North Northamptonshire warehouse pressure groups join forces to fight rural developments

Fields that could see a huge industrial park previously owned by the Church of England's Peterborough DioceseFields that could see a huge industrial park previously owned by the Church of England's Peterborough Diocese
Fields that could see a huge industrial park previously owned by the Church of England's Peterborough Diocese
Residents of Titchmarsh and Thrapston are preparing for two major planning applications

An action group set up to fight the development of two proposed warehouses on land close to Thrapston will join forces with others across the area as a pressure group.

STAUNCH (Save Titchmarsh and Upper Nene Countryside and Habitats) is a group formed to rally opposition to 'unwanted and unnecessary industrial units and warehouses' next to the protected wetlands of the Upper Nene Valley.

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In two separate consultations, two different developers are eyeing fields close to Titchmarsh and Thrapston - a total of 289 acres of farmland, the size of 144 football pitches - that they want for warehousing and industrial parks.

The two developments close to Thrapston and TitchmarshThe two developments close to Thrapston and Titchmarsh
The two developments close to Thrapston and Titchmarsh

Communities across Northamptonshire that have been campaigning on their own will now form a collective to get their voice heard against planning decisions affecting them.

Chairman of STAUNCH, Kevin Shapland, said: "We are hoping to form a pressure group to look at north Northamptonshire and put pressure on the council.

"Our understanding is that there has been a hiatus of a year to 18 months and they have had their eye off the ball. They need to look at that balance.

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"It's about proportionality. We are not anti-development but anyone driving along the roads all they see is warehouses."

Save Weekley Hall WoodSave Weekley Hall Wood
Save Weekley Hall Wood

The group will see STAUNCH join with those in Islip, Kettering's Save Weekley Hall Woods, Elton at the Peterborough end of the A605 and villagers in Weldon near Corby and Weedon near Northampton who are campaigning against more housing development.

Mr Shapland said: "It's about the cumulative effect on areas from traffic, biodiversity and flooding - that's where we need to focus.

"It's cheaper for companies to leave a warehouse and move into a new one. We have just go to keep the pressure going - at least we can say we have given it a go. In 20 years we could be sitting in a county of empty warehouses.

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"Their argument is there is the demand for jobs, there are a lot of skilled jobs in logistics, but this flies in the face of Cop-26, bussing people in and there's 1,600 parking spaces planned at one of the proposed developments near Titchmarsh."

Kevin Shapland Chairman of STAUNCHKevin Shapland Chairman of STAUNCH
Kevin Shapland Chairman of STAUNCH

The view is echoed by the Save Weekley Hall Woods campaigners who are fighting plans to expand a site for warehouses north of Kettering.

Robert Dixon, a campaign team member, said: "It's a collective effort. A group working across the area would make it easier to object against proposals.

"There's no harm at all in joining forces particularly when it comes to petitions. The more people who sign the petition the better.

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"The targets for jobs in the Joint Core Strategy for North Northamptonshire 2011 to 2031 is for 31,100 jobs, of those East Northants' target was 7,200. By this stage we are way ahead of target. The justification for a lot of these new buildings is partly satisfied already.

"The only reason they are doing it is because it's next to the A14, it's not been earmarked for development in the local plan.

"When people go somewhere for leisure or tourism they don't want to see warehouse after warehouse, not in a rural setting."

With no official plans yet submitted to the local planning authority (North Northants Council) villagers are preparing to fight the proposals by galvanising support from along the Upper Nene Valley and those living in and around the A605 corridor.

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The two proposals would see units built on farmland south of the village, adjacent to the A14 known as Castle Manor Farm, and another on fields between Thrapston and Titchmarsh on glebe land - developments that will dwarf Titchmarsh.

STAUNCH has launched an online petition that will be taken to MP for Corby and East Northants Tom Pursglove, with more than 2,275 people already putting their name to the campaign.

Concerns are growing about who will fill the jobs should the green light be given for the two warehouses and industrial units.

In nearby Corby recruitment has become an issue with vacancies being filled from out of the town to keep up with demand.Some recruiters have taken to handing out leaflets or bringing drive-by advertising at the change of shifts, offering higher rates of pay and better conditions than their rivals in order to fill roles in other warehouses. One established recruitment consultancy flew a plane over the town last week trying to recruit staff.

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Mr Shapland said: "The fact that they say there will be 4,700 jobs created - but where is the need? They are exaggerated figures. Where will the people come from to fill those jobs? Peterborough and Corby and they will have to come by car because there is no public transport. The public transport is diabolical. There's nothing joined up."

A vast 200,000 sq m warehouse park currently being built on fields between Isham, Burton Latimer and Kettering had originally been turned down by the then local planning authority (Kettering Borough Council) in 2018.

Applicants DB Symmetry had appealed the decision and a six-day planning inquiry had been scheduled but the council decided it would offer no evidence at the hearing as they believed they had no chance of successfully defending their case. A briefing note sent to councillors said they had sought legal advice ahead of the hearing and a planning barrister’s legal opinion was that they had "no prospects whatsoever" of defending their case. The note added that, if they were to unsuccessfully defend their reason for refusal, it was a "virtual certainty" that a full award of costs would be made against them - potentially exceeding £100,000.

Mr Shapland added: "If the council turn these down (the warehouses) the councillors can't afford to spend taxpayers money on appeals. It's undermining democracy."

A public meeting will be hosted by STAUNCH in Titchmarsh on December 7 at 7.30pm at The Clubroom in High Street to update residents.