Extinction Rebellion activists march on Duke's land in Kettering warehouse protest
Environment campaigners entered fenced-off land before marching up to Boughton House for their peaceful demonstration despite pleas from security officers.
The stately home and its estate are owned by the Duke of Buccleuch, who also owns Weekley Hall Wood and meadow where a plan to build warehouses galvanised a huge community campaign against the proposals.
More than 21,000 people have already signed a petition against the application and woodland which was earmarked for removal has been saved from the chop under revised plans, but campaigners are furious that an area of green space and walking routes could still be lost.
Yesterday’s protest saw activists climb over a fence before making their way to the main hall for speeches, leaving ‘no trace’ behind, as part of an effort to pressure the Duke into committing to not developing the site just to the north of Kettering.
Ellen Whitbread, a Northamptonshire photographer who entered the site, said: “Today was a beautiful and peaceful event with many families in attendance from lots of different local environmental campaigns.
"It’s clear that people are waking up to the fact that these are not isolated developments and that much of the green spaces we love are at risk by greedy profiteers.
"The Duke of Buccleuch is one of the wealthiest landowners in Britain and has all of this beautiful estate closed off from the public. It’s certainly not unreasonable for us to ask that we keep the one small area at Weekley Hall Wood beautiful and vibrant for the public to enjoy.”
An earlier picnic nearby saw speeches from Kettering Green Party councillor Dez Dell and conservation scientist Dr Charlie Gardner.
An Extinction Rebellion spokesman said: “The security staff have been considerate of our approach and we have communicated our peaceful intentions throughout the afternoon. We understand that security is their responsibility and they didn’t want us to enter the estate, but we made it very clear that we remain peacefully defiant of the land restrictions because we have a cause worthy of taking these sorts of legal risks for. We have a mandate of over 23,000 local people to defend Weekley Hall Wood and meadow and we intend to help do so.
“This is the start of a transition from asking politely to taking peaceful direct action. We will continue preparing ourselves for such a time as when bulldozers and chainsaws are warming up.
"There is still plenty of time for Buccleuch to change the course of this development and to encourage any prospective tenants to consider one of the many existing empty warehouses in the county instead.”
The activists added that they left ‘no trace’ of them being on the site.
A Northamptonshire Police spokesman said: “Officers did attend and engaged with those in attendance, however there were no arrests.”
The Boughton Estate has been contacted for comment.