‘We need to fight this’: Campaign groups join forces to stop new warehouse developments

Warehouse plans have sparked anger in East Northants

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By Natalie Bloomer

On a cold dark night in the village of Titchmarsh, a steady stream of residents last week headed to the local church to view plans for a major nearby development.

Outside the church, members of the STAUNCH (Save Titchmarsh and Upper Nene Countryside and Habitats) campaign group handed out leaflets and directed people who oppose the plans to their online petition

“We’ve had more than 1,200 signatures in less than a week,” Sharon Cole, secretary of STAUNCH, told NN Journal

“I’ve been involved in this campaign for about three months because I’m passionate about this village, it’s a great community and I’m passionate about the environment and wildlife here. One by one developments like this are turning the Northamptonshire countryside into one big industrial area.”

Two developers are currently hoping to put up warehouses on land between Titchmarsh and Thrapston. The two are not connected and the consultation last week only related to plans by Newlands Developments for land sitting east of Halden’s Parkway in Thrapston, just outside Titchmarsh, known as the Castle Manor Farm site. 

The plans being put forward by Newlands are for a logistics development of up to 200,000 sqm with a maximum building height of 24m which they say will create in excess of 2,000 new jobs.

The second development is being proposed on glebe land to the west of Titchmarsh by IM Properties. Planning applications have not gone in for either yet but Newlands are aiming to submit theirs between December and early 2022.

“We’ve just had COP26 and heard world leaders talking about saving the planet, meanwhile we could lose more countryside to warehouses,” one person said as they left the church. 

Inside, glossy exhibition boards were set up with details of the proposals and representatives from Newlands were on hand to answer questions from residents and try to allay any concerns they have. But nobody we spoke to left the event feeling positive about the plans.

“A major concern is traffic. Traffic congestion is bad around here as it is. Whatever they say they will put in place to alleviate it just doesn’t sound believable. It only takes a problem on the A14 and we already have queues of traffic coming through here, imagine how much more there would be,” Pete Jousiffe, who has lived in Titchmarsh for five years said.

“We are hopeful we can stop this but the pessimist in me says even if we stop one of the plans, we may be unlikely to stop them both and that would still be bad news for the village.”

But STAUNCH is not planning to give up without a fight. They are now joining forces with similar groups in the county to see how they can support and learn from each other. 

“There are small groups right up the A605 who are fighting against similar developments. It feels good to work together and look at the bigger picture, it’s not just this development or just Titchmarsh that is the issue,” Sharon Cole from STAUNCH said.

The group has also been in contact with the Save Weekley Hall Woods campaign who have successfully raised the profile of their fight to stop a warehouse development on beloved greenspace in Kettering. 

“We’re really encouraged by their campaign, they are further ahead with things like crowdfunding and have more experience of getting exposure. We’re going to meet with them and see how we can support each other,” Cole said.

Speaking to NN Journal at the recent climate march in Northampton member of the Save Weekley Hall Woods campaign Robert Dixon spoke about the importance of groups learning from each other. 

“I think local campaigns can learn a lot from what we've done in Kettering, it takes a lot of organising but we had around 300 people turn out to protest at a planning meeting. It’s often too late when people wake up and realise what’s under threat. The reality of big developments is harsh and people need to see that.”

STAUNCH’s website includes a gallery of photos of the area as well as some of the wildlife that’s been spotted there. It includes buzzards, yellowhammers, barn owls, brown hares and bats. 

Titchmarsh parish councillor Alex Grant said the council has been contacted by a lot of people in the village with concerns about the plans and believes there are more suitable places for the development. 

“One of these developments is right next to an internationally important site for wetland birds. What will the impact be on the wildlife? Why are they building on sites like these? They talk about the jobs it will create but there is not a large labour pool around here, wouldn’t it be more sensible to build on brownfield land closer to larger towns?”

North Northants councillor for Thrapston and executive member for growth and regeneration David Brackenbury was at the consultation and told NN Journal he understood people’s concerns.

“There’s not yet a planning application but I’m looking at the proposals with great concern. Every application should be taken on its own merit and should be looked at carefully. This is not an allocated site for planning by North Northants Council and as such I would hope there’s a presumption that planning would not be granted.

“I’m also extremely conscious that there is a similar development proposed close by which I would hold similar views on as this one. I don’t want to say no to all developments, there is a need for developments including logistics, but they should be carefully planned and with the consent of local people.

Newlands Developments have not responded to our request for a comment but on the environmental impact their exhibition boards at the meeting said “the application will be supported by an Environmental Statement (ES) that is a detailed report covering a range of environmental topics” and went on to provide a brief outline of their plans for issues such as as flooding, the landscape and air quality.  

On the traffic impact they said: “We are using the council’s approved transport model to assess the likely impacts, and have agreed the scope of work required. This includes consideration of cumulative traffic impacts from all other relevant committed development sites and emerging proposals being proposed nearby.”