Article 8 of the European Court of Human Rights and is contrary to Article 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998.

“It interferes with the peaceful enjoyment of our property. It does not take into account DMAC's history of non-compliance with planning permissions and regulations. “If this plan is approved, we intend to conduct a full judicial review in this case.”

Cllr Dan Kerr (Independent, Torrent DEA) indicated that he was happy to support Cllr Carney's proposal for longer opening hours.

Planning director Dr Chris Bloomer intervened at this stage, saying: “As a committee, the fact that someone threatens judicial review is not a reason to make a decision one way or the other.

“When that decision was made, a lot of conditions were put on it to protect the residents, and it's clear that overall that decision was a wise decision because we have a business in operation that is contributing to the economy. of Middle Ulster.

“However, there have been issues that have arisen on a number of occasions, whether it relates to drainage, whether it relates to the movement of debris on site, issues raised in relation to fumes and the chimney. The objector has cited that and his main concern is the fumes.

“The decision before the committee is the hours of operation. There seems to be an assumption that if you allow [extended hours], Mid Ulster does not enforce its conditions. That is not true. We have enforced the conditions and taken legal action.

“What we have to consider here is what is reasonable. Why wouldn't a company be allowed to come in and clean up overnight? Stores clean overnight and restock overnight.

“Pubs have opening hours but that doesn't stop them from cleaning and tidying up their shelves. What I'm reading in this report is that we'll let you do some things starting at 6am to prepare, but it's very specific about what can and can't be done.

“It makes it clear that there are no activities inside the building except welding components, quality control components and paint preparation.

“We allow them to clean the equipment, mix paints and sprays, but we also say that the doors must be closed, that no noisy activities can occur, that no activities can occur in the yard, we are also making it quite clear that the exhaust fan of the cabin should not work.”

Committee chair Cllr Seán McPeake was eager to bring the matter to a conclusion. He was about to vote on this issue but was told that no one had supported Cllr McFlynn's motion to reject the recommendation to extend opening hours.

The SDLP representative stated: “I would not vote in favor and I want it to be stated in the notes that I am opposed to extending these hours.”

Subscribe to our newsletter

Most read today

Leave a Comment


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *