of warehousing on 457 acres of arable farmland close to Junction
15 of the M1 and the surrounding communities of Roade, Milton
Malsor, Grange Park and Collingtree.
The recently adopted Strategic Plan for the region, specifically excluded industrial development at this location. A previous application by Roxhill for a 2.67m sq ft Distribution Centre was withdrawn after widespread opposition and its likely refusal.
Roxhill argue that a limited rail link to the Northampton Loop line makes this proposal of 'national significance' and therefore can be decided by central government rather than by locally accountable planning authorities.
Residential areas surrounding the proposed site are already exposed to high levels of air, noise and light pollution that are above legal limits. This has always been somewhat mitigated by the largely open countryside close by. Roxhill's proposal will destroy this 'green lung' as well as the wildlife habitat it provides. (see video clip on 'background' page)
The existing traffic congestion on the M1, A45 and A508, is self evident and increases 'rat running' through residential roads. The number of (diesel) HGV's needed to service 5m sq ft of warehousing will be enormous. Roxhill claim that 6,000 people will work at the site. If this proves correct the workforce would be drawn from a wide area and are likely to travel by car. Roxhill have promised to fund improvements to Junction 15 but the changes proposed in their earlier (and smaller) planning application, were judged by planners as unlikely to add to overall capacity.
RAIL FREIGHT STRATEGY
Industry experts say that a Rail Interchange is not needed in this location because the DIRFT facility is only 18 miles further north and has expansion capacity for the next 20 years. The likely occupiers would be non rail freight warehouse operators moving to be nearer to the M1.
Is this scheme really of such 'national significance' that it is worth wiping out out hundreds of acres of productive farmland and wildlife habitat and creating yet more traffic congestion and pollution on an already overstretched road network ?
Roxhill will now have to address all these aspects in their final Application which is expected in September. The Inspectorate has made it clear that Roxhill will not be able to rely on evidence compiled for the Howden's Application and will have to provide up to date facts and figures.
An 'Action Group' specifically for the Roxhill 'Gateway' proposal is now being formed with representation from Collingtree, Milton Malsor and Roade. Another 15 parishes affected particularly by the traffic and pollution issues on surrounding roads have been contacted for support under the banner of 'Parishes Against Pollution' The new action group will be working closely with the 'Stop Rail Central' team as there is the possibility of both adjoining sites getting the go ahead and creating a Warehouse Park of 13m sq ft covering 1100 acres.
On a cost/ benefit analysis, the flaws in the case for both Rail Central and Roxhill Gateway, seem clear. As regards alleged benefits - neither responds to a genuine strategic need, neither conforms to local planning guidelines, neither will reduce net HGV traffic, neither will contribute to the desired employment profile for the area, the suggested Junction 15 improvements are inadequate ( only £6m !!) and the offer of a bypass around Roade will create as many problems as it solves. On the other hand, the costs - in terms of environmental damage, worsened traffic congestion and loss of farmland and wildlife habitat – are massive.
Despite all this, with a
Government seemingly fixated by economic growth (whether good, bad or
indifferent) there is likely to be a presumption in favour of just ‘getting
stuff built’. Unless that is, the political fallout is unacceptable at local and parliamentary elections! It is up to everyone to register their concern with elected politicians - sooner rather than later.
There was a lively confrontation at Collingtree on 18th January when representatives from Roxhill outlined their plans to an audience of 60 plus ahead of the scheduled Collingtree Parish Council meeting. There was total opposition to the proposal (and also to the one from Rail Central) with questions focussing on the lack of strategic need, increased air and noise pollution and scepticism that the promised improvements would have any real effect. The presentation team were left in no doubt as to the strength of local feeling.
Northampton Borough Council has now responded to the initial Scoping Document from the Planning Inspectorate and have raised many fundamental questions - a link to their formal letter is on the 'Top Down Planning'page
Local MP Andrea Leadsom has now written to Roxhill and a copy of her letter can be found on the link below:
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