'Shame on you': Kettering warehouse plan approved after vocal protest

Councillors voted to approve it by five votes to three

By Sam Wildman
Friday, 6th May 2022, 10:12 am

There were cries of ‘shame on you’ after a Kettering warehouse plan was controversially approved last night (Thursday).

Noisy protesters made their voices heard outside a packed council chamber as councillors voted on leather interior firm IM Kelly’s bid for a new production unit, next to their site off Weekley Wood Avenue.

They wanted to build it on a cleared meadow, near the site of a separate bigger application for a huge warehouse park by Buccleuch Property which had led to the formation of the Save Weekley Hall Wood campaign.

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Protesters at last night's meeting. Credit: Si Eppey

In August there was a party atmosphere after the IM Kelly decision was deferred – but last night councillors approved the plan by five votes to three despite pleas to put wildlife before warehouses.

After the meeting a Save Weekley Hall Wood statement said: “Every single person who has supported the campaign so far should feel so proud.

"We move forward with hope and love firmly in our hearts, despite this unjust outcome.”

Members of the public challenged the report that councillors would be basing their decision on – but council officers told the meeting they could see no reason for refusal.

The site as it stands and how it will look once the new unit is built.

Adam Riley, who takes pictures of wildlife at the site, had questioned claims only a few birds had been found in an ecological survey which he branded inadequate.

John Padwick said the plan shouldn’t be approved until a masterplan for the Kettering North site – which part of IM Kelly’s application site fell into – was agreed and in place. The meeting heard the masterplan is in the hands of Buccleuch Property and is currently being brought forward as part of the bigger, adjacent application. It was only sent to councillors at 10.58am on Thursday.

And Frankie O’Dowd said irreversible harm would be caused to biodiversity if IM Kelly’s plan, which will create 150 jobs including office roles, was approved.

She urged the council to ‘act like they meant it’ when they declared a climate emergency.

She said: "The jobs they are talking about creating are nonsense...we do not need more badly paying warehouse jobs for shipped-in workers."

Chris Carlisle, representing the applicants, said the ecological assessment was up-to-date and in line with required policies.

He added that the site was cleared in 2017 and was classed as brownfield.

He said: "The site is no longer a meadow."

Cllr Jim Hakewill (Ind) told the meeting nothing had changed since August as a masterplan – one of the previous reasons for deferral – had not been agreed.

He said they could not approve the plan as they could not predict the outcome of a consultation.

He said: “There may be lots of things the community would like to put into the masterplan and we are basically ignoring that."

Cllr Elliot Prentice (Con) said he understood that he could not refuse the plan because of its lack of popularity, but that the report they were deciding it on was not airtight.

He said: "We've got confusion over the ecology report, confusion over the masterplan. It's too ambiguous as it stands.

"I wouldn't be doing my residents a service if I approved this."

A number of councillors who voted to approve the plan did not speak in support of it.