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.
It is a centuries old tradition for parishes to organise a group walk along public footpaths that once were vital routes for everyday life and even today remain essential for recreation and enjoying the countryside. ’Beating the bounds’ as the tradition was called, was a reminder of our heritage of accessible footpaths through open countryside.
In this part of Northamptonshire the countryside and its footpaths have never been under greater threat. The cumulative effect of all the major development projects planned locally, will be to concrete over thousands of acres of countryside and wildlife habitat and bring even higher levels of traffic and air and noise pollution.
Government policy relating to SRFIs is laid down in the National Policy Statement for National Networks (NPSNN) and states four overriding principles: a) Reduce road congestion; b) Reduce carbon emissions; c) Support long term development of efficient rail freight distribution; and d) Support growth and create employment.
It was a genuine pleasure to be invited to speak on the 21st April at Roade Parish Council’s public meeting about the two proposed strategic rail freight interchanges (SRFI), which I understand are locally now known as Gargantuan Northampton Central. The meeting was vastly oversubscribed, demonstrating the strength of local feeling on this, and I am sorry that not everyone could make it into the Hall; however, I was very glad to also be able to speak directly to those outside and hear their views. As you know, I’ve been working to support residents who are concerned about the developments since we first learned about Rail Central in 2015 and subsequently Northampton Gateway in 2016, and I have heard from literally hundreds of people in that time.
250 residents from south Northamptonshire villages attended the Roade Parish Council meeting to express their concerns over the Ashfield Land and Roxhill rail freight proposals. Much like the Blisworth Parish Council meeting in January 2016 the weight of feeling was such that dozens of local people were left outside straining to hear the proceedings.
The Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom was in attendance to give her views on the strategic elements of the ‘strategic’ rail freight policy and to reinforce her support for the local residents. Directors Andrew Fisher and James Digby of Ashfield Land turned up but took the decision to let their high profile PR consultant Ben Copithorne answer questions from the floor. Roxhill chose not to attend instead sending three hired consultants to face the anxious and concerned public (which I guess will not do much to endear them to the locals).
You are very likely to be aware of the forthcoming Northamptonshire County Council elections on 4th May. We thought we should raise awareness of the issues caused by the proposed strategic rail freight interchanges put forward as Rail Central and Northampton Gateway with the prospective candidates. Whilst acknowledging that county councillors have no say in the approval process for Rail Central or Northampton Gateway, it is desirable that they have an awareness of the effects that either or both interchanges would have.
There are six “divisions” which we believe will be affected if either of these interchanges are built. They are listed in the next table. If you are not sure in which division you live, the third box on the left of your polling card will advise you.
A report prepared for South Northamptonshire Council (SNC) and completed by GVA has just been published. The Study provides a thorough and detailed evidence base of the logistics sector and identifies suitable and appropriate opportunities to grow the sector within the District. Some of the more interesting conclusions are as follows:
The main issues are the effect on the character and appearance of the area; and whether the site represents an appropriate location for the development having regard to the development plan.
Conclusion (in full)
So the NIMBYs are at it again. Up in arms about a few sheds, some cars, a couple of HGVs and some trains. They should be thinking about the greater good: the ability to import more goods from China (even quicker), the reduction in carbon as a result of taking lorries off the roads, the thousands of new jobs that would be created for the local community. They really should stop complaining that over 3,000 lives will be completely ruined and start to focus on the positives. Shouldn’t they?
In January 2016 the people of Milton Malsor and Blisworth were informed that a developer (Ashfield Land) from Bristol wanted to build a 650 acre warehouse park and rail interchange (Rail Central) between their two villages, a development which would destroy their rural environment and lifestyle, be operational 24 hours and bring with it significant additional traffic and 24 hour noise, light and air pollution. A development covering an area larger than Towcester with a transient working population of approximately the same size being dropped unceremoniously, and without care, between two historic villages and three conservation areas.