Campaign to save under-threat Kettering wood hits another milestone
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Part of the popular wooded area - used by many for running, walking and off-road cycling - would be removed if plans by Buccleuch Property (Kettering) Ltd for five warehouses and an industry unit get the green light.
The plans drew a furious response from environmental campaigners who have fought against them since the bid was first lodged last year.
And a dogged campaign by the local Green Party over the application saw them make history earlier this month when they won all three seats in the Clover Hill ward on North Northamptonshire Council, followed by winning five seats on Kettering Town Council.
Now, just six months after hitting 10,000 signatures on a petition, the campaign to protect the wood has hit another milestone with another 5,000 voices of support.
Save Weekley Hall Wood group member Steve Esler said: “Weekley Hall Wood and the surrounding wildflower meadow are much loved areas for walkers, runners, cyclists, outdoor activity groups and nature enthusiasts.
"Our campaign has helped to make people aware of the threat of development and clearly, those affected, are making their feelings known. We continue to see new signatures on our petition and more objections on the council planning portal.”
Community group member Grace Siddington added: "We've had a real boost seeing the petition numbers going up and up. Weekley Hall Wood is such an important and unique natural space for the people of Kettering, and we are desperately trying to save it.
"Future generations, and the diverse range of species who call it home need us to be successful.
"We're now really looking forward to a summer of fun events to raise awareness, and celebrate everything we've achieved so far."
The community group have been working with nature groups and ecological surveyors to establish what species are under threat by the proposed development.
Through surveys they discovered the presence of common lizards (protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981) and the elusive Grasshopper Warbler (listed as Red Conservation Status by the RSPB) both living within the affected area.
Over the coming months they will continue to survey to see if they find other species ahead of a council planning meeting, which is expected later this year.
Mr Esler said: “We have not had the opportunity to discuss the development applications in the formal planning process as yet despite the decision date being set for June 2020.
"Perhaps this was due to the pandemic, or perhaps this was due to the formation of the new councils. Personally, I believe this was down to the overwhelming support our group has received that has made the development application in its current guise undesirable.
“We have had conversations with the team at Boughton Estates regarding the development application and have put forward the idea of creating a Kettering Country Park. I am pleased to say that discussions are ongoing although they have provided no indication that the application will not proceed as initially planned.”
In total more than 40,000 sq m of woodland is planned for removal but the applicants say new woodland will be created to mitigate the loss of trees, adding that its impact would not be significant.
If approved the warehouses would total about 30,000 sq m with access from the nearby the hamburger roundabout.
There would be 400 car parking spaces with estimates of 700 full-time jobs and further indirect jobs.
A planning statement said: "Overall, after the proposed embedded and additional mitigation measures have been put into place, the potential impacts during the construction phase will result in predominantly negligible impacts and minor adverse impacts. These impacts are seen as not significant."