'These developments are the most significant challenge that Towcester has faced'
Towcester warehouse campaign steps up a gear ahead of planning meeting
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By Natalie Bloomer
A planning meeting which will consider one of four proposed warehouse developments in Towcester has been named 'D Day' by campaigners.
In the last week 10,000 Save Towcester Now campaign leaflets have been delivered around the town and a petition against the proposed developments has now had more than 3,000 signatures.
On Thursday the West Northamptonshire Strategic Planning Committee is expected to make a decision on a proposed development at Tiffield Lane by IM Properties.
The committee discussed the issue in December but deferred a decision on environmental reasons. A key issue is the impact on traffic and in particular the cumulative impact of the four proposed large developments.
The Local Plan Part 2 (a document which sets out proposals for developments and helps guide planning decisions) was adopted by South Northamptonshire Council in 2020.
The plan included several objectives including to "ensure that appropriately scaled new development to meet identified needs is located on suitable sites in sustainable locations that can be served by sustainable transport measures" and to "conserve the tranquility of the natural and built environment in South Northamptonshire through high quality design that is respectful to heritage assets and their settings, biodiversity and the environmental character of the locality and surrounding landscapes."
It also included four new employment sites in and around Towcester which allowed for B1 (business), B2 (general industrial) and B8 (storage and distribution) uses. Often when B8 developments are allowed there will be supplementary restrictions on things like the height of the building but this is not the case in the Local Plan, something campaigners are angry about.
"The very fact that any of these developments have been allowed to get this far is a damning indictment of the failure of the former South Northants Council to properly perform its duty on behalf of its tax payers and electorate, and is being compounded by the refusal by WN Council to accept mistakes have been made and to put them right,” Isla Whitcroft from the Save Towcester Now campaign told NN Journal.
“We believe that the current transport assessment for IM Properties is not fit for purpose. It was modelled on the premise of a new roundabout being built by 2021, using survey data from 2017/19 and therefore is outdated. It should be reassessed to take account of a realistic opening year, the full impact of future tenants and all the other new developments which will impact on our roads. IM Properties is not being built in isolation and should not be treated as such by the planners.
“The Strategic Planning Committee have the ability and the legal right to call for a complete review of the development, including the traffic assessment, to ensure that it will meet the objectives of the Local Plan Part 2 and the needs of our community. Over 3,000 people – a one quarter of the population of Towcester – now urgently call on them to do so.’
Councillor for Towcester and Roade Maggie Clubley is the political lead for the campaign and is backing calls for the Local Plan to be reviewed.
"The Save Towcester Now campaign is doing great work to make sure that the people of Towcester and surrounding areas are fully informed and given a voice and I am delighted to be part of the team," she said.
"These developments should not go ahead for a number of reasons: the exponential increase in traffic which would cause gridlock in our town and on key roads, the diesel pollution which could harm the health of us all (but especially our children) and the 24 hour a day noise and light pollution which will greatly reduce our quality of life.
“These developments are the most significant challenge that Towcester has faced, probably in its entire history, and this is why I have, and will continue to, work tirelessly within West Northants Council to ensure that other members and officers understand the urgent need to review the South Northants Strategic Plan and to stop process of warehouse developments."
Just before Christmas MP for South Northamptonshire Andrea Leadsom wrote to the West Northamptonshire Strategic Planning Committee about the developments. In her letter she said:
"Concerns over planning and the future of Towcester is the top local issue that constituents write to me about. The volume of cases has increased in recent years as residents become even more concerned about the development of the local area, and the impact continued construction will have on businesses, health, wellbeing and way of life. I fully support my constituents in their calls for action to be taken to protect our local area, and to ensure that South Northamptonshire can be an attractive place to both live and work.
“In summary, I do not believe that even the current planning proposals can be properly considered without a thorough review of the road and transport infrastructure being put in place in advance. Any further developments in our area will require improvements to major roads to be carried out in advance.”
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