Controversial application for Traveller site in village near Corby set to be rejected after 350 objections

Residents were furious when development began at the rural field without warning in February

Monday, 21st June 2021, 8:48 am
Updated Monday, 21st June 2021, 11:36 am
The site days after the group moved in without warning in February

Councillors are tonight (Monday, June 21) expected to throw out an application to change a rural field into a site for Traveller families in Middleton.

Local people were angered when work on the site was started overnight in February without permission and the council issued stop notices ordering a cessation of the development. MP Tom Pursglove described the destruction of Peasdale Hill Field in Ashley Road as 'totally unacceptable.'

But landowner Joe Delaney said the group just wanted to live a quiet life and send their children to school.

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Peasdale Hill Field (top left) is one of several similar applications within 1km of Middleton.

They then applied for formal permission to convert the site, which is 1km outside Middleton, from agricultural to residential use to provide an area for five Traveller pitches.

But planning officers have recommended that the North Northants Corby Area Planning Committee rejects the proposals on grounds including the 'significant adverse impact' on the open countryside, unsatisfactory vehicular access and the threat to protected species on the site.

This is the fourth Traveller pitch planning application in Ashley Road in the past year. A nearby application for six pitches was rejected earlier this year.

Middleton Parish Council have objected on numerous grounds including the inappropriateness of the site for residential use, the damage done to the finely-balanced drainage on that, and surrounding, sites, and the threat posed by the single-track carriageway to pedestrians walking into the nearby village.

Their statement to the committee says: "In early February, Corby Borough Council and the Police were notified of the presence of protected species in the area of this site. By not undertaking a protected species survey of the site prior to undertaking major unauthorized engineering works and destroying the landscape and wildlife habitat of a section of this historic field, the owners have potentially committed a crime under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

"We understand that the police are currently investigating whether a crime has been committed. The field is also located on the site of a roman road and there have been archaeological finds in the area. The Parish Council considers that an archaeological survey should have been undertaken prior to any work commencing on the site.

"The Parish Council also has a broader policy concern in that there is an observed pattern across Northamptonshire of travellers seeking rural sites, not to secure permanent accommodation for their families but for speculative reasons and in order to rent the pitches or caravans out for personal gain. Where this is the case, it is not catering for unfulfilled local need but creating a surplus supply that attracts families to the area.

"The development of sites without any regard to planning policy or location makes a mockery of the planning system and carries a great danger of creating a disregard of planning law amongst the general population; not to mention tensions between the settled and the traveling communities.

"Finally, in the view of this Parish Council it is totally inappropriate and naive to grant planning permission to an unsustainable site and then place conditions on it to control site activities, visual appearance; boundaries and landscaping; sewage disposal; access to the highway etc. This applicant for example, has already proved their disregard of a Stop Notice, a disregard that makes enforcement by planning condition difficult to contemplate."

The local highways authority at NCC said it could not respond due to a basic lack of data submitted in the application. Neither the local flood authority not the tree and landscape officer responded to the consultation. But the county archaeological officer raised serious concerns over to loss of an ancient ridge and furrow field. Their statement to the committee says: "The application does not demonstrate any understanding of the damage caused to the affected heritage assets.

"The presence of ridge and furrow does not necessarily preclude development but applicants are encouraged to protect and enhance the earthworks where possible, and to reflect the grain of the site where the earthworks cannot be retained. In this case no opportunity was taken to do so which is extremely regrettable."

The Northamptonshire Badger Group has also raised worries over the threat to five nearby badger setts and their inhabitants.

Northamptonshire Police raised no objections but said in their response that the site should address a need for a site for Travellers with a connection to the local area and should not be a transient site or one used for the running of businesses.

MP Tom Pursglove has also objected along with hundreds of local people and neighbouring parish councils.

The committee meets tonight at 7pm. The committee is chaired by Cllr Kevin Watts (Con). Cllr Sims will not sure as vice chair for this item as he is chair of the Middleton Residents’ Action Group and will be speaking on their behalf at the meeting. Other members are Councillors Leanne Buckingham (Lab), William Colquhoun (Lab), Alison Dalziel (Lab), Zoe McGhee (Lab), Jean Addison (Lab) Ross Armour (Lab) and Lyn Buckingham (Lab).