‘Would this happen in a posher part of town? I don’t think so’

The fight to save a much loved park in an area already lacking in leisure space

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By Natalie Bloomer

On the edge of a housing estate on the eastern side of Northampton is Fraser Park. The area is cherished by local residents who say it is one of the few safe outdoor spaces they have. 

Whether it’s being used as a place to walk the dog, let the kids run around or simply a green space to relax and socialise in, the field with its stream and woods is a favourite spot for the people of Thorplands and the surrounding area. Users of the park report seeing bats, deer, red kites, buzzards and even a pine marten. 

However, local residents have recently become aware of plans to build 125 affordable homes on the site. The proposals, which have been put forward by Northamptonshire Partnership Homes, (NPH) are open for consultation until August 2nd. 

If planning permission is approved, the site would be transformed into an area made up of one to four bedroom homes with a woodland walk, a pond, and a children’s play area. 

Residents say this is too similar to what is already available in the area and that the existing park is the only large open space they have.

“When I heard about the plans I went straight up to the park to speak to people. Everyone was appalled,” James Kearns, who lives nearby, says.

“The thing that I’ve heard repeatedly is that this is one of the only spaces in the area where people feel safe spending time. There really isn’t anything else around here, there’s some small playgrounds but they’re not looked after, people take care of this space because it is so valued.

“We have some woodland walks but they are often overgrown and not accessible to everyone. Fraser Park is a place that everyone can enjoy. We don’t want to lose that”

Thorplands sits in the Talavera ward of Northampton. NN Journal recently reported how the ward was identified as being one of 225 ‘left behind neighbourhoods’ in the country. 

Research from a cross-party group of MPs found that people who live in areas identified as ‘left behind’ were more likely to experience lower levels of education attainment, reduced employment opportunities and worse health. 

A report by the group said ‘left behind’ wards also have less community space, cultural, educational and green assets. Talavera was noted as having the lowest amount of sports and leisure facilities in the whole country.

Local Lib Dem councillor Dennis Meredith says people in the area are angry. He is due to meet with NPH this week to discuss the matter.

“It’s quite shocking that this comes at a time when a national report has named Talavera as having the worst leisure facilities in the country, now we risk losing more recreational space. 

“People here are fuming, we need more facilities, not less. Nobody here is against affordable housing, we understand the need but there must be more suitable sites”

Local residents have set up a petition and have been handing out leaflets to make people aware of the plans.

“Most people still don’t even know about it. I know how important that space has been for my and my family’s wellbeing. It’s a place of real natural beauty, I don’t understand how anybody could look at it and decide it’s a good idea to dig it up,” James says.

There is also a feeling among residents that the same plans wouldn’t be proposed in a wealthier area that was already lacking in green space. 

“Would this happen in a posher part of town? I don’t think so. People here feel like their views and concerns aren’t listened to. They think that we’ll be ignored, but we’ve got to try.”

NPH said the development will be built on land that is proposed for housing by West Northamptonshire Council and will help families in the area who need good quality, social housing.

Helen Town, assistant director for asset management and development said:

“The development will be highly sustainable, using renewable energy, and will be sustainable both in construction and occupation. We have carried out surveys to assess the impact on the environment, including tree, ecology and noise surveys, worked with Northamptonshire Highways to consider the impact on traffic in the area, and considered the flood risk assessments before putting plans together

“Our design for the site includes preserving as many trees as possible, and any that need to be taken down will be replaced. We have worked to minimise the impact on the natural habitat, and have included opportunities to enhance it. 

“We do want to work with the community and hear the views of local people. We encourage them to share their concerns and thoughts about the proposed development. Those living in the area have been invited to a consultation event where they can talk to us, see the plans in more detail and share their thoughts. For those who cannot attend we have also offered one-to-one meetings in person or over the phone, and the opportunity to provide feedback online. The plans are also available to view on our website: www.nph.org.uk

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