HCRA (formed in 2008) consists of volunteers from all parts of the area (see map below) who are likely to be affected by development proposals on what is known as 'Sustainable Urban Extension Number 5' within the overall Expansion Strategy for greenfield sites around Northampton. We have been challenging the viability of this proposal for almost five years and 'crunch time' is now rapidly approaching.
Planning in Reverse
Strategic Town Planning is intended to work on the basis that potential areas for growth are identified, assessed and then allocated for development. Following that, Developers submit plans that are consistent with the strategy.
In Northampton it seems to work in reverse.
In 2008, Bovis publicised their proposal to build 2,200 houses on an area between Wootton Brook and the M1 and bordered on one side by the A45 Trunk Road and on the other by the Old Towcester Road, the A43. The land which is mainly farmland adjoining Collingtree Park Golf Course has long been problematical in terms of flood risk, road access and environmental issues. It is also valued as open space between the urban area and the Northampton Borough boundary.
The proposal received a very hostile reception from residents and no Planning Application was made.
In 2009, following the Regional Housing targets set by John Prescott, a new body the West Northamptonshire Joint Planning Committee (WNJPC) produced a Strategic Plan (West Northamptonshire Emergent Joint Core Strategy) that proposed 40,000 houses on various expansion sites on the fringes of Northampton which extended into the open countryside. To everyone's dismay, this included the land on which Bovis had made their original proposal in what appeared to be a straight ' cut and paste' exercise with 2,200 houses being allocated.
This 'emergent' JCS provoked a huge controversy throughout the proposed expansion area which led to protest marches, lobbying of council offices and wide coverage in the media. HCRA was active in this campaign along with groups from all around Northampton.
Following the General Election in 2010 and the stated intention of the new government to scrap the Regional Housing Targets, the WNJC produced a revised Expansion Plan with a reduced housing target of around 20,000.
Sadly, this plan still included the Hunsbury/Collingtree SUE No 5 site, with an allocation of 1,000 houses. This was particularly disappointing as there had been a hope that the new emphasis on 'localism' would mean that local communities had more of a say on developments that affect them and that District and Borough councillors, would take their new responsibilities more seriously. It is also of concern that there are already proposals for land not in SUE 5, but adjoining, for a further 400 houses to be built.
Before being designated, SUE's are supposed to be rigorously assessed to screen out land that is unsuitable and fail to meet a defined criteria. There is no evidence in the Joint Core Strategy as to how the environmental issues affecting SUE No5 (flood risk, traffic congestion, land stability, air and noise pollution) will be properly and adequately overcome or mitigated. On flood risk alone the area would seem unsuitable and on traffic issues it is known that the County Highways Authority does not favour this site. During every consultation exercise, SUE No 5 has attracted the most opposition of all the expansion sites. In the most recent consultation - of the 189 representations made - 185 were negative.
SUSTAINABLE URBAN EXTENSION No 5