Fury as huge Isham warehouse park approved

The busy public gallery at last night's meeting.
The busy public gallery at last night's meeting.

There were furious scenes last night (Tuesday) as plans for a colossal warehouse park on the edge of Isham were given the green light.

Kettering Council’s planning committee approved DB Symmetry’s second application for the 55ha Symmetry Park site, which will create almost 3,000 jobs, having comprehensively rejected plans 11 months ago.

Villagers and ward councillors who had spent the morning protesting against the plans pleaded with the council not to approve the application until a bypass was built to reduce the impact of traffic on the A509 through Isham, which is often at a standstill at peak times.

But, after a heated hour and 15 minutes of debate, the plan for the park just 500m from Isham was passed by four votes to one with one abstention.

Isham parish councillor and bypass campaigner Graham Rait said: “We are very disappointed but the result was predictable.”

With plans for a bypass at a standstill after £25m in funding was withdrawn from the scheme, the developers said they would instead make a 1km stretch of the A509 from the A14 to the site a dual carriageway and make other junction and footway improvements.

The huge site, with Weetabix and Morrisons to the east.

The huge site, with Weetabix and Morrisons to the east.

But residents said this was not enough.

John Davis told the planning committee: “This proposal is neither sound nor sustainable at this time.”

Parish councillor Clive Hallam said: “No-one is saying no to development, just not on this scale and not until the infrastructure is there to support it.”

Ward councillor Ruth Groome said not enough thought had gone into the number of employees travelling to the site from Wellingborough through the village.

Residents have campaigned for a bypass for decades

Residents have campaigned for a bypass for decades

She said: “Symmetry Park is twice the size of Morrisons nearby. You can provide buses and cycle paths but in the end staff will do what suits them. Employees’ cars will swamp an already struggling road system.”

Fellow ward councillor Jim Hakewill presented the committe with a thick folder of documents about the Isham bypass plans dating back to 1999.

He said: “There is nobody in this room who thinks it’s a good idea to approve this without the bypass in place. If it was in place it would be a simple decision. It’s not.”

Agent Peter Frampton, representing DB Symmetry, said the development does not require the bypass.

There were cries of “shame” from the public gallery, causing chair of the meeting Cllr Shirley Stanton (Con) to intervene on several occasions and threaten to throw people out. She resorted to ‘shushing’ members of the public who interrupted.

Mr Frampton told the meeting an ANPR system will monitor every HGV that contravenes an agreed highway management strategy by leaving the site and travelling through Isham, unless they are going directly to Wellingborough. There will be two strikes before companies get a £100 fine.

The meeting heard from Kettering Council officers how they backed down on their refusal for the first application last year after legal advice that they had “no chance” of their defending their case and could be made to pay costs if they tried defending it at a planned planning inquiry in May. One member of the public made chicken noises in response.

The committee of councillors, all Conservative apart from one Labour representative, largely agreed that the plans were acceptable.

Cllr Mark Rowley said DB Symmetry had addressed the traffic issues that were part of their previous reason for refusal. He said: “At the moment I am struggling to find a reason to refuse it.”

Cllr Greg Titcombe, who rejected the previous plan, said he thinks the traffic management plan DB Symmetry added will work.

Cllr Jan Smith said she felt stuck between a rock and a hard place, adding that she wanted to make the right decision but felt “legally constrained”.

Cllr Ian Jelley asked whether conditions similar to those imposed on Great Bear in Desborough could be included. One member of the public shouted: “but they have a bypass!”

Cllr Anne Lee (Lab) was the only councillor to vote against the plan, saying that she had problems with the application.

As councillors approved the plan residents voiced their disgust as they left the packed council chamber.

There were cries of “disgrace” and “30 pieces of silver”, with one man shouting that he hoped the committee had no involvement with the new unitary authority because they were “absolutely c**p”.

After the meeting, a despondent Cllr Hallam said: “I don’t think they took into account for one moment the vehicle movements from employees, only from HGVs.

“The quality of debate was awful. They were not representing the community, they were representing their officers.”

The decision could still be called in by the Secretary of State.

Such a decision to do so could take three weeks before potentially being reviewed by a planning inspector.