Trust hoping to regenerate Desborough factory site ‘let down by council’

Lawrence Site :Desborough: site for development old Lawrence factory, Harborough Road''Wednesday 26th February 2014 NNL-140226-165509001
Lawrence Site :Desborough: site for development old Lawrence factory, Harborough Road''Wednesday 26th February 2014 NNL-140226-165509001

A community trust hoping to regenerate a derelict factory site says it has been let down by Kettering Council after the authority decided to move ahead with its own housing project instead.

Desborough Community Development Trust spent many years working with partners to come up with a scheme for the former Lawrence factory at the top of New Street in Desborough.

But last week Kettering Council’s cabinet decided to pull back on an agreement made in July last year to transfer the lease for the factory building over to DCDT and instead councillors voted to build homes on the site instead.

The authority says it has recently heard that it will receive a government grant to pay for a third of the build cost of 42 new council homes on the 2.5 acres of land.

The site, which has been owned by Kettering Council since 2004, has had a number of schemes fall through over the past 14 years, including plans for a Sainsbury’s supermarket.

Former borough and county councillor Belinda Humfrey, who is a member of DCDT, said she felt very disappointed and had left last week’s council meeting under the impression that the charity’s plans for the site were still on track.

She said: “The DCDT has worked intensively over the past year, in constant contact with KBC chief officers, to satisfy their “key principles” of affordability, viability, deliverability and community benefit.

“It has found a commercial partner, such as the Heritage Lottery Fund advised us to match their probable later extra funding.

“DCDT is ready to go: with fully developed and costed site plans for the factory and the adjacent ground (32 affordable houses), that is with a philanthropic housing developer, architects, refurbisher of the factory, project manager.”

Deputy leader of the council Lesley Thurland who chaired last week’s meeting said: “DCDT should be thanked for their commitment to the cause and their hard work was acknowledged at the meeting.

“My understanding is the council previously agreed to give DCDT time to see if they could put a proposal together to save the factory site only; they haven’t been able to do this, despite the commendable efforts of all concerned, and time and effort put in.

“There appeared no immediate prospect of them being able to achieve a workable financial and business plan.

“The committee was concerned that the site had been derelict long enough and the opportunity now existed, in ways it had not before, to develop a housing led solution, which is what it resolved to pursue.”

The authority has made a commitment to ramp up the amount of new council homes it is building across the borough.

A number of local residents have had their say on social media.

Kevin O’Brien said: “We in Desborough are being trodden over by an outgoing borough council, the Ise Valley and now this, completely ignoring our community voices.”

Mark Richardson said: “Whatever the council propose to replace this eyesore with will get objections.

“KBC can’t win.

“Wouldn’t surprise me if it’s just as bad in 20 years’ time, no Tesco, no Sainsbury’s, no houses, just a pointless old building in the centre of town.”