'Drilling has left us a bag of nerves'
PILE-DRILLING on the site of the new Plymouth incinerator has left local people "a bag of nerves", says one campaigner.
"It's unbearable," said Lynne Hayden, who lives about 300 metres from the site.
"There are loud bangs, drilling and a grating, dragging noise.
"When the bangs come you jump out of your skin because you don't know when they are going to happen. Residents here are a bag of nerves."
Mrs Hayden said contractors had installed acoustic barriers but these did little good because most nearby properties were higher than the site.
"The noise is amplified down in the basin," she said. "I am 250 to 300 metres away and some days, depending on the wind and weather, I can hear the voices of construction workers.
"There were days a few weeks ago when I thought the world had ended."
Construction starts at 8am and goes on until 6pm.
But Mrs Hayden said the construction was now dictating her own working day because she tried to stay away from home between 8am and 6pm.
She said MVV Environment Devonport, the incinerator operators, had admitted twice breaching conditions on noise and working hours.
And she said that noise monitoring was inadequate because monitoring devices were in the wrong place and used the wrong methods.
Mrs Hayden said work now went on all day without respite.
But Paul Carey, managing director of MVV Environment Devonport Ltd, insisted: "We have prescribed breaks when all work stops.
"We are working within the noise limits in the planning conditions, and we are monitoring noise levels.
"Apart from one or two small exceptions, which we have reported, we have kept to the limits set by Plymouth City Council."
He said the monitoring positions had been agreed with the council's public protection team.
The most sensitive monitors were in Savage Road and Talbot Gardens, Mr Carey said.
MVV said that among the measures it had taken to reduce noise was to replace the reversing alarm on many vehicles with a softer, lower pitched sound.
Councillor George Wheeler, the Labour councillor for St Budeaux, said: "I have only had comments from a small number of people, but they are very distressed."
A Plymouth City Council spokeswoman added: "MVV is aware that the planning committee expects to see care and tight control over major activities on this site."
The company was obliged to report any breaches on its website, the spokeswoman added.
She said construction work had to stop at 6pm, but there had been four breaches over the past two months, with two overruns of seven minutes, one of 15 minutes and one of 20 minutes.
"There were reasons for each breach and the 20-minute overrun was caused by the auger of one piling rig getting stuck whilst charged with concrete," she said. "The rig had to be changed to extract the auger.
"Although the council received no complaints from Savage Road residents, our monitoring, in association with MVV, showed two breaches to the noise limits at the Savage Road receptor on September 28 and October 10.
"The operation was suspended while a mobile noise barrier was set up."