Alarmed residents claim a huge new warehouse dwarfing their backyard will leave them trapped and unable to sell their homes.
Residents are fighting the construction of gigantic industrial buildings in Harlow, Essex, they say are ‘too close and far too high.’
Electrical compliance manager Andy Parker, 55, raised his children in the home he has spent the last three decades in.
But a series of noisy developments have left the dad, and partner Pauline Linger, 66, aghast, as they claim the building begins barely 40ft from their property boundary.
They are desperately pleading with Harlow Council to intervene in the 112,000sq-ft building set for its first stage of completion in September.
Harlow Council has confirmed it is investigating complaints after one enforcement notice was slapped on the site in June.
While the council rejected residents’ claims they were not properly consulted on the project, it says it is reviewing how it ‘engages with the community’ on planning applications.
The construction in a joint venture between Stoford and investment firm TPG Real Estate, providing warehousing with easy distribution access to London.
But Mr Parker said he feared the site’s looming presence would hit surrounding house prices as he worried about what kind of work would be carried out there.
The construction noise alone had already left them despairing, as Mr Parker said the dust and racket was disturbing their home’s peace.
“They flattened the place then brought in the lorries. We’ve had two, three years of hell already,” he said.
His partner has been spending her spare time indoors, Mr Parker added.
“She’s barely sat in the garden for three years, because even when it’s nice and the sun’s shining, we keep ourselves in with the doors and windows shut.”
Despite their misery, the couple don’t want to leave their home.
Mr Parker said: “Honestly, I brought my kids up in this house. My missus is born and bred Harlow – I’m not – but we bought this home in May 1994.
“We built our lives in this area and we get along with our neighbours- we have fun street parties here.”
He says they and other residents missed the consultation stage of the planning process that could have flagged up plans for the brownfield, former GSK site.
He says when he began asking questions about the development early on demanded to know why they weren’t consulted, he alleges was told letters had been sent to residents addressed ‘to the owner/occupier.’
Mr Parker the blasted process, saying he and other residents would likely have tossed the letters, thinking they were junk-mail circulars.
He said his two-bedroom semi-detached had been valued at around £330-£3340k last year.
But Mr Parker had struggled to get a new valuation since as the scale of the development became apparent.
Realtors said it would be difficult to commit to a figure until it was know what kind of activities would be going on at the factory over the back fence, he said.
Mr Parker said he had never had problems with industrial activities on the land before, which had hosted a BP site when he first moved in, and later a parking lot, and a GSK plant.
He became concerned about the pace of the industrial development over the back fence when a vast Amazon warehouse was built one plot of nearby land.
He and neighbours are now frantically evaluating their deeds to see whether a planning challenge can be launched based on light surveys, or on the distance between property lines and the warehouses.
Mr Parker said: “We wondered how much we are needing to worry about it once it’s built because it’s already too close and far too high.
Councillor Michael Hardware, Harlow Council’’s strategic growth cabinet member, said the council was listening to residents’ concerns and investigating complaints.
He said: “My officers have confirmed, however, that residents were properly consulted when the two planning applications for the site were submitted.
“Of the 186 letters sent out on both occasions, only four objections were received in 2017 and one objection in 2021.
“No one spoke against the application at the committee when the application was considered.
He and ward councillor David Carter would visit the site this week and were holding a second public meeting in September, he added.
“The council has been closely monitoring this site throughout construction. An enforcement notice was issued in June and monitoring is continuing.
“Any contravention of the planning consent or the conditions attached to it will be met with further enforcement action.”
Cllr Hardware added that a letter was sent to residents around the site, notices were printed in a local newspaper and site notices were posted outside the property.
All consultation by the council was carried out within legal requirements, and the developer carried out its own consultation and held a local exhibition, he said.
But Cllr Hardware added: “The new council administration is, however, currently reviewing the way the council engages with the community generally on a range of matters including planning applications.
“We are looking at several additional steps to make the process more accessible and transparent, allowing residents to be able to find the information they want and participate more in the decision-making process.”
Announcing the development earlier this year, Stoford said ‘Icon Harlow ‘was attracting interest from distributors seeking “much-needed quality warehouse and logistics accommodation in the home counties, but with quick access to London and the wider South East.”