'catastrophic' effect on its business by stopping delivery lorries from
Deputy judge Christopher Bellamy ruled that the council had exceeded its powers in making the order in June even though LPC had failed to object to the order being made within the 21-day period set down for objections.
The judge said that LPC has been on the site for 18 years, employing 500 people, and had invested£30m in a second mill in 1999, but the problem caused by the council's order arose from the fact that the mills are dependent on the delivery of paper pulp for production purposes, and on the collection of the finished products.
He said there were some 30 deliveries and 65 collections a day, 365 days a year, totalling about 11,000 deliveries and 24,000 collections a year, all in heavy container lorries. However, safety reasons dictate that only a certain number of lorries can be on site at any one time, leaving a regular queue of eight outside on Hill Top Road which can at times extend to 15.
He said: 'According to LPC, it is extremely difficult to organise collections and deliveries of this magnitude without some lorries having to wait in Hill Top Road to obtain access to the site.
'In these circumstances, LPC says, the contested order will have a catastrophic effect on its business. The paper mills are in a continuous production process, and entirely reliant on the existing volume of deliveries and collections.
'There are no alternative waiting facilities nearby, thus, if the 'no waiting' restrictions are enforced, drivers will be forced to return home or drive around aimlessly waiting for their slot. This situation, says LPC, will cause it to lose both suppliers and customers fairly rapidly.'
He said that, even though the council had not written to LPC directly to inform it of the planned order, it had successfully given 'adequate publicity' to the proposal and to the 21-day period for objections, but LPC had not made any objection within that period.
However, although LPC's failure to object would ordinarily preclude its right to raise a court challenge now, he said that in the 'exceptional factual circumstances' of this case it was 'not sufficient for the council to rely on the fact that LPC could have objected , but did not'.
He said that as well as the objective of securing the 'expeditious, convenient and safe movement of vehicular and other traffic', the council were also required, under section 122 of the 1984 Road Traffic Regulation Act to, as far as practicable, balance it with the 'desirability of securing and maintaining reasonable access to premises'.
He said that the council should therefore have had regard to the desirability of maintaining reasonable access to LPC's premises when preparing its statement of reasons for the order, before the objection stage had even been reached, but had failed adequately to do so.
He said: 'It must, in my judgment, have been reasonably apparent to those who carried out the on-street surveys that the introduction of 'no waiting at any time' restrictions on Hill Top Road would, potentially, cause a serious problem of access to LPC's premises for a large number of lorries.
'Given the exceptional situation on the ground in this case, with a very large number of lorries having to be moved in and out of LPC's premises, and the fact that Hill Top Road is a 'backwater' serving virtually only LPC's premises, it seems to me that the Council was required specifically to take into account, and srike a balance between, the considerations set out in section 122.'
STRAND NEWS SERVICE