Rail depots south of Northampton should not be built because East Midlands is already over capacity, says borough councillor

A motion to be put forward at a Northampton Borough Council meeting will argue that existing rail depots in the region mean there is no need to go ahead with plans for one or two more on land south of the town.

Wednesday, 5th September 2018, 3:02 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th September 2018, 5:48 am
If both the Rail Central and Northampton Gateway projects are given the go-ahead much of the countryside between Milton Malsor, Blisworth, Collingtree and Roade would be occupied by the rail depots

If both or either of the Rail Central and Northampton Gateway projects are given the go-ahead by the Planning Inspectorate much of the Northamptonshire countryside between Milton Malsor, Blisworth, Collingtree and Roade would be occupied by rail depots and warehouses.

In his motion for next Monday's full council meeting, Councillor Graystone (Con, Nene Valley) will argue that Strategic Rail Freight Interchanges (SRFI) are key to the Government's aim to move freight from road to rail but says the existing national policy states they should be built at a "wide range of locations".

"This council also notes that the NPSNN (National Policy Statement for National Networks) is clear that there is a need for an expanded network of large SRFIs across the regions to accommodate the long-term growth in rail freight, and that new rail freight interchanges, especially in areas poorly served by such facilities at present, are likely to attract substantial business, generally new to rail," wrote Councillor Graystone in his motion to council.

Stop Rail Central campaigner Mark Reddingwelcomed the council motion

"However, the NPSNN also states that existing operational SRFIs and other intermodal RFIs are situated predominantly in the Midlands and the north and that SRFI capacity needs to be provided at a wide range of locations, to provide the flexibility needed to match the changing demands of the market.

"This council believes that, as there is already around 39m sq. ft of SRFI-related warehousing either under construction or being proposed in the East Midlands alone, not including the existing SRFI warehousing capacity already present nor other SRFIs in the wider Midlands region, it is unclear whether the proposed local developments, Rail Central and Northampton Gateway, are compliant with the NPSNN."

Should it be passed, the borough council will write to transport secretary Chris Grayling to ask for an urgent review of the relevant national planning policies.

The earmarked land falls under the jurisdiction of Northampton Borough Council, South Northamptonshire Council and the county council but the authorities do not have a say on the planning process because the SRFIs are judged to be in the national interest so the final decision will be made by the Government's Planning Inspectorate.

Stop Rail Central campaigner Mark Redding welcomed the council motion.

"It is heartening to see that local councils are finally waking up to the fact that you cannot build an effective strategic national network by considering individual applications in isolation," he said.

"The fundamental flaw with the policy is that it relies on developers to act for the 'national good' and bring forward SRFIs where they are needed and where they will actually work.

"Unfortunately the profit motive of private developers is somewhat at odds with doing the right thing: whilst unintentional, the policy currently provides a very convenient loophole which allows developers to bypass local planning policy and build warehouse parks with only the most basic of rail connectivity.

"The intent of the policy is clear, developers are just choosing to ignore it.

"It is beholden on us all to make sure the Government does not let this happen."