North Northamptonshire Council
The status of Local and Strategic Plans remains much the same as that of the November 2022 Planning Update, with consultation ongoing for the North Northamptonshire Core Strategy and East Northants Local Plan.
The much-disputed land at Titchmarsh for development for warehousing and distribution continues to receive attention from applicants and campaign groups. Both sites are on areas of agricultural land, one owned by Peterborough Diocese, adjacent to the village, on previously designated glebe land, and the other, at Castle Farm, on Halden’s Parkway is owned by a local landowner and adjacent to an existing development on the A14. Both applications are being considered by NNC in tandem.
CPRE Northamptonshire is working closely with the local campaign group, STAUNCH (Save Titchmarsh and Upper Nene Valley Countryside and Habitats) and has disputed both applications. Peterborough City Council have now requested further information on the traffic impact on the wider area and the Castle Farm application is now subject to further archaeological input. Historic England has commented that the setting of Titchmarsh for such a development is unsuitable, but that has been dismissed by the applicant, DHL Logistics. Further visual impact studies have indicated that for certain views the impact has changed from ‘neutral’ to ‘adverse’. It is now unlikely that the applications will go to the Planning Committee before May.
Several other applications have been refused planning permission by NNC over the past few months, and CPRE is continuing to monitor for appeals.
West Northamptonshire Council
WNC Employment Allocations Supplementary Planning Document
A revised version of the WNC Employment Allocations Supplementary Planning Document, which was adopted at a Planning Policy Committee meeting at the Guildhall, Northampton on 25th October 2022, is still awaited, along with a final version of the Northampton Borough Local Plan, which has been out for public comment, and which was also discussed at the same meeting.
The Supplementary Planning Document is designed to sit alongside the adopted South Northants Local Plan 2 and provide additional guidance and criteria to prevent unacceptable planning precedent, specifically warehouse development. CPRE Northamptonshire provided a clear and robust set of recommendations, as did the campaign group ‘Save Towcester Now’.
An overview of the amendments to the draft plan was given by Alan Munn, Planning Policy Manager for WNC, the main changes being that the maximum height of proposed buildings should be restricted to 21.5 metres, from a previous 24.5 metre height proposed for the AL1 application by DHL. This was felt to be a minor concession, especially in the light of ‘Save Towcester Now’ and CPRE making recommendations that the maximum height of buildings should be 10 metres on all sites except AL4, which should be restricted to 8 metres. A second amendment was that the AL2 site building heights be reduced to a maximum of 10 metres. This was due to an objection instigated by deputy lieutenant, James Miller to the owner of Easton Neston House, that the heritage view of Greens Norton Church would be obstructed by the buildings on AL2. It was confirmed by Alan Munn that the wording be changed to retain the viewing corridor to the church.
Despite succinct and well-presented comments from ‘Save Towcester Now’ the debate regarding overall height of buildings was not properly addressed. Councillor Ian McCord asked for a proper definition of what is termed ‘Small’, ‘Medium’ or ‘Large’ and stated that the current definition is skewed towards the developer. An ambiguous answer was given on a Zoom link, by Michael Ward, director of Barton Willmore, the consultancy who authored the SPD, to the effect that “large footprint landscapes” are “determined by the existing height of trees and … if buildings are screened by trees to their height [they should be permitted]”. Logic tells most intelligent people that unless a Giant Redwood is supplanted from Canada to Towcester, screening by trees of big buildings is impossible. The committee, however, either did not understand Mr Ward, or were too dumbstruck to comment!
Further comments were made by Councillor McCord and representatives of ‘Save Towcester Now’ concerning the document’s ability to address issues relating to traffic, large unit sizes and employment. All felt that the document had “barely improved the situation”.
The document was duly approved by the committee.
At a meeting of the Resources and Planning Committee held on 24th January 2023 at Towcester Town Hall, Towcester Town Council voted to support the Employment Site AL1 development, despite huge public objection. Reasons cited were that it would be pointless to object as this would deny an opportunity to influence the build and the constraints on the final build. Although a motion was proposed to object to the development, it was defeated.
