'Put wildlife before warehouses': placards at the ready as Kettering plan set for green light

They say it would mean the home of a 'hive of wildlife activity' would be lost forever

Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 8:02 am
Above: how the land currently looks. Below: how it could look if the plan is approved.

Furious environment campaigners are set to make their voices heard ahead of a meeting which could give a Kettering warehouse plan the green light.

Leather interior firm IM Kelly, off Weekley Wood Avenue, want to build a new production unit warehouse next to their existing site which could create 150 new jobs on top of the current 220 members of staff.

The unit would be built on the southern part of a wildflower meadow, which was previously cleared in 2018, close to Weekley Hall Wood.

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North Northamptonshire Council (NNC) officers are recommending the new plan is approved, subject to Section 106 funding agreements for junction improvements and bus stops.

But the Save Weekley Hall Wood group - who are also fighting against a proposed nearby warehouse park which would see trees chopped down - say the grassland could be restored and are urging councillors to put wildlife before warehouses.

They are now set to demonstrate outside council offices before the plan is decided on Thursday night (August 26).

Adam Riley said: "The area in question is already showing remarkable signs of recovery with wildflowers and grasses emerging in abundance.

"It is in fact a hive of wildlife activity which could again become a valued species rich habitat, but if this development is given approval it will be lost forever.”

Another member of the group, psychologist Dr Siobhan Currie, said she is alarmed at the number of warehouses that are springing up and feels that developers “are running roughshod over our lives and environment".

She said: “It is time to listen to the people of Kettering. Stop building on our green spaces. Stop killing our wildlife."

And another member, John Padwick, said: “We demand that the planning committee considers and understands the need for such green open space, made very evident by the climate and environment emergency declared by NNC in July and the events in Europe and globally, and underlined by the recent IPCC ‘Code Red’ Climate Change Report.”

NNC received a total of 45 objections, with concerns raised including previous environmental obligations not yet being met, an environmental survey being out-of-date, and the application contravening a climate emergency declaration.

Objectors said the location is a haven for ground nesting birds and a number of rare butterflies have been sighted, that the area provides a wildlife rich environment which needs to be protected and that it would be a blight on the landscape.

And The Wildlife Trust raised concerns that a 'clear plan to protect the grassland and/or provide suitable compensation' is not included in the warehouse application.

A committee report says 1.87 hectares of replacement grassland and 185m of replacement hedgerow, required by a previous Section 106 agreement from 2017, is envisaged to come forward as part of the wider Kettering North business park allocation by 2023.

And council officers say this satisfies any ecological requirements needed.

A report set to be discussed by councillors said: "Many objections have been received raising concerns about the impact of the proposal on the biodiversity of the wider area and in particular Weekley Wood, which is a well-used woodland area located to the east of the site. The council’s ecological consultant has raised no objections in terms of the impact on the biodiversity of the wider area as a result of the proposed development.

"Following clearance/levelling of the site, the land does not currently provide a suitable habitat for biodiversity and this was mitigated under the S106 agreement attached to planning permission KET/2017/0353.

"This mitigation, together with the retention of the existing hedges around the southern perimeter of the site are considered to be sufficient to satisfy Policy 8 of the Joint Core Strategy."

IM Kelly say the 8,795 sq m building will allow them to build upon existing services and to reinforce and expand operations from their current building next door to the site.

The plan will be decided at the council's Bowling Green Road offices at the meeting, which starts at 7pm on Thursday.

Save Weekley Hall Wood - who have amassed thousands of signatures on a petition over warehouse plans in the area - are asking supporters to contact the planning committee councillors in advance of the meeting and to peacefully demonstrate with banners outside the council office from 6.30pm.