Chelmsford milling company plans to move out of town

Chelmsford’s famous milling company has said a move to a state-of-the-art site in the rural countryside provides a “great opportunity to plan for the long-term future of an established business”.

Following a successful planning appeal in February 2018, which overturned the council’s decision to reject the company’s plans for a new mill in Little Waltham, W & H Marriage & Sons Ltd has now applied for a full planning permission for warehouse capacity at a site in Boreham.

The move would mean that the company is better placed to be able to supply its customers. Peter Marriage, the fifth generation descendant of the founders, said this is not because of its capacity to mill flour – its capacity to create up to six tonnes of flour per hour is sufficient – but its limited storage capacity has become an increasing problem for the company.

The inspector had agreed that the existing Chelmer Mills site in the heart of the city is severely constrained in terms of access and storage, adding that relocation would allow “rationalisation of the operation in a cost-effective and economically sustainable way”.

Marriage’s said it “ has enabled the company to plan properly for the cost effective and sustainable operational running of the business”.

However, when the full milling process will move to the new site is unclear and what will be built in its place – although it is anticipated that residential will eventually replace the factory.

It adds that this a complicated specialist facility with specific design requirements to ensure that a smooth transition can take place where the operations are transferred over to the new site from the existing town centre location.

In its planning application, Marriage’s wrote: “It is very much hoped that co-operation between the local planning authority and the applicant can take place and parties work together to ensure that this transition can be successfully accomplished enabling W & H Marriage & Sons Ltd to continue to operate in Chelmsford.”

Chelmsford Council had said that given the site lies within the rural area beyond the green belt which is not allocated for development. It said the “adverse impacts of the proposed development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits” and is therefore, “harmful”.

It added that Marriage’s had also failed to demonstrate the impact of the development on the highway network. But the planning inspector rejected this stating: “This proposal would not have a severe impact on the safety and free flow of traffic on the highway network”.

In its application, Marriage’s has insisted the access to Cranham Road is safe while warning signage on the carriageway informing drivers of the upcoming HGV access would appropriately mitigate any perceived risk by Essex County Council.

Marriage’s automated flour mill runs 24 hours-a-day, six days-a-week, to create up to six tonnes of flour per hour, using a unique mix of very high tech milling machinery. That is 800 tonnes of flour a week.

This includes equipment that sorts wheat by colour, a computer system controlling the mill and the traditional French Burr stones, used to produce stoneground wholemeal flour.

W & H Marriage & Sons Ltd was founded in 1824 by William Marriage and his twin brother Henry. The original mill was Moulsham Mill by the Army and Navy flyover. Then in 1899, the company moved to its Victorian Chelmer Mills site.

Mr Marriage said: “There is nothing wrong with the site – it is just the space and that is a pretty challenging thing for us. We have no industrial land on our boundaries now. And every bit of land that we have been able to acquire we have acquired.

“That’s what triggered the thing off and we hadn’t even considered moving – because it is pretty challenging – until we were absolutely certain that we couldn’t acquire room here.

“We have to limit what we can sell to certain markets because we haven’t got the space to do it.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter