Public consultation on rail freight depot near Northampton

Residents opposed to the rail freight interchange proposals embarked on a protest walk in August 2017 (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Residents opposed to the rail freight interchange proposals embarked on a protest walk in August 2017 (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

A public consultation into one of the two rail freight interchange projects planned for land south of Northampton looks likely to take place this spring.

Earlier this month Northamptonshire County Council's cabinet discussed Roxhill's Northampton Gateway and Ashfield Land's Rail Central proposals for the construction of their Rail Freight Interchanges.

Campaigner Mark Redding (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Campaigner Mark Redding (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

During the meeting, Councillor Ian Morris said the authority had learned that Rail Central's public consultation is set to run from March 15 to April 23.

Northamptonshire County Council will have no say on the projects in its role as a planning authority because both developments are national infrastructure planning applications and are therefore dealt with by the Planning Inspectorate and approved by Sajid Javid, the communities secretary.

"We're aware of the public strength of feeling on this sort of matter and various other applications," said Cllr Morris (Con, Silverstone).

"We realise that noise, air and the effect on particular areas such as Collingtree are very important to many people around this table, never mind the country at large."

Councillor Morris continued to say that the county council will continue to produce its reports in order to "keep the public informed".

As the Rail Central public consultation is prepared, the Northampton Gateway project appears to be ahead of its rival having completed a second round of public exhibitions in 2017.

A formal application is therefore expected to be lodged in the first half of this year, while Rail Central's submission to the Planning Inspectorate is likely to be in the second half of 2018.

For either project to be approved, developers will need to demonstrate their benefit to the country as a whole.

This criterion is something Mark Redding, a spokesperson for both the Stop Rail Central and Stop Roxhill campaign groups, believes neither fulfills, and that ultimately the taxpayer will have to foot the bill for the application processes.

"That two developers are attempting to build two massive ‘speculative’ Rail Freight Interchanges right next to each other and only 18 miles from the largest SRFI in the country [DIRFT in Daventry] is fairly conclusive evidence that they do not have the ‘national good’ as their primary objective," said Mr Redding.

"Whilst we remain confident that it is highly unlikely any competent Government body would think that two next to each other would be a good idea, it is clear that there is no appetite to adopt a proactive approach to deal with this unprecedented situation.

"The Planning Inspectorate remain unmoved by the suggestion that an alternative approach is required to deal with this unique situation of two adjacent and competing proposals and appear determined to judge both individually on their own environmental merits, not on whether either or both would contribute to an effective national network.

"The consequence of this stance is that the taxpayer will be paying for two long and detailed application processes when there is, in all likelihood, very little chance of both being consented."