Future of Hawthorns site in Desborough still undecided

The skatepark being demolished at the Hawthorns site
The skatepark being demolished at the Hawthorns site

Kettering Council has delayed a decision on the future of the site of the former leisure centre in Desborough so the town can draw up long-term plans for development.

Question marks have hung over the area off the Hawthorns since the new Ironwood Avenue leisure centre opened in May 2012.

The site has been completely empty since the skate park was demolished by council officials this summer.

Members of the executive committee voted last week to delay the decision on what to do with the site until after the town council had come up with a neighbourhood plan – which might not be until the second half of 2015.

Cllr Mark Dearing, a member of the executive and councillor for the Desborough Loatlands ward, said: “We are giving the town council the opportunity to get on with doing the neighbourhood plan.

“We just have to get on with it. It’s a valuable piece of land for the borough and we want the Desborough residents to get the best out of this land.”

He added that the town council could now have the opportunity to have a proper say on whether land should be developed on or not, and, if it was sold off to developers, what the town council and the public expected to get from the deal.

Cllr David Soans, a member of Kettering and Desborough councils, said compiling the neighbourhood plan, which will cover the whole town rather than just the Hawthorns area, was crucial.

“It’s absolutely vital,” he said. “We are under pressure to develop.

“Like everywhere else, we want to make sure development goes in the right place not spoil a beautiful river valley.

“It will be a very powerful tool in directing future development.”

Cllr Soans added that a steering group which would oversee the drawing up of the neighbourhood plan would be formed in the new year, and a search for volunteers would be launched in due course.

But he warned the process is likely to take up to 18 months because 9,000 residents had to be consulted and the final plan would have to be approved in a local referendum.

The future of the Hawthorns site has long been a cause of controversy. In July 2011, a petition signed by more than 3,600 people was handed to Kettering Council, calling on the authority to reverse its decision to demolish the leisure centre.

In July this year, the skatepark was demolished by the council, who deemed it to be unsafe. The move was attacked by campaigners in Desborough.