Developer's application for rail depot in Northamptonshire rejected by Government body

Andrea Leadsom addresses her constituents at a public hearing on Saturday
Andrea Leadsom addresses her constituents at a public hearing on Saturday

The Government body responsible for examining the proposal for a huge rail depot in the Northamptonshire countryside has not accepted the developer's submission.

Ashfield Land's Rail Central warehouse depot would be built on land between Milton Malsor and Blisworth, but the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has rejected the application for examination for an order granting development consent.

The cumulative impact of the Rail Central and Northampton Gateway depots

The cumulative impact of the Rail Central and Northampton Gateway depots

Responding to the applications, the Planning Inspectorate's caseworker Simone Wilding explained: "It was not of a standard the Secretary of State considers satisfactory".

"The inconsistencies between certain documents and plans, conflicting internal references between and within documents and some inconsistencies between the hard and electronic copy submitted make the application insufficiently clear," wrote Ms Wilding.

Ashfield Land has indicated that it will be considering the points raised by PINS and resubmitting as soon as they are in a position to do so.

A second rail depot plan submitted by Roxhill, the Northampton Gateway, and potentially occupying land between Roade and Collingtree is currently being examined by the PINS.

Both plans have faced constant opposition from local action groups Stop Rail Central and Stop Roxhill, whose representatives Mark Redding and Rod Sellers were both present at a public meeting on Saturday.

The hearing was organised by South Northamptonshire MP Andrea Leadsom and Daventry MP Chris Heaton-Harris, whose constituents are affected by the proposals.

Speaking at the meeting, attended by around 150 people, Mr Sellers said: "What we have to avoid is being fatalistic and thinking that these developers have spent so much time, money and effort that it must be a done deal. It is not inevitable.

"The big questions about strategy, rail capacity, impacts on health and the environment have not yet been answered.

"But the really big question is ‘Are these projects of such overriding national importance that it is worth destroying hundreds of acres of open countryside and wildlife, screwing up an already creaking road network, and blighting the lives of scores and scores of people in the local communities?’

"And, in the end, will it really be a planning decision or will it be a political choice for the Government?"

Issues raised by people at the meeting included the environmental impacts, noise pollution, visual impact on the countryside, increases in HGVs and other associated vehicles on the roads, and the area's suitability for other rail freight depots given DIRFT's proximity.

"At the moment I'm a bit buoyed by what's happened recently and I think we can get rid of both of them but I don't know what decisions are made at Government," said Mr Redding.

"I will be positive, I'm being positive now - these are both effectively in the same strategic place and they're both the wrong place.

"We need to keep fighting."

He added: "The fact that you are here you've worked out for yourself that this is not particularly good for our community for many reasons."

Roxhill’s Northampton Gateway proposal is now in PINS’ examination process, with the first deadline for formal responses by registered interested parties coming at midday on Tuesday, November 6.

Mrs Leadsom said: “I am supportive of the need to push for a modal shift in freight transportation from road to rail. It is vital, however, that the Planning Inspectorate makes a fair determination through their examination processes on whether either, or both, of the proposals can deliver on their stated aims, and whether they are suitable for our area.

“However, since these two proposals were first announced, the vast majority of local residents have been completely clear that they do not feel either site is suitable for development in this manner, and that the SRFIs would be damaging to the surrounding villages with many increased vehicle journeys on the local road network, expansion onto green field sites, and a significant impact on local ecologies and ways of life.

“My constituents also have doubts about whether the West Coast Main Line can deliver the number of daily freight paths needed to make either site truly viable, rather than just the minimum of four that is set out in the guidance.

“I will continue to do everything I can to represent my constituents’ concerns on the two proposals, and am fully engaging with the PINS examination processes.”