Environment campaigners 'left without a voice' at Kettering warehouse meeting
Green Party councillors and members of a group battling to save a Kettering wood say they've been 'left without a voice' at a crucial planning meeting after being denied the right to speak.
Campaigners have placards at the ready ahead of tonight's (Thursday's) meeting where councillors will vote on whether to approve a new warehouse on the edge of the town.
Leather interior firm IM Kelly, off Weekley Wood Avenue, want to build a new production unit warehouse next to their existing site which could create 150 new jobs.
The unit would be built on the southern part of a wildflower meadow, which was previously cleared in 2018, but campaigners say the meadow should be restored instead and are urging councillors to put wildlife before warehouses.
But despite thousands of residents voicing their concerns only one person is allowed to speak against the application for three minutes at tonight's North Northamptonshire Council meeting, with multiple Save Weekley Hall Wood members being denied after making a request.
And because the proposed warehouse site is 100m from the boundary of both the Brambleside and Clover Hill wards, held by the Green Party, none of their councillors will be able to speak - despite residents in the area overwhelmingly electing them three months ago after their dogged campaign to save local environment sites.
Extra speakers are only allowed at the discretion of the planning committee chairman.
Cllr Dez Dell (Green, Clover Hill), who substituted himself off the planning committee because of the potential for 'predetermination' accusations, said: "It is incredibly disappointing to be denied the right to speak at this meeting.
"I was elected to represent thousands of residents, many of whom use and care deeply about Weekley Hall Wood and the wildflower meadows there.
"To be advised I cannot speak is a bitter blow and leaves all those people I represent without a voice.”
While written statements can be sent to planning committee members, there is no guarantee they will be read.
Cllr Dell added: “I will still be there at the council offices leading the chants of the residents present with placards and signs to oppose this planning application. People are sick to the back teeth of our beautiful countryside being destroyed in the name of profit and the Save Weekley Hall Wood campaign has ignited a passion that will not be extinguished until our treasured natural spaces are safeguarded against the developers bulldozers.”
Fellow Clover Hill councillor and leader of the Green Alliance, Cllr Emily Fedorowycz, said: “The councillors at tonight’s meeting have a big responsibility on their shoulders. Whether they refuse the application or add additional criteria for the developers to meet, they have a duty to do what is right by the community, and by our environment. The power is completely in their hands.”
Save Weekley Hall Wood member Steve Esler said: "More than 17,000 people have signed in support on our petition relating to the nearby Weekley Hall Wood application and currently, they are being denied a voice in this meeting.
"If this is the way that the council are going to conduct themselves over this and other associated applications then they should not be surprised if our campaign, which has been quiet so far, becomes much noisier.”
A spokesman for North Northamptonshire Council said: “Area planning committees are comprised of cross-party representation, reflecting the political balance of the area, in this case Conservative and Green Party/Alliance.
“For planning matters the committee will consider a report on the application which will also includes a summary of written representations and the key points raised against the proposal.
“Our constitution does allow speakers at planning meetings including one person allowed to speak against the application as well as the relevant NNC ward member.
“Allowing any more speakers is at the discretion of the chair of the committee.”