They've already beaten Goliath once - and now Kettering woods campaigners are hoping for another victory

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Campaigners who successfully fought to save a much-loved Kettering green space are hoping for another victory by giving it long-term protection from development.

There were celebrations in January after the Save Weekley Hall Wood (SWHW) group won a battle dubbed ‘David and Goliath’ against Buccleuch Property, the Duke of Buccleuch's development company.

Buccleuch wanted to build warehouses on land near Weekley Hall Wood in a development which they said would promise more than 2,000 jobs, but would have also seen the loss of a meadow and popular walking routes.

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Their bid was rejected by a Government inspector after a planning inquiry but it does not prevent them from submitting a fresh application and, as the site as earmarked for ‘employment use’ in North Northamptonshire Council’s local plan, the site remains at risk of future development.

Popular walking routes were saved when the planning bid was rejectedPopular walking routes were saved when the planning bid was rejected
Popular walking routes were saved when the planning bid was rejected

Now SWHW members – who raised more than £30,000 for their original fight – are launching a new fundraising campaign to try and give the site long-term protection. At the time of writing they’ve already raised £1,000 of the £1,500 required.

Campaigner Martin Toms said: “We don’t think this area should ever have been allocated for development but there is now an opportunity to safeguard it because the council’s planners are in the process of preparing a new local plan, which will replace the current plan and cover the period from 2021 up to 2041. The new plan could protect the area we’re so concerned about in perpetuity.

“We have asked our solicitors to send the council’s planners a detailed report explaining why this area should not be earmarked for development.

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"This is a major piece of work which they are very well placed to carry out effectively because they represented us at the planning inquiry. We have funds available to cover part of the extra legal fees but urgently need to raise a further £1,500 to cover the balance.”

Campaigners Martin Toms and Frankie O'DowdCampaigners Martin Toms and Frankie O'Dowd
Campaigners Martin Toms and Frankie O'Dowd
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At January’s planning inquiry dozens had pleaded for Kettering’s treasure to be saved, with one saying nature there had saved his life.

Their pleas were successful and SWHW member Grace Siddington, who is head of the nearby Glendon Farm Montessori Forest School and Nursery, said they’ve had an incredible time celebrating the inspector’s decision.

But she added that it’s been ‘really tricky’ explaining to children that there is a significant risk that the area could still be developed.

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Weekley Hall Wood - photo by Si EppeyWeekley Hall Wood - photo by Si Eppey
Weekley Hall Wood - photo by Si Eppey

She said: “So much of our motivation came from the idea of future generations being able to enjoy the area as we do, and we really need to make sure the council continues to work with us to secure this.

"The importance of Weekley Hall Wood and Meadow has been publicly and formally confirmed, now we just need our local policy makers to act accordingly, and keep it safe.

“We’ve been incredibly moved by the support from local people throughout our campaign; so many people hold this calm, beautiful place dear to their hearts.

"If you would like to help protect Weekley Hall Wood once and for all, please visit our crowdfunding page https://bit.ly/swhwcrowdfunder and make a donation.”