Letters: Why are housing concerns being ignored?

Plans for the proposed extension including 700 homes to the west of Irthlingborough
Plans for the proposed extension including 700 homes to the west of Irthlingborough

Monday, November 24, was a date crucial in Irthlingborough’s recent history.

East Northants Council voted to give planning permission for 700 houses to be built on the old iron ore minefields between Irthlingborough and Finedon, close to Huxlow Science College.

Residents of Irthlingborough have voiced their concerns on building yet more houses in a town with no supermarket, overcrowded schools, stretched medical facilities and lacking any community facilities in general.

Furthermore, traffic created from the proposed development will feed on to the A6, which is already at breaking point during peak times.

However, beyond those valid concerns are larger threats to the existing community which were compelling reasons in themselves to refuse planning permission.

The mines which proliferate under the proposed housing development land will need to be infilled.

The suggested material to achieve this is incinerated waste from Radcliffe power station in Nottinghamshire.

Known as pulverised fuel ash, this powdery substance contains arsenic, mercury, lead and chromium.

The ash will be brought by lorry and it will need thousands of loads over a number of years to infill the mines.

There is the possibility of leaching down to the Nene and of dust particles blowing about as the vehicles pass through the vicinity and during the infilling process.

Due to collapses of the mine tunnels, voids may remain unfilled with ash, which would lead to future subsidence. Also, if the water that currently fills the mine tunnels and future drainage is not dealt with properly, this will exacerbate known drainage problems and may cause flooding “downstream”, in Irthlingborough itself.

I find it incredulous, as do hundreds of residents from Irthlingborough, that anyone would consider such a scheme and had sincerely hoped that the councillors at East Northants Council would listen to the people who have intimate knowledge of the mines, with its associated problems and not just to those with an interest in benefitting financially.

MARK PACAN

By email

Councillors have failed our town

On Monday, November 24, members of East Northamptonshire Council’s development control committee approved an outline planning application for the construction of 700 houses on a green field site overlooking the town of Irthlingborough.

This is very bad news for Irthlingborough for many reasons.

It could permit the construction of an enormous carbuncle overlooking the town which, when it turns septic, will have devastating consequences.

Let me try to explain something called affordable housing.

Affordable housing is made up of social housing, shared housing and housing for private purchase. It is intended to ensure that new housing development will benefit local people by making housing available to them which they can afford.

Every housing authority has a percentage policy figure it will set for the element of affordable housing to apply to new housing plans.

The figure for East Northamptonshire is 40 per cent.

That means that 280 affordable homes for local people should be available from this plan for 700 houses. The figure for the Irthlingborough West site is five per cent – a loss of 245 homes.

A good legitimate reason to reject the application, you think.

Yes, advised the council’s chief planner. No, said eight of the councillors who voted to accept the application.

And what reason did the developer give for this massive reduction in affordable housing? We have had to spend too much money on researching the viability of the site, so 40 per cent affordable housing would jeopardise the viability, which translates into “eats into our profit margins”. The logic of accepting this is unbelievable.

Before looking at the plans, let me introduce you to Alan Pack, the former chief mining surveyor for the iron-ore mines over which the 700 houses are to be built.

Mining surveying is a very specific branch of the surveying profession and to be an expert in this field requires many years of experience. Mr Pack has this experience and of these particular mines.

Let me quote the penultimate paragraph from Mr Pack’s oral address to the development control committee: “In a development of this magnitude, when it is proposed to allow storm water to infiltrate the mine, the scheme must be without a shadow of doubt flawless. This application, however, is potentially so flawed that it should be refused pending further investigation.”

He also said that “the proposed scheme is highly experimental and risky”.

In addition to the affordable housing provision a developer has to provide funding called “106 money”, which is a developer contribution towards improving the infrastructure and facilities to accommodate the increase in population due to the development.

Using the same reasoning as for the massive reduction in affordable housing, the developer has reduced an initial contribution from about £1.5m to £400,000.

The increased job opportunities for the largest industrial plant planned could be a relocation within walking distance from another part of Irthlingborough and in fact is likely to cause a reduction in the number of employees as the employer introduces more automation.

The link route from these 700 houses will be a footpath.

All vehicular traffic will need to exit the site to the A6 and then enter Irthlingborough off the A6. Can you see that happening? This is the “big boost” for local traders.

What has Irthlingborough been landed with then?

Up to 15 years of disruption by heavy lorries carrying tons of toxic pulverised fuel ash, to be pumped into mine workings which are almost certain to be blocked by roof falls, walls and other debris such as railway sleepers. The toxic elements in the ash will leach into the storm water, which will not be able to exit via the “drain” channels and have to find its way to the river under existing properties in Irthlingborough, causing flooding.

Residents will have no prospect of any affordable housing, and little or no prospect of more job opportunities.

