We won't need to sell land for housing if retirement scheme comes off, says Wicksteed boss

Concerns were raised that land near the counties estate was earmarked for housing
Wicksteed Park.Wicksteed Park.
Wicksteed Park.

Wicksteed Park bosses say they won't need to sell land for housing if a retirement homes scheme goes ahead.

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Under the plan the Wicksteed Charitable Trust would retain ownership of the land and they say the scheme would safeguard the park's long-term future.

But some had been left concerned last night because 1.07ha of land at Wicksteed Park was included in Kettering Council's Local Plan as being separately earmarked as a potential site for 30 to 35 houses.

In comments left on the consultation, it had been suggested that any potential development could even be scaled up to 3.5ha and between 100 and 110 houses.

It had also been suggested that Sussex Road and Essex Place could be used to provide access to the allocated site, leaving residents of the nearby Counties estate concerned about potential traffic issues. A petition against houses being built there was also set up last night.

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But after revealing their retirement homes plan today - where access would be through the park itself and not roads connected to existing housing - the trust has moved to ease fears over the potential for houses under the Local Plan allocation.

Trust chairman Oliver Wicksteed told the Northants Telegraph: "If this scheme (retirement homes) goes ahead there will be no need to sell any of that land for housing."

It is hoped that the retirement homes scheme will provide a much-needed, sustainable annual income for the park after its well-documented financial struggle, with the company which ran its leisure facilities sliding into administration last year.

Mr Wicksteed said the level of income from the scheme would only be known once it had been finalised and been through the planning process.

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Wicksteed Charitable Trust's financial statements suggest it could provide a windfall of as much as £7.2m, with a potential income stream of £500,000 per annum from 2024 onwards.

The statements also indicate that any Local Plan land sale would potentially bring in £1.25m.

Another potential land sale, listed for the second quarter of 2021, could also potentially bring in £175,000, documents have revealed.

Mr Wicksteed said he hoped money from the retirement homes scheme would make a significant contribution to securing Wicksteed Park’s long-term future.

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He said: “This is about the survival of the park and also providing facilities for the community in the form of a retirement village, creating single-storey accommodation, of which there is a shortage in the county.

“Due to the effects of Covid-19 we have been at risk of losing the whole park in the last year and we never want to be in that position again.

“Money which has been raised through the community and grant support from the likes of The National Lottery Heritage Fund and the government’s Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage have been invaluable in the last year.

“Realistically we need that level of support year-on-year in order to safeguard the park’s future.

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“In the past we have had to resort with much reluctance to selling off land to meet a vital financial need. That money only lasts so long, and we are then back to square one, but with less land available to sell.

“This new development will allow us to generate income and retain the land.”

The trust says the Wicksteed Park Village project will also fulfil one of founder Charles Wicksteed’s dreams, providing a garden village within the park for people to live in, as well as creating a number of new full-time jobs.

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