There is much debate and opinion about the value of the mill to Stoke Ferry, in this section we look at the pros and cons. The views expressed are those of the group behind the current campaign to relocate the mill.
The factory has been here for sixty years
The village has been here for more than two thousand years. A wrong that has been perpetrated for sixty years does not make a right.
During those sixty years, the factory has expanded hugely, and HGVs have increased in size and in frequency of movement.
It is precisely because it has been here for sixty years that concerns are growing: about the decay to the fabric of the building itself (asbestos failure, noise clatter, damage to roads), as well as for the historic Grade II buildings blighted by it, which are rapidly deteriorating owing to lack of investment in their maintenance.
The factory provides employment to the village
The number of Stoke Ferry villagers employed by the factory has dwindled from 200 to single figures. Against this should be compared the number of village families whose lives and businesses are blighted by it.
The ownership of the factory has changed frequently. What used to be a responsible and beneficent employer, investing in clear-up and in the social fabric of the village, is now a succession of remote multi-nationals who have shown little interest in the community.
How much business and employment is denied the village, owing to the presence of the factory? The amenity-potential of this Breckland gem, well-situated to benefit from the North Cambridge tech-boom, is being thwarted by one single, outdated commercial operation.
You knew the factory was there when you bought your houses.
Some of us have lived, or our families have lived, in the village for a great deal longer than the factory has been here.
The impact of the factory has grown intolerably over that time (the size of the mill, the size of lorries, the frequency of HGV movements).
Awareness of the dangers of environmental abuses (dust and diesel fumes) has increased, and those abuses have been legislated against both in British and EU law. Any UK citizen can expect protection under that legislation, regardless of how long they have lived here.
There is a Liaison Committee, through which complaints should be channelled.
In the thirty years since the committee was set up, transgressions continue unabated and complaints to the Council are received constantly. The Committee has proved to have no power effectively to tackle the root source of the problems.
The factory is operating legally.
Under more recent legislation, this is debatable. With regard to each transgression (visual impact, HGV pollution, noise pollution, dust pollution, odour pollution, danger of explosions, asbestos ageing, damage to listed buildings) the factory may be operating just within legal limits. However, the harm to the environment and to quality of life which it causes should be assessed cumulatively.
Other UK councils have been robust in their actions against similar operations.
Some of the blighted village centre is not in 2Agriculture’s possession.
It is disingenuous and dishonest to pretend that the blight and the presence of the factory are not connected. Investors are unwilling to repair the village centre whilst the factory remains in operation. The blight has now reached critical levels.
The village infrastructure can’t sustain the building of more houses.
This is precisely why, given that 2Agriculture themselves are ‘considering the mill’s future’, we must take great care in debating exactly what will replace it. We need houses which echo those which the factory displaced, a doctor’s surgery, new school buildings, a new village hall, a village green: not mass volume-housing.