£10,000 needed to fight the Duke
Campaigners have two thirds of the cash they need to fight the destruction of Weekley Hall Wood and are now appealing for help to raise the final £10,000
If you’re new to NN Journal add yourself to our free list here and receive our regular news emails
By Sarah Ward
With just a month to go until the battle to save Weekley Hall Wood commences, campaigners are mounting their final appeal to make sure they have the best legal chance possible.
Next month an eight-day public enquiry begins with the planning inspectorate set to make the final decision about whether the Duke of Buccleuch’s company can go ahead with plans to build a series of warehouses on the land he owns near Kettering.
In the absence of a country park in the town, the popular beauty spot has been a haven for decades for walkers, and it was during lockdown that the campaign to save it began, when news of the landowner’s industrial plans became known. The Duke, who is own of the country’s biggest landowners, also owns nearby Boughton House.
More than 23,000 people have signed the petition to save the green space and ever since the early days the campaign group - spearheaded by Green Party councillor Dez Dell - has been raising funds to help its cause.
The Save Weekley Hall Wood group currently has around £20,000 in the bank, and needs the final £10,000 to instruct a barrister. Local lawyer and campaign member Robert Dixon, has so far been doing the work for the group and has put together the statement of case, that has recently been represented to the planning inspectorate.
Cllr Dez Dell said:
"It's a strange feeling to think that the future of Weekley Hall Wood and the awful warehouses that we have been opposing for over three years will be decided by Christmas.
“I really hope the Planning Inspector will side with Save Weekley Hall Wood and North Northants Council and refuse Buccleuch's appeal.
“Those woods and meadows are so important to Kettering residents and are irreplaceable to the wildlife that lives there."
Dez Dell has spent countless hours rallying the campaign
The matter has been taken to the planning inspectorate after a request by the Buccleuch Property group, citing ‘non determination’.
Buccleuch Property told the BBC earlier this month:
"This application has been with the council now for three years and because of the non-determination over such a lengthy period, Buccleuch reluctantly concluded that - in keeping with normal planning process - an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate was the only way forward.
"We did seek to proactively work with the council to take this application to committee for a decision, as this is an application for employment use on an allocated strategic employment site, and we hope our appeal can resolve the matter as quickly as possible."
The campaign group understands the authority will join its side in the public enquiry. All parties met last week in a case management meeting and the areas of dispute between the campaign group, council and developers include whether the Buccleuch’s proposals comply with the Council’s planning policies and if it was ever intended that large warehouses should be built on the meadow; traffic capacity issues and whether an area of rich biodiversity should be developed on.
The campaign group’s survey team has said it has discovered a wide variety of endangered birds such as the red-listed Grasshopper Warbler and Lapwing. Also, rare butterflies like the Grizzled Skipper and Dingy Skipper.
The enquiry will start on November 28 and be held in Thrapston. The campaign group has asked the authority to reconsider and convene a Kettering venue so more local people can attend.
Campaigner Frankie O’Dowd said in a press release issued yesterday by the group:
“We have never directly asked people to dig into their pockets and what we have raised so far is staggering, but a legal hearing is costly and it is crucial to have our say”.