New Planning Applications
DHL, the applicants for AL1 have made several applications for the development to be approved – all of which have been turned down due to National Highways rejecting their traffic modelling reports. In their supporting documentation, DHL and their agents Savills, have made erroneous comments and provided irrelevant statistics as justification for an employment site, as well as fanciful traffic modelling reports. The applicant has now submitted a fourth application, consultation of which ends on March 16th. CPRE will be making an up-to-date submission to support existing submissions made at the end of 2022. Part of CPRE’s submission will include information and research carried out by an independent planning consultant on behalf of CPRE Northamptonshire on the AL Employment Site applications. The report challenges HENA figures, exposes possible ‘double counting’ by developers between strategic and local plans, provides an assessment of rail and roads as well as the need for a cumulative traffic impact report. It has already been assessed that AL1 and AL3 would be dominant car-based developments, due to the lack of proper cycle networks or bus services to the sites.
IM Properties has also submitted a planning application for Site AL4 at Shacks Barn/Podium Park on the A43 at Whittlebury. CPRE has provided a submission to which an outcome is awaited. To date, a coherent traffic modelling report is yet to be received by the WNC planning case officer. Concerns have been raised by residents of Whittlebury and Silverstone about heavy goods vehicle traffic having to use Silverstone village to access the A43.
An application at Blisworth for B8 warehousing on a partially brownfield site has also been submitted. As with the AL sites, residents of Blisworth and Milton Malsor are concerned about the number of heavy goods vehicles that will need to access both villages to reach major trunk roads. This site, however, is not an allocated site to any local or strategic plan. Several planning applications which have had submissions by CPRE are in planners ‘in-trays:
In November 2022, CPRE submitted a planning rejection to an enabling application to make alterations and extensions to Park Hall, Bugbrooke, by providing a development of 10 houses on land adjacent to the site. This is in open parkland in a conservation area, which dates to at least the medieval period and possibly earlier. The development will destroy a long-established wildlife habitat and the loss of green space and its use as a local amenity by the proposed housing development is contrary to policy GS2 of the adopted SNC Local Plan part 2 and presents a serious impact on the conservation area, which represents an important open space and parkland setting for the listed building.
The application is currently with the planning case officer at WNC.
The developers of the Rail Freight Terminal at M1 junction 15, which was granted strategic status by the government, thereby omitting any scrutiny by local planning officers, have made an application to vary the condition of permission to have the rail link in place before the terminal is operational. If permitted, this will be contrary to the whole principle of the original permission which was granted as a special strategic application by Central Government. CPRE will be closely monitoring the outcome.
An application for a lorry park at Syresham on open countryside has been submitted but is not an appropriate location for such a facility. CPRE has made comments on the application.
A wedding venue at Dodford Grange has applied for accommodation units on the same site. The new build accommodation buildings are incongruous and out of character. CPRE has responded to the application and awaits an outcome.
Pig farms and Slurry Tank near Welford - An application for a holding tank for slurry for a pig farm near Welford has been submitted. The farm is likely to hold up to 9,000 pigs which are near residential properties. CPRE has made comments on the application.
Although applications at Greatworth and Halse, near Brackley, for solar farms have been rejected, residents fear that the schemes could be passed on appeal. Other applications at Yelvertoft and Kislingbury are being considered by planners. A solar farm application near Daventry on grade 1 agricultural land by Elgin Energy has been made. CPRE has responded to application and awaits an outcome.
Although not strictly a ‘renewables’ application, demolition of buildings at Braunston, near Daventry, on land that is likely to be used for B8 warehousing, has been earmarked by CPRE as a potential site for roof solar panels to be fitted, as a necessity of a design brief.
Oxford-Cambridge Arc Proposals
Although an official response is still awaited to the Spatial Strategy consultation, the Ox-Cam Arc is still alive and kicking and has changed its name. According to an announcement by SEMLEP, on 20th January, Secretary of State Rt Hon Michael Gove MP confirmed support for the establishment of an ‘Oxford to Cambridge Pan Regional Partnership’.
The endorsement follows a proposal submitted to government by leaders from local councils, local enterprise partnerships, the Arc Universities Group and the area’s transport body, England’s Economic Heartland.
Backing for the pan-regional partnership unlocks access to up to £2.5million government funding for the Partnership to support its priorities in delivering sustainable growth and environmental enhancements for the region.
Although representatives from Oxford and Cambridge are on the Shadow Board, none are present from Northamptonshire. CPRE will continue to engage with the stakeholders to enable a good outcome for Northamptonshire countryside.
CPRE Northamptonshire responded to the Government Consultation in respect of proposed changes to the NPPF - This was done as part of the ‘One CPRE’ response through CPRE national headquarters.
Following the successful Planning Roadshow in North Northamptonshire, it is hoped to hold a similar event in West Northamptonshire in the Autumn.