Northamptonshire environmentalist warns of 'catastrophic collapse of ecosystems' should huge rail depots get go-ahead

Richard Mawby (left) addressed the Planning Inspectorate panel (top right) at an open hearing meeting last night
Richard Mawby (left) addressed the Planning Inspectorate panel (top right) at an open hearing meeting last night

The impact of massive rail depots on the Northamptonshire ecosystem will be 'catastrophic' says a nature reserve owner who warned similar industrial developments were 'digging us deeper into an early grave'.

Richard Mawby, who lives in Gayton and own a nature reserve near the trainline, was speaking at an open floor hearing yesterday as part of the Planning Inspectorate's (PINS) review of Roxhill's Northampton Gateway project.

The potential cumulative impact of both rail depots

The potential cumulative impact of both rail depots

The plans, if approved by transport secretary Chris Grayling, would see huge warehouses built on land between Collingtree and Roade, while a separate application by Ashfield Land called Rail Central would result in the countryside between Milton Malsor and Blisworth being occupied by further warehouses.

Both developments are being inspected by PINS because the "strategic rail freight interchanges" are considered of "national significance" so will not go through the usual process of local authority planning committees.

Mr Mawby, 28, who runs Forage Frolics and teaches people how to live off wild foods, raised his concerns over the impact the Northampton Gateway and Rail Central projects would have on the local environment and further afield.

"My objections steer towards an environmental nature, a human concern and the bigger picture on a cumulative impact that both Northampton Gateway and Rail Central will produce," he told the Planning Inspectorate panel.

"We look at the world through a superficial lens and whilst the proposed applications address the visual impact on the landscape, there is something much deeper to consider.

"Simply transplanting a habitat is not straightforward and although visually pleasing, the moment you dig deep into the soil and start cutting down trees you are destroying decades, if not centuries, of developed ecosystems.

"Span this across the multiple developments across the UK and the true scale of loss of habitat is substantial and alarming.

"A simple drive across the county, or country, will reveal the reality of mass industrialisation and the resulting loss of farmland and natural landscapes.

"There is only so much our ecosystems can handle before they encounter a catastrophic collapse, which you could argue is already happening."

Mr Mawby was not the only speaker to raise environmental concerns with the panel.

Others mentioned the poor air quality and its further deterioration should the plans go ahead as a result of thousands more HGVs emitting fumes in Northamptonshire.

Also speaking at the meeting was Northamptonshire County Councillor Adam Brown (Con, Bugbrooke) who told the panellists of the local authority's intention to write to Mr Grayling and PINS expressing its opposition to both projects.

"It is inevitable that the proposed developments will increase the already poor air quality," Mr Mawby continued.

"This is a violation to us as humans and research shows a decrease in health and mental clarity or cognitive intelligence as a result of increased pollutants in the air.

"There should be measures to reduce this, not to increase it.

"Estimations and predictions also suggest that due to an increase in temperature, many areas of the world will become uninhabitable within the next century and if we do not act fast and act now to mitigate and fix the damage to our planet, we are fast-tracking our way into the next mass extinction.

He added: "Short-term fixes and quick profiting is not the way forwards – and HS2 or other industrial developments are most certainly digging us deeper into an early grave.

"And so I repeat, is this the future that we want to give to our future generations? – I think not."