Thousands say no to Kettering warehouse development which will 'destroy' woods

It could create 700 jobs, but environment campaigners are furious

Thursday, 14th May 2020, 6:00 am

More than 5,000 people have added their voice to a campaign to block a planned Kettering warehouse park which would see countless trees chopped down.

Buccleuch Property (Kettering Ltd) want to build a number of units on land off Weekley Wood Lane, near the Kettering police hub, in a development which could see up to 700 jobs created.

But plans show part of Weekley Hall Wood would be destroyed in the process with more than 40,000 sq m of woodland earmarked for the chop - and environment campaigners are refusing to let it go without a fight.

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They have now launched a new campaign - Save Weekley Hall Wood - featuring campaigners from Extinction Rebellion, the Green Party, Labour, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Kettering Eco Group and other local supporters in a bid to conserve the much-loved beauty spot.

Their petition as part of the campaign has amassed more than 5,000 signatures with 500 people also sending in official objections to Kettering Council, who are currently considering the plan. A deadline for objections has been extended for a third time, to May 21.

Kettering Green Party campaigner Dez Dell said: “We have been overwhelmed and overjoyed by the amount of public support we have received already.

"We are now urging residents to contact their local Kettering councillors to express how much losing the area would mean to them."

Weekley Hall Wood. Picture by Dan Whitney.

The site is partly owned by the Boughton Estate and partly owned by Buccleuch Property. It was previously quarried and is now a mixture of mature plantation woodland, young plantation woodland and meadow grassland.

If approved the warehouses would total about 30,000 sq m with access from Weekley Wood Avenue by using the hamburger roundabout. There would be 400 car parking spaces with estimates of 700 full-time jobs and further indirect jobs.

In a planning statement, the developers say they will be creating new woodland on a like-for-like basis to reduce the impact of the development.

They said: "Where woodland close to the development boundary is likely to be lost, targeted native shrub planting will be utilised.

The campaign logo.

"This will create a natural barrier between the development and the woodland to reduce human impact on these areas as well as creating foraging and commuting habitat for species. To further reduce the potential impact of the proposed development during the construction phase, woodland creation at a 1:1 basis is to be undertaken, with 1.31ha to be created on site and the further 3.06ha to be undertaken within the wider land ownership."

It added: "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."

But campaigners say this isn't good enough. They say that, not only is the land popular with walkers, but it is of significant ecological value.

The Chequered Skipper butterfly has been extinct in England since 1976 but as part of a Lottery funded project was reintroduced in nearby Rockingham Forest in 2018.

An artist's impression of the warehouse site.

Campaigners say the grassland and wildflower meadow at Weekley Hall Wood was a historic habitat and is well within the Chequered Skipper's known range. They added that two closely related and rare butterfly species, the Dingy Skipper and Grizzled Skipper, have both been sighted there this spring, and the the famously-protected great crested newt is also near the site.

John Padwick, from Kettering Labour Party, said: “This application is a double whammy: it not only threatens the environment, part of the ancient Rockingham Forest, its plan for yet more warehousing would bring more of the same low skill jobs on the edge of town, when what we need in Kettering and north Northamptonshire is more investment in high skill employment in the town centre.”

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Northants spokesman Alan Heath said: "If built, the development will destroy a substantial area of countryside and biodiversity.

"Bees and other pollinators are particularly in decline due at least partly to a loss of 97 per cent of their habitat over the last 60 to 70 years.

"By pollinating crops these insects contribute millions of pounds to Northamptonshire’s agricultural economy, so this has impacts beyond the conservation of our wildlife."

To find out more about the campaign visit www.saveweekleyhallwood.com, search for @SaveWeekleyHallWood on Facebook and Instagram and @WeekleyHallWood on Twitter.

A drawing of the proposed warehouse park.

To view a petition against the plan, visit https://bit.ly/saveourwoodpetitionKatharine Banham, a planning officer at The Wildlife Trust, has also spoken out against the plan.

She said: “The proposal to build warehouses at Weekley Wood Lane, Kettering, would have a negative impact on local wildlife.

"The development would result in the loss of sections of woodland and wildflower rich grassland, along with the many species they support.

"National planning guidance requires applications to benefit biodiversity and contribute towards the creation of Nature Recovery Networks. At the moment this application wouldn’t do that.”