Anger as 500 cars and buildings appear on Great Oakley site without planning permission
A car firm is storing 500 cars on a vacant site in Great Oakley without any planning permission, angering residents who say local roads are unsuitable for a development on such a scale.
Locals say that car transporters from local vehicle logistics firm Automotive 23 are doing regular deliveries to the plot and now hundreds of cars are being kept there. It is only 80m away from the nearest homes in Little Colliers Field.
There are also concerns over pollution to Harpers Brook that has been spotted since work on the site began.
The Catalent factory burned down in 2011 and after the site was cleared, it remained empty.
Although it retains consent for general industrial use, locals noticed in July that it was being used for car storage and that work had started on a logistics building. This requires separate planning permission.
A month after the complaint, NNC received a planning application from Automotive 23 for a temporary vehicle inspection building to operate between 8am and 8pm which has not yet been considered by planners. A second application for vehicle storage was deemed invalid.
Local resident Chris Richards said: “I can see no details on the local authority website. If there is a change of use for the site, does it not require planning permission?
"Transporters can be seen exiting the site and driving through the village of Great Oakley, despite this road being signposted as not being a goods vehicle route."
Local councillor Simon Rielly (Lab, Oakley) has taken up the case on behalf of local residents. He said that residents had expressed ‘grave concerns’ and that the facility had ‘virtually appeared overnight’.
Councillor Rielly said: “I reported this to the planning team in July and was told that the matter was brought to the council’s attention last week and registered as an enforcement case.
"I was also told and assured that investigations will be carried out, including an initial visit to establish if there has been a breach of planning control.
“Unfortunately, no further response was received until contact was recently made, again, with the planning department after seeing pollutants in Harpers Brook.
“The enforcement team then replied and stated that this complaint was originally allocated to an officer who has now left the authority. They have checked the casefile and it does not appear that any progress was made on the investigation.
"They have committed to visiting the site to find out what is going on.
“There are currently no permissions for car or van storage.
"It is important that the council enforcement team act swiftly as the systems in place regarding planning are to be transparent and applied fairly and equally and everyone within our community must adhere to them.”
Another resident Cullen MacCallum said: "I’ve been issued with an enforcement notice because my garden room is a couple of cm short of being far enough away from a boundary fence. This is going to cost me thousands to take down if the complainant is successful. But why is it there is one rule for one and one rule for another? This is ridiculous!"
It is the council's responsibility to enforce when a development that requires planning permission is undertaken without the correct permission being granted. A planning breach is not illegal, and the council can permit a retrospective application where a planning permission has not been sought.
The council can issue an emergency enforcement notice and halt any further development until an application has been received and granted.
A North Northamptonshire Council spokesman said: “The site in question was the location of a pharmaceutical factory that burnt down in 2011. Following the fire the building was removed and remediation carried out on the land. This left the site as ‘brownfield’, as it had previously been developed. The lawful use of the site was not abandoned and as such it remains classed as B2, which is General Industrial.
“The enforcement complaint was originally received July 6, 2023, and following allocation to an enforcement officer, an application was received on July 25 for the erection of a proposed temporary building. This application is currently under consideration by the council, as local planning authority.
“A further planning application, was received on August 2, 2023, for the construction of a new industrial/warehouse building (use class B2/B8) with ancillary offices, together with use of land for open vehicle storage. This application is currently invalid and we have requested further information from the applicant’s agent.
“Following further communication about the site on the September 16, the enforcement manager visited the site on September 20 and confirmed that work has commenced on the temporary building. In addition to the building work there were approximately 500 vehicles stored on the land.
“The works undertaken without express planning permission are at the developer’s own risk.”
Automotive 23 did not respond to a request for comment.