I had meetings this week with the developers of the two proposed strategic rail freight interchanges, Ashfield Land (Rail Central) and Roxhill (Northampton Gateway).
As ever, I was keen to ensure that the concerns that local residents are raising with me are being put directly to the developers, as well as to hear where both are in their consultation and planning application processes. I highlighted the traffic movements (HGVs and workers) on and off the sites and the potential for severe congestion on our road networks, especially coupled with the timetables for other developments like HS2, the expansion of Towcester, and new housing in and around the Borough. I also raised residents’ ongoing concerns about visual blight relating to the heights of the buildings and appropriate levels of bunding and other sympathetic screening, as well as noise and light pollution in the rural areas affected.
Both developers have been absolutely clear that it is their intention that, if planning is granted, the rail connection will be going in “on day one”, and that they are keen to actively make improvements to the local road networks to mitigate the traffic impacts.
I am still not convinced that work has been done to prove that there is capacity on the West Coast Main Line for the four freight paths per day that the SRFI policy guidelines outline. A study has been completed on the Northampton Loop Line although this has not been released; of course, availability on the Northampton Loop is dependent on capacity on the WCML. I will raise this separately with Network Rail.
I am due to meet with representatives from the local action groups in the next few weeks, and will continue to provide updates as and when I can. I understand that Roxhill are nearly ready to start their statutory consultation process, and that Ashfield Land are still working through some technical details ahead of beginning theirs in the next few months. Given Roxhill’s advance stage in their processes, I hope to meet with all affected parish councils to discuss their consultation.
As with the initial non-statutory consultation processes, I fully intend to respond on your behalf and raise the numerous concerns that have been put to me over the past year.