Friday brief: ‘It’s like the Volvo has been parked and we’ve been given a Robin Reliant with a flat tyre’
A round up of news from the county
A long-serving Kettering politician fighting to save the town’s biggest leisure and entertainment venue has said she has seen ‘no evidence of any concrete movement towards a solution’.
There are just three weeks until operator Compass closes the doors on the Kettering Conference Centre, which it has sublet from another firm, which itself long leases the venue from North Northamptonshire Council (NNC).
The council’s leader Jason Smithers has said he recognised the authority’s position as an ‘enabler and broker’ and the council’s media office has put out a statement to say there will be an update next week, but there are fears an agreement won’t be reached.
Asked if she had faith in local restaurant owner Jason Smithers being able to come up with a way to keep the doors open, councillor Keli Watts, a former mayor and long-standing Labour councillor on the former Kettering Borough council said:
“I’d like to say I did, but I have seen no evidence of any concrete movement towards a solution. As one of the ward councillors for NNC I should have been part of the discussions, but I have been intentionally excluded.
“I am very angry about it and I feel embarrassed to be part of the council at this moment”.
A meeting was held on Wednesday evening by the town council to discuss the matter, but neither Cllr Smithers not Helen Howell, the councillor responsible for leisure, attended. The matter was also not on the agenda of yesterday’s executive meeting held at Corby Cube.
Cllr Watts said she feels that Kettering’s identity has been lost under the unitary authority and said the council was a pale imitation of the former borough council that served Kettering.
‘It’s like the Volvo has been parked and we’ve been given a Robin Reliant with a flat tyre’.
Kettering is the largest town in North Northamptonshire, but has been in decline in recent years. Its high street has lost major names, and it is losing shoppers to other places such as Rushden Lakes and Milton Keynes.
What was supposed to be a flagship new cultural centre in the heritage quarter area of the town is also behind schedule.
Housing a theatre, gym and indoor sports halls, the Kettering Conference Centre is a major part of Kettering’s leisure economy and was opened in the 1990s at the same time as the nearby housing estate was built.
News in brief
A councillor who has quit the Tory group on West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) says he will continue to ask questions as an independent councillor.
Cllr Paul Clark has been a thorn in the side of the ruling group as he has been asking questions about the deal to sell land to Northampton Town Football Club’s owners. A judge is due to make a ruling shortly about whether the decision to sell to the sports club was made lawfully.
Cllr Clark put out a statement on Monday to say he felt the leadership of the council did not have the electorate’s best interest at heart.
“While I did attempt mediation with the leadership, I was unable to come to a satisfactory outcome and agree with the terms and limitations that leadership wanted to place on me . . . In effect I felt the agreement the leadership wanted me to sign up to was nothing but a “gagging order” that would have completely derailed my freedom of speech and effectiveness as a councillor.”
The WNC Conservative group then released a statement which said:
“Far from being a ‘gagging order’ the thrust of the agreement reached during mediation was to encourage more and better communication.
“Cllr Clark has not been asked to conduct himself in a way that is any different to what is expected of every single Conservative Party councillor in England. His continued assertions that he is being gagged or prevented from asking questions ignore the fact that Cllr Clark has been given unfettered access to senior officers, cabinet members and the leader of the council to ask questions about any issue he wishes.
“Every question he has put forward has been answered, and his ongoing assertions amount to little more than innuendo and rumour. Cllr Clark has always had an open invitation to present any evidence that would cast concern on a council decision or wrongdoing by any individual, but to date he has presented nothing of substance to the council’s officers, nor has he presented any report to the scrutiny committee he previously served on.”
A developer has been told by a court to take down the top two storeys of a building after a legal wrangle with a council.
North Northamptonshire Council took legal action against Michigan Construction Ltd after it said it had broken building regulations at its development in Job’s Yard in Kettering.
The road was closed and a cordon was placed around the building in June 2022.
The Towcester-based developer has been told to take down the building’s fifth and sixth storeys which the council’s officers had deemed unsafe.
The authority applied for permission at Birmingham High Court at the end of May to force the work.
It said a “strict timeline” has been put in place for it to be done. If it is not met, the authority said it will reapply to the court for the building’s total demolition.
Other work will also be undertaken to ensure the authority’s officers are happy with different parts of the building they have previously been worried about, the council said.
It said it will be able to review the cordon around the building once it has been reduced to four storeys. The company was given permission for the four storeys following an appeal.
Councillor David Brackenbury, the council’s executive member for growth and regeneration, said:
“We have been trying to work with the developer of this site for some time now and going to court was always a last resort.
“This is a positive step forward and we are hopeful the developer will follow the orders set out by the court.”
Report by Nathan Briant, local democracy reporter
The trial of teacher Fiona Beal, who is accused of murdering her partner and burying his body in the garden, continued this week.
As reported by the Northampton Chronicle the jury heard from coercive control expert Professor Jane Mockton Smith. Beal admits unlawfully killing Nicholas Billingham but denies murder due to her state of mind claiming she suffered years of psychological abuse from him.
🌈 The first ever Corby Pride is happening tomorrow. The parade starts from Corby Cube in the town centre at midday.
🎪 Northampton’s annual carnival will be shaking up the racecourse tomorrow from midday. The parade will go along streets including Wellingborough Road and Abington Street.