'Let us keep Kettering's treasure' - planning inspector hears final pleas to save meadow from warehouses

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More than 30 people spoke at an evening session of the eight-day planning inquiry

Campaigners have issued their final pleas to let them keep ‘Kettering’s treasure’ and save it from becoming warehouses.

A planning inquiry over a controversial bid to develop land at Kettering North, near Weekley Hall Wood, is into its final day today (Friday) with closing statements being made.

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On the opening day last week a handful of residents appealed for their ‘sanctuary’ to be saved and earlier this week Kettering MP Philip Hollobone said the proposed units are ‘out of scale and inappropriate’.

More than 30 people spoke against the plans at the inquiry's evening session. Credit: Dez DellMore than 30 people spoke against the plans at the inquiry's evening session. Credit: Dez Dell
More than 30 people spoke against the plans at the inquiry's evening session. Credit: Dez Dell

Wednesday evening (December 6) was the last chance for people to tell planning inspector George Baird, who has the ultimate decision, why it should be rejected. And more than 30 people, young and old, made passionate pleas to save a meadow which will be lost if the plan is approved.

They included Tom Myton, who told a packed Thrapston council chamber that at his lowest he felt suicidal and only left the house to visit the wood and meadow. He said he didn’t plan on making 30 – but the area reminded him of earth’s beauty and he is now working on a career in habitat restoration after being inspired by the site.

He said: "The nature there saved my life."

Applicants Buccleuch Property (Kettering) Ltd, the Duke of Buccleuch's development company, say that the warehouse park with six units should be approved because it accords with policy 36 of the North Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy (JCS), which allocated the site for employment use. They say the scheme will account for more than 2,000 jobs and that they brought the inquiry because they believed North Northamptonshire Council (NNC) had taken too long to make a decision. Plans were first lodged in March 2020 and campaigners from the Save Weekley Hall Wood (SWHW) group have been fighting them ever since.

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Placards left outside the inquiry on day onePlacards left outside the inquiry on day one
Placards left outside the inquiry on day one

Buccleuch originally earmarked more than 40,000 sq m of trees for the chop, before backing down and redesigning the scheme after a furious backlash. But campaigners are still not happy because the plan would see the loss of a meadow and popular walking routes.

Geddington resident Nicola Speed is a member of running community and told the inquiry it’s like having a country park on the edge of the town.

She works in distribution and questioned whether there is a need for warehouses on this site.

She said: "It would be tragic to lose irreplaceable natural habitat and an area that so many people enjoy for warehouses that could sit empty."

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Weekley Hall Wood and wildflower meadow. Credit: Adam RileyWeekley Hall Wood and wildflower meadow. Credit: Adam Riley
Weekley Hall Wood and wildflower meadow. Credit: Adam Riley

Caroline Robertson said Kettering is surrounded by massive warehouses and that the next generation will never have this nature space again if it’s lost.

She said: "Let us keep what is Kettering's treasure. We love this place and do not want to lose it."

And Paul Hanson, a governor at Brambleside Primary School, told the inquiry: "The only lesson the proposed development provides our children is that you can make money by trampling on everyone and everything."

The previous week-and-a-half of evidence has heard witnesses discuss technical and legal ecology, landscape, highways and planning policy considerations and more.

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Wednesday evening was a chance for campaigners to speak from the heart, including youngster Stevie Ann Clements.

She said she has had ‘amazing’ times there building dens and doing crafts.

She said: "When I found out the Duke of Buccleuch wanted to destroy our beautiful woods and meadow I cried. I couldn't understand why he wanted to do this, just to fill it with these massive, ugly metal warehouses."

Grace Siddington, owner of the nearby Glendon Farm Montessori Nursery & Forest School, said it is an open space that needs protecting. She told the inquiry that the plans have been designed with maximisation of profit in mind, with ‘cheap buildings to be filled with cheap workers’.

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She said: "The current plans really fly in the face of the aspirations of our local young people."

Dr Clive Shackleton, a retired Kettering GP, said he has heard inspiring feedback from patients who have visited the area which has reignited their childhood memories.

He said: "If warehouses are needed...then this is not the place to build them."

Two councillors also spoke, with Kettering Labour Party representative Cllr Anne Lee telling the inquiry the site is ‘unique’ and extremely valuable to community.

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Kettering mayor Cllr Emily Fedorowycz (Green) said that in early meetings with Buccleuch a community buy-back of the land was tabled – but despite asking multiple times for a price they’ve not been given one

Kettering writer Julia Thorley asked Mr Baird how he would feel if a warehouse was to be built on a space he finds special.

She added: "What a lovely gesture it would be if the Duke were to give this land back to the town, perhaps as a country park?"

Mr Baird will make a decision at a later date which is currently unknown.

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