‘If council planners aren’t going to protect us, we’ll have to protect ourselves’
Residents come together to fight Towcester warehouse developments
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By Natalie Bloomer
Within days of it being launched hundreds of people have joined a Facebook group and signed a petition against plans for four large warehouse developments around Towcester.
Last year, South Northants Council voted to adopt the Local Plan Part 2 (a document which sets out proposals for developments and helps guide planning decisions). This included four new employment sites in and around Towcester.
However, locals believe the cumulative impact of the four large developments now being proposed is a far cry from what was envisioned in the Local Plan. They are:
* A huge DHL site just north of the Bell Plantation between the hamlet of Caldecote and Towcester
* Podium Business Park off the A43 at the Whittlebury junction
* A development by IM Properties at Tiffield Lane, to the North East of Towcester
* A mixed-use development as Woolgrowers Field in Towcester
Last week, the Save Towcester Now campaign was launched. Spokesperson Adam Wood who is a resident of Caldecote says the plans will make his family’s life miserable.
“We live in a listed cottage about 300m from the proposed DHL site. This type of development is completely inappropriate for the area, it’s a 24hr operation so there will be no break from it, the noise, the light pollution and the traffic will all affect us.”
Wood says the campaign group is not against all development and understands the need for good employment opportunities for local people but doesn’t believe that four large warehouse proposals will meet that requirement.
“Just the DHL site alone says it will create 1200 ‘much needed’ jobs but where is the evidence that these types of jobs are much needed in Towcester? The likelihood is that people will be travelling in from other areas.
“It’s only a benefit to the local economy if local people are doing those jobs as local people are more likely to spend their money here. If the only way they can fill the jobs is by taking on people from other areas, where is the benefit?”
In addition to concerns about the nature of employment it will provide, the group says it has two other key objections to the plans. The first is the impact on traffic, with many locals saying congestion is already a problem around Towcester and the second is the proposed height of the schemes which campaigners say could stand almost as tall as the local church tower.
Councillor for Towcester and Roade Maggie Clubley is also opposed to the plans.
“When the Local Plan was approved by the then councillors for South Northants it was on the basis that these sites were for small or medium sized businesses to provide suitable employment for the area. If they knew it would result in these big logistics plans I’m sure it wouldn’t have passed,” she says.
“We do not have the roads or infrastructure in Towcester for these plans. The area is already gridlocked a lot anyway. This is a historic market town, not a logistics park.”
Members of Save Towcester Now Isla and Graeme Whitcroft say they believe West Northants Council should review the Local Plan.
“We now have a situation where the local MP, many local councillors and local residents all have real concerns about these plans. It needs to be looked at again. If council planners aren’t going to protect us, we’ll have to protect ourselves,” Isla says.
The IM Properties development at Tiffield Lane went before the West Northants Strategic Planning Committee last week. Planning permission for the site was previously approved by South Northants Council subject to a series of technical matters being resolved. A new council report provided to the committee said:
“As there has been a formal resolution from the council, it is not the purpose of the report to return the application to the committee to reconsider the matters on which the council has already passed a resolution, but to consider the additional matters of the cumulative impacts of traffic, traffic related noise and traffic related air quality for other sites coming forward in the town, in accordance with government guidance and policy.”
WNC’s legal officer told the meeting that a new council does in fact have the power to review and rescind planning decisions taken by a former authority.
A decision on the development was deferred on environmental issues. Cllr Jonathan Harris who is a member of the committee told NN Journal that although it would be very difficult to overturn the decision it was important that the impact studies were looked at carefully.
“I think there needs to be more environmental reports done on this. People are concerned about the combined traffic these developments will have and also about the pollution that will be caused. I seconded the proposal to defer this decision because we need to be absolutely sure the cumulative impact of these plans won’t negatively impact the area.”
Last week Andrea Leadsom held a community meeting to discuss the issues which was also attended by West Northamptonshire Council leader Jonathan Nunn. In a statement to NN Journal Leadsom said:
“Hundreds of constituents have written to me with their grave concerns about the extent of development in our area, particularly of industrial units and logistics warehousing. Towcester is a historic town, full of character and its fantastic community spirit must be protected.”
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