Sheffield neighbours win campaign to stop Abbey Glen laundry extending hours – firm says its future may be under threat

Sheffield laundry firm Abbey Glen has lost its bid to make key changes after vocal opposition from neighbours, who have complained of noise, smells and parking issues.
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The firm, which supplies linen services to the hospitality industry, had asked Sheffield City Council for permission to vary planning permission for its premises on Carley Drive, Westfield, to extend delivery hours and store unused equipment and dirty laundry outside.

Both proposals were turned down after a debate which included impassioned speeches by complainants and representatives of the firm.

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Neighbours, backed by local councillors and Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts, have complained of disturbance until late at night and at weekends and smells, plus excess on-street parking by staff.

Westfield resident Sean Corey speaking at a meeting of Sheffield City Council's planning committee to oppose plans by laundry firm Abbey Glen to extend their delivery hours and set up outside storageWestfield resident Sean Corey speaking at a meeting of Sheffield City Council's planning committee to oppose plans by laundry firm Abbey Glen to extend their delivery hours and set up outside storage
Westfield resident Sean Corey speaking at a meeting of Sheffield City Council's planning committee to oppose plans by laundry firm Abbey Glen to extend their delivery hours and set up outside storage

Accusations of intimidation have been made publicly, both by campaigners and workers.

The firm says it tries to be a good neighbour, provides vital jobs for a diverse workforce and needs to make the changes in order to maintain its viability and full employment for staff.

The firm has been investigated for noise and smell problems and neither was found to be a statutory nuisance. However, other investigations are ongoing, council officials told the meeting.

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Planning officer Sarah Hull told the city council planning committee that the firm wanted to extend its delivery hours from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, 8am to 1pm Saturday and 10am to 4pm on bank holidays, excluding Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. There would be no Sunday deliveries.

Ben West of Westfield laundry firm Abbey Glen, speaking to a Sheffield City Council planning committee in favour of the company's plansBen West of Westfield laundry firm Abbey Glen, speaking to a Sheffield City Council planning committee in favour of the company's plans
Ben West of Westfield laundry firm Abbey Glen, speaking to a Sheffield City Council planning committee in favour of the company's plans

The present operating hours were put in place when planning permission was first granted in 2003 and Abbey Glen only moved on to the site in 2020.

‘We hear everything at all hours’

Committee members voted to overturn their officers’ recommendation to accept this change because noise and disturbance would adversely affect neighbouring properties

The firm also applied to store dirty laundry and equipment outside. This was recommended for refusal by planning officers with follow-up enforcement action because there is insufficient on-site parking and it would add to vehicles parked on the street. It would also cause noise and disturbance to nearby residents.

Objector Sean Frost speaking at a Sheffield City Council planning meeting against plans by Abbey Glen laundry in Westfield to extend their delivery hours and add outdoor storageObjector Sean Frost speaking at a Sheffield City Council planning meeting against plans by Abbey Glen laundry in Westfield to extend their delivery hours and add outdoor storage
Objector Sean Frost speaking at a Sheffield City Council planning meeting against plans by Abbey Glen laundry in Westfield to extend their delivery hours and add outdoor storage
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Resident Sean Corey, who earlier this year presented a 150-signature petition to the council about Abbey Glen, said: “Abbey Glen has properties on three sides. By far the majority have back gardens overlooking.

“We hear them late, we hear trolleys, we hear shouting – we hear everything at all hours.

“We have just five-and-a-half noise-free hours a day Monday to Friday. We sleep with the windows shut, even in in 40-degree heat. Some people have sold up, some have moved bedrooms.”

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David Knights of Westfield laundry firm Abbey Glen, speaking to a Sheffield City Council planning committee to support plans to extend delivery times and set up outdoor storageDavid Knights of Westfield laundry firm Abbey Glen, speaking to a Sheffield City Council planning committee to support plans to extend delivery times and set up outdoor storage
David Knights of Westfield laundry firm Abbey Glen, speaking to a Sheffield City Council planning committee to support plans to extend delivery times and set up outdoor storage

He added: “We have nothing against Abbey Glen employees, we just believe they are in the wrong place.”

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Dawn Groundwell said: “When Abbey Glen purchased the property, they didn’t research the area. They didn’t apply for planning permission for a change of use. They didn’t take into account how they would affect residents’ lives.”

She said that a lot of lorries leave between 6am and 8am, alleging: “They don’t abide by the rules. They have been caught unloading at 12 on bank holidays.”

Sean Frost said that he has worked moving similar wheeled cages for the past 16 years and ear defenders are recommended because of the noise they make.

“You tend to have a high level of noise when the cages are moved around, whether they are empty or full and banged together, whether moving or sitting,” he said.

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“Employers will set targets, staff will be obliged to move them as fast as possible.”

Westfield resident Dawn Groundwell speaking at a Sheffield City Council planning committee meeting to object to proposed changes by Abbey Glen laundryWestfield resident Dawn Groundwell speaking at a Sheffield City Council planning committee meeting to object to proposed changes by Abbey Glen laundry
Westfield resident Dawn Groundwell speaking at a Sheffield City Council planning committee meeting to object to proposed changes by Abbey Glen laundry

He claimed that the firm is breaching agreements, moving the trolleys between 10pm and 11pm.

‘We don’t want to see them lose their jobs’

Cllr Tony Downing, who represents Mosborough ward, said that since Abbey Glen moved to the site in 2020, he had worked with Clive Betts to address residents’ concerns.

He added: “There were never any problems that residents raised with (former occupants) School Trends or other local businesses either. The real difficulty is that Abbey Glen moved to the site without real evaluation of the constraints to their business.”

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Cllr Downing said: “Abbey Glen are on that site employing a significant number of workers. We don’t want to see them lose their jobs, particularly at a difficult time.”

Ben West, who works for Abbey Glen, spoke supporting the proposals. He said 150 staff work at the laundry and the firm wants to be able to guarantee their jobs by providing the service that customers demand.

He said the current restrictions had caused the firm to lose customers. The company had been forced to turn away lorries when they had got stuck in traffic and arrived after the current delivery times, which end at 4pm.

“We are doing our best to ensure people have jobs,” said Mr West.

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David Knights, who also works for Abbey Glen, said he was speaking on behalf of staff, who he claimed had felt intimidated by residents.

He said: “This is not a short-term issue. We are desperate for some degree of certainty. There is work there to be done but the company is inhibited by these over-restricted conditions. Abbey Glen is being blamed for everything that happens in the area.”

He said that staff come from many countries and some have horrific stories to tell of why they had to leave their homelands. He said that being able to work and contribute has given them a real sense of self-worth.

Others are overcoming issues such as addiction and poor mental health and the firm actively supports them to move forward.