Conservation groups urge Boxford drinks firm to stop planned £35m expansion

Konings drinks factory, Stoke Road, Leavenheath

Picture Mark Westley
Konings drinks factory, Stoke Road, Leavenheath Picture Mark Westley

Two conservation groups have implored Boxford drinks company Konings to stop its planned factory expansion because of the effect it will have on the area.

The Dedham Vale Society and the Suffolk Preservation Society have jointly written a letter to Konings’ chief executive Dirk Maris in Belgium, outlining their concerns about plans to expand the site from five acres to 19 acres over the next 10 years.

The planning application, which includes new bottling and canning facilities to produce around 200 million cans of cider a year, is due to come before Babergh District Council’s planning committee.

In their letter, Charles Clover, of the Dedham Vale Society, and Andrew Fane, of the Suffolk Preservation Society, have asked Konings to do more research.

They say they do not believe Mr Maris and his colleagues have realised the significance of the location of the factory.

The letter also highlights concerns about potential light pollution that could wreck the Dedham Vale Society’s hopes of gaining official dark-sky status for the area.

Mr Clover said: “We can only think Konings, a Belgian company, does not understand the status of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, has in UK planning law, or they would never have attempted to build a plant two-thirds larger than the one that now exists, with all the road movements and light pollution this would entail.

“They may not know that the light measurements we have taken indicate that the Dedham Vale is currently dark enough to qualify internationally as a dark sky park.

“Konings’ board need to do their research and listen up – this plant should go on an industrial estate in a town, not in the Dedham Vale.”

President of the Dedham Vale Society Robert Erith added: “Far more appropriate sites exist in Sudbury, Hadleigh and Ipswich.

“The Konings’ board should not want Konings to be known as the company that did irreparable damage to the priceless countryside of the Dedham Vale.”

The company’s plans have drawn opposition from nearby parish councils, as well as residents living in Stoke Road, Leavenheath, but the company says the £35 million investment will create 116 new jobs and could bring an additional £3.7 million in annual income to the region,

Phil Clark, Konings UK site lead, said: “We were pleased to receive this letter as Konings UK has worked hard to engage with all interested parties and we continue to listen and weigh up the views of others.

“One of the reasons that the planning process continues to take time is because of the degree of detail required for us to show there are exceptional circumstances as to why we should be allowed to grow on the site we have occupied for five decades.

“We are in the process of undertaking a review of lighting on the current site and our future plans include a range of environmental improvements aimed at minimising any impact of our investment plans on our neighbours around us.”