Chamber’s fears over town growth

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Business leaders in Wellingborough fear shops could close and jobs could be lost due to what they see as a lack of ambition from the borough’s council.

Wellingborough Chamber of Commerce members have criticised Wellingborough Council following a decision to limit the number of homes being built over the next 10 to 25 years.

They say it could see the borough fall foul to the growth within other parts of the county.

Chamber chairman Alan Piggot said: “Without housing and attracting new people to our area, we’ll have no jobs and certainly no growth in shopping. Even rail and bus operators will see no increase in demand and run weaker services.

“We’re at the hub of the one of the best road networks in the country and, only 65 miles from the capital city, offering major routes to Cambridge, Oxford and Birmingham.

“Why then aren’t we taking this into account and keeping pace with the needs of the country. We once had a major shoe industry and lost this to lower cost manufacturing abroad. The UK is in a really good position currently to attract manufacturing and Wellingborough should take heed of this and run with the pack.

“I’ve so often heard people say there are no shops in Wellingborough. This isn’t true but many will close if not supported and this support will dwindle without future growth.

“I’d ask Evening Telegraph readers to get behind Wellingborough’s growth to make sure we don’t become the poor relation to Rushden, Kettering, Corby and Northampton. It’s time to tell your council what you think they should be doing. Don’t let Wellingborough fall into a terminal decline.”

The council has defended its growth strategy by saying it sets “realistic targets”.

It insists its plans are the best way to prevent there being an abundance of un-built developments or empty unsold new homes.

Development committee chairman Cllr Graham Lawman said: “In the past five years, an average of 284 houses per year have been built in Wellingborough, with 110 completed last year.

“The problem with meeting our previously Government-imposed annual target is the rate of building then required increases each year so it’s now an unachievable figure – nearly double the highest we’ve ever done in any year, which was about 445.

“To accommodate natural change such as births, deaths, divorces, we’d need an extra 214 houses per year.

“Include migration and this becomes 302, re-calibrate this using additional data, such as GP registrations, and we would require 330.

“We already have about 7,600, or 380 per year, outline planning consents granted and therefore capable of being progressed.

“The council wants to set realistic growth targets, bearing in mind the current constraints of the economy and providing funding for infrastructure – roads, rails, buses, doctors, dentists, schools, colleges, shops, employment, sports facilities, etc.

“If we set these too low, it’ll be challenging to obtain funding against other towns seeking funding, but, if we set these too high and cannot demonstrate we’re achieving them the way will be open for speculative developers to put forward planning applications in areas not in our local plan.

“We want neither un-built consents nor empty unsold new homes. To prevent the town becoming one large building site at once and to allow for the proper inclusion of infrastructure, the council has, for some time now, suggested a target that it feels is achievable, namely 300 dwellings per year.”