Two parish councils oppose Boxford drinks maker’s £35m factory expansion plans

PepsiCo Copella juice factory at Boxford Farm, Suffolk.
PepsiCo Copella juice factory at Boxford Farm, Suffolk.

Two parish councils have voiced their opposition to a drinks factory’s proposed £35 million expansion, over fears the local roads cannot sustain the expected large rise in HGV traffic.

Residents filled Leavenheath Village Hall for a parish council meeting last week to give views on plans by Boxford drinks maker Konings to build a 19-acre manufacturing base over the next ten years, resulting in councillors lodging their formal objections.

The council determined that the routing of HGVs along the village’s narrow lanes, especially Stoke Road, would cause serious traffic issues.

Barbara Rowe, chairman of Leavenheath Parish Council, said: “We are concerned about the amount of traffic that will go through the residential area of the village.

“The problem is the access route to the apple-crushing factory would come along Stoke Road. It is a B-road. It’s not built for the volume of traffic that’s anticipated.”

This follows similar conclusions drawn by Assington Parish Council at the end of July, which also agreed with Leavenheath’s assessment that the size of the development is not appropriate for the Dedham Vale region, which has been designated an ‘area of natural beauty’.

However, the plans received support from Boxford Parish Council and the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, which said it was encouraged the expansion will inject £3.7 million a year into the local economy.

The public consultation for the application ended on Monday, with many objections submitted from residents, citing worries about congestion, damage to roads, noise levels and adverse impacts to the landscape — but others have expressed support for the promised economic development for the area, particularly in light of the announcement of the loss of 520 jobs from the Delphi plant in Sudbury.

The application is expected to be considered by Babergh District Council at the end of next month, and there are plans for the planning committee members to make a formal site visit — an idea which was welcomed by Konings.

Bryn Hurren, district councillor for the Boxford Ward, said the final decision would have to balance the benefits of job creation with potential adverse impacts on local traffic.

“My view is that it will be decided on planning terms —jobs and traffic — and it’s also in a sensitive area,” he said.

“Jobs would be handy at the moment. We need rural jobs as well as urban jobs. But the traffic is always a concern.

“The planners will have to consider it on its merits. I’m determined to make sure they will take into account all of these factors.”

Phil Clark, Konings site leader, said the company was listening to local concerns and working to mitigate the issues.

“As a local company and good neighbour, we have gone out of our way to meet with local councils and community groups to listen to their thoughts about our £35m investment plans and both secure the 90 jobs already there and create 116 new roles,” he said.

“These proposals are a massive vote of confidence in our workforce and economy, in an area where people still need well paid jobs.

“As a result of these meetings, we will be making changes to mitigate, where possible, highways, noise and light issues and to maximise investment in landscaping and tree planting initiatives.”