Most significantly, councillors had an opportunity to reject the planning application on the grounds that it failed to make a reasonable contribution to the housing needs of Irthlingborough.

They failed to do so.

They did it for Oundle recently and won an appeal.

But they would not do it for

Irthlingborough.

CLLR ALAN HORNE

Irthlingborough Town Council

Still much work to do in Corby

The improvements highlighted in the Corby Council Corporate Peer Challenge letter are welcome. However, many of the changes implemented are for basic safeguards that should have been operational in the first place.

The council’s Labour administration has shut the stable door after the horse has bolted and is now expecting a round of applause for this.

Had it not been for the pressure exerted by the Conservative opposition through the Improvement Board, the Peer Challenge and robust political scrutiny, many of the changes highlighted would never have taken place.

There is still a huge quantity of work required to bring the service Corby Council provides to taxpayers up to an acceptable standard.

The Peer Challenge report highlights that the authority is inefficient in its corporate operation and that it functions in an unhelpful, departmental fashion.

This was first flagged up by the Conservative group on the audit and governance committee but the changes proposed were rejected by Labour who were frightened of a battle with the unions.

It is clear that Labour are incapable of delivering the kind of real change that the council needs.

Only the Conservatives will ensure responsible local government in Corby and its surrounding villages.

CLLRS DAVID SIMS, ROB McKELLAR, STAN HEGGS and RAY LILLEY

Conservative group, Corby Council

Claiming undue credit for decline

I would like to comment on the first Police Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy (PEEL) assessment and the comments by the Chief Constable Adrian Lee (Telegraph, November 4)

It is equivocation to claim unique credit for a reduction in crime when this reflects a national trend due to complex socio-economic factors.

Crime has fallen nationally to record lows despite there being many thousands fewer police, finally refuting the notion of a link between the number of police and the level of crime.

The crime data and its integrity has been traduced by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), whose “dip-sampling” methodology revealed an error rate of up to 20 per cent. I will only accept the veracity of the figures presented by Mr Lee when they have been independently verified by HMIC as a true record.

Statistically, Northamptonshire should present a greater fall than average because for many years it has been higher than average, and because community resolutions are now included, which is probably why the force charges for fewer crimes (excluding fraud) compared to comparable forces.

It also has the lowest arrest rate for crime related to domestic abuse in the country.

It also only solves about 30 per cent of the crime reported, giving the criminals a 70 per cent chance of not facing a sanction.

The PEEL report may offer an explanation when it states there are “key weaknesses in the quality of investigations” and that there is a “lack of effective supervision”.

The HMIC report into the corruption of the crime data states that the confusion was caused by an instruction “explicitly supported by the chief officer team”.

I can find no record of Mr Lee apologising for the error or taking responsibility for the force’s failure to protect vulnerable young people earlier in the year. In contrast, he can clearly make time for the Press when he feels there is some good propaganda to be published.

The answer to Mr Lee’s statement that “I hope the public will be reassured by our performance” is no!

When Northamptonshire Police stop being criticised by independent inspection I might give Mr Lee some credit.

He is paid a huge salary from the public purse and I expect him to earn it!

STEPHEN BLACK

Kettering

Toxins are no thank you

“Thanks to the recycling efforts of residents, East Northamptonshire has been rated as one of the best in the country for low landfill levels.”

So reads a recent news release from East Northamptonshire Council.

Oh yes, well done inhabitants of Irthlingborough for caring about the environment and keeping your landfill levels low.

As a special thank you, we’ll drill lots of holes in your land and fill them with toxins.

CAROLINE CROSS

By email

Whole county resembles a tip

Who is responsible for the thousands of traffic cones and other highway roadworks accessories that are cluttering the verges and central reservations being abandoned all over the county?

Surely the guilty parties should be brought to book under the existing litter laws. I am sorry that the guilty parties seem to be getting with it.

The whole county resembles an uncontrolled tip.

TREVOR DILLEY

By email

The commissioner isn’t always right

In response to your request for views on the success of police commissioners, I think the old system was better – and I also don’t think it is a good idea to change the police headquarters from its current location.

Also, I do not think there should be a special school for police education.

All schools in Northamptonshire and Britain should teach disciplined behaviour and proper conduct to society.

Police should also be separate from the fire service though emergency services work together.

I think it is very important that they are separate.

In fact the problem is there should be better education in English, maths, architecture and appreciating our country, and other places in the world.

Our British police system is one of the best but it can be improved.

Life is very complex and the police and crime commissioner does not have all the answers to crime and criminal problems.

Sometimes I am not impressed with police training.

When I called the police to an incident they breathalysed me for drinking a cup of tea.

The culprit I called about was dancing in the street and his friends got the impression of how bad the police were.

I wasn’t veryimpressed.

JACK RICKARD

By email