A 500-strong group of residents took part in a protest walk on Saturday afternoon along public footpaths which cross the site of two proposed major developments that would completely change the Northamptonshire landscape and their way of life.
Villagers from Blisworth, Collingtree, Milton Malsor and Roade showed their opposition to the Roxhill and Ashfield proposals which, if both approved, would see 1,100 acres of land bordering the four villages near Junction 15 of the M1 filled by a 13 million sq ft rail freight interchange.
The residents took to the footpaths to highlight the scale of the countryside that would be swallowed up by the developments, but also in protest of a significant increase in traffic, the environmental impact these would have, but also
Blisworth resident John, dressed in a t-shirt emblazoned with the Stop Rail Central campaign's logo, said: “Having lived in Blisworth for 47 years and working near DRFT I don’t want to see something like DRFT here, especially when they talk about the size of it, which is vast.
“They’re proposing 55 per cent more traffic to go onto the A43 between J15a and Tove A43 in Towcester so that’s an extra 22,000 vehicle a day, which is a huge amount. So my main concern is traffic, and then obviously there’s the loss of countryside.”
John also responded to the developers' argument the proposals would create jobs in the region, saying that Northamptonshire had high employment as it is, and that an extra 8,000 jobs would thus only bring in people for out of the county thereby increasing traffic volumes.
"It’s a good turnout but the critical one for us is to get 10,000 signatures online because the Government take it more seriously then," said John.
“It’s about challenging at Government level the actual SRFI label itself because they aren’t proven to work.”
As well as the environmental effects and the traffic disruptions which would follow, another concern for residents are how the huge warehouses would impact their day-to-day lives.
Karen from Milton Malsor said she had joined the march because she did not want to let big companies do what they wanted in the countryside.
"I moved to a lovely peaceful village and I don’t want great big warehouses with a 24 hour operation taking over our lovely lifestyle," she said.
“The building process will be awful, it will change everybody’s lives so much. It’ll be horrid.”
Rod Sellers, who lives in Collingtree, helped organise the walk from his village. As well as bemoaning the size of both the proposals, the impact on air pollution and traffic, he also spoke out against the fact the processes of either development was not going to play out like other planning processes.
"The problem is that it’s not going to be decided by the normal planning process through the local authority planning system and scrutinised by councillors, it’s going to be decided by Government.
“Because of that process not being as open as normal planning applications there’s a lack of awareness as to what’s going on, it’s beneath the radar for some people.
“It’s been going quite a while, it’s a long tortuous process so there are no key stages so we’re doing all we can to raise awareness of what this is all about."
Rod said that academic research - some of it involving the University of Northampton - was being undertaken to help the campaign's fight. The study is looking into whether there was a market for the rail-linked warehouse operations.
Thirty parishes in Northamptonshire have adopted a joint statement urging that planning decisions follow the guidance of the National Planning Policy Framework.
It reads: “Along with neighbouring Parish Councils, we are alarmed at the number and scale of major traffic generating developments in our area and their likely environmental impact.
"We draw attention to the specific requirement of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) namely 'preventing both new and existing development from contributing to or being put at unacceptable risk from, or being adversely affected by unacceptable levels of soil, air, water and noise pollution or land instability.'
"We strongly urge that this requirement is stringently and robustly followed and the cumulative impact considered when major planning decisions are being taken."