Controversial Desborough development faces more delays as 'lack of transparency' criticised
Residents on the town’s grange estate have objected to plans to put a major access road through a quiet cul-de-sac
By Sarah Ward
Residents opposing plans by a national builder to drive a busy road through a quiet cul-de-sac have won a minor battle, but face a major challenge to stop the proposal.
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North Northamptonshire’s strategic planning committee last night voted to defer the decision about the reserved planning matters on the already agreed 700 home Bellway Homes development which will become phase two of the grange development.
During a two hour meeting the committee heard from residents and councillors who voiced their frustration at the lack of consultation that has been carried out over the past eight years with local residents but it became clear the decision to link the new development and older estate by an access road through cul-de-sac Rowan Close has already been made.
Assistant director Rob Harbour told the committee that a decision made by a planning officer under delegated powers in 2016 according to the former Kettering Borough Council’s constitution could not have been overruled by the committee last night.
But resident Matthew Peleszok said after the meeting that he and other residents would not give up the fight against the access plan, which would see traffic heavily increase through the existing community and become a main bus route.
“Rowan Close [residents] have been shafted. We need to get hold of those legal documents and find ourselves a pro bono lawyer to look at Kettering Borough Council’s constitution. We will see if they interpret it the same way [as Rob Harbour].
Chrissie Coles, only moved into the development last month and was not told within the legal search that the cul-de-sac she lives in and where her young daughter safely plays will be knocked through and became the entry point to a busy road.
“It will make a massive difference to where we live. It’s good the decision has been deferred and I’m hopeful that something can still be done.”
The development was first approved with outline planning permission in 2011 and in 2016, before the permission lapsed, a transport assessment was approved by a planning officer. This was done without any consultation with residents, who say they had been assured the access road would not come through the cul-de-sac. It was only when this new application about the final details was put in last year that Grange residents became aware of the decision.
Matthew Peleszok has put in a freedom of information request to the council, seen by NN Journal, in which former interim planning director at Kettering Borough Council James Wilson admitted in an email to a colleague in 2019 that the transport assessment had been ‘a bit of a fudge’ and predicted the Rowan Close access would be controversial.
Peleszok told the committee:
“How can you trust the word of anyone in planning when they constantly change their mind and admit to fudging things?
“Highways commented on the road management application and raised several concerns last year about the suitability of the access through Rowan Close.
“However, Highways now seem to be happy. What has changed? Certainly no more consultation.
“The 2016 Transport Assessment didn’t review the suitability of Rowan Close even though it identified it as an access into the site.
“Yes, this is the same assessment which the council’s own interim head of service called a ‘fudge’.
“How dare officers be asked to make a decision to approve access through a residential street for a development of this scale without consulting with its residents, Town Council or ward members – residents have been misled and excluded from the process and their own head of service call fudged.”
Desborough town councillor Ben Murphy-Ryan also spoke at the meeting and said the town council had still not been given answers to questions it had posed to the planning authority last year. He said it was ‘entirely inappropriate’ that the access decision had been delegated to an officer and that such a large development deserved more robust engagement with residents.
The way the issue has been handled by the former Kettering Borough Council (which was replaced by unitary North Northamptonshire Council last year) was severely criticised by committee members.
Councillor Mark Dearing said he was very much concerned by the whole process and said the highways department (run by Kier) should have been at the committee to answer questions.
And Cllr Tim Allebone said the matter was ‘mired in confusion’ and there was a ‘general lack of communication and transparency’.
He also criticised the high density of the development saying:
“700 homes over 88 acres. It is no wonder we have so many neighbour disputes when people are living cheek by jowl.
“I do think there is an element of greed here.”
The plan is for 700 homes, 20 per cent of which will be affordable. There will be a school and local centre, however details of those facilities were not provided at last night’s meeting.
After voting against agreeing the reserved matters - which set matters such as the design code for the scheme - the committee was adjourned to receive legal advice from the council’s senior planning lawyer Emma Granger in a private discussion.
When the meeting was reconvened, the decision was deferred because further explanation was needed on some of the issues.
Georgina Doyle was at the meeting representing Bellway Homes and said the builder was keen to get started on the development.
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