Northampton Development – Promises Broken – Will People Feel Betrayed?
There was an interesting and I have to say not unexpected reaction from the Leader of the Borough Council when instead of listening to a discussion on the West Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy which he and his Conservative colleagues will be accepting as the Development Strategy for Northampton decided in a true primary school way that it would be amusing to emit a loud affected yawn indicating his disregard of the subject and its importance to Northampton.
I wonder if he will take the same approach with those who voted Conservative in the last Borough Council election based on promises made by his colleagues such as, “We are opposed to the Joint Core Strategy and will oppose developments” in their pre-election leaflets in and letters sent by Borough Councillors notably Cllr Larratt (Con) lambasting the leadership for not taking the Northamptonshire South developments out of the Joint Core Strategy.
It is amazing that Cllr Mackintosh has such a low regard for the residents of Northampton or it may simply be that he doesn’t understand the importance of the Joint Core Strategy and the impact it is going to have on the people of Northampton.
Who knows it may be because he is already planning his escape route (future Leader of the County Council perhaps?) so whatever problems are created now will not be his concern and why when he spoke he was unable to look the opposition in the eye the true mark of someone who is either unsure or unable to justify their position.
The facts are that even though the issues of the Grosvenor Centre, Bus Interchange and Enterprise contract which have in recent times highlighted the failure and incompetence of the current administration, they are dwarfed by the importance of the JCS which is designed to provide the basis for the infrastructure development, employment, environmental improvements and strategic planning across the whole of the Borough and its borders, and is there to, as stated in the document to prevent
“an uncoordinated approach through speculative developer led planning and related applications”
I have written on many occasions expressing my concerns over the National Planning Policy Framework, the dreaded NPPF and especially the “presumption in favour of the developer”
It is however now legislation and so it would be natural and sensible for the Joint Core Strategy (JCS) to comply with the legislation.
What of course always and naturally causes the greatest concern is the scale of the housing developments and especially in areas where there is a population of predominantly home ownership residents, where Greenfield sites are threatened and where there exists a semi-rural established community such as those in Hardingstone, Wootton and Collingtree and the Hunsbury’s.
They are concerns and fears that were recognised as being a political advantage during the run up to the last election and the fact that at the time all of Borough Council members on the Joint Planning Committee who would decide on the Core Strategy were Liberal Democrats was used to claim that a Conservative administration would reverse the process.
It also helped politically that the planning decisions could have been laid at the feet of the WNDC.
It is now the case that all of the members on the deciding body are Conservatives so people in the Collingtree, Wootton, Hardingstone and the Hunsbury’s will naturally be asking why the promises haven’t been kept.
It will also be the case that the Northampton Borough Council Planning Committee which has a Conservative majority will also be deciding on any future planning applications for at least the next three years.
The problem for the majority of the public and one that is being relied on by the administration is that the Joint Core Strategy (even the name fails to raise enthusiasm) is a huge tomb and not something everyone will want to read.
It is perhaps why the Leader of the Council along with his Conservative colleagues rejected the Labour motion and have refused to come back to the Council meeting in September to explain why they have reneged on their promise.
Surely a mature, confident and intelligent administration would be more than willing and capable of justifying why they support the JCS and why it is important to move it forward to implementation next year.
The major impact will be through a number of Sustainable Urban Extension (S.U.E.) developments around Collingtree, Wootton, Hardingstone and the Hunsbury’s that will see over 2000 new homes being built and which if the option in the JCS is taken up to apply for 40% of them to be affordable housing for rent will see 800 homes fall into this category.
Northampton Borough Council with a waiting list of over 8000 at the current time will have the authority and responsibility to nominate tenants to these homes and they will of course be very welcome by families who are in desperate need of homes.
It will mean that the population in the areas will rise by it is estimated over 4500 people, and with the Northampton Related Development Area (NRDA) that will be decided by the planning committee of South Northamptonshire it may be even higher.
What will be seen is a fundamental change in the whole area from one of predominantly home ownership to a more mixed housing tenure community more in line with that we see in the Eastern District.
As a resident of Little Billing where such a neighbourhoods exist I personally don’t see it as a problem, and in fact it adds to a more balanced community.
What people who already live in the areas affected may be more concerned about is the proposals that sites and pitches for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Show people, as required under the NPPF may be as stated in the JCS, “integral to and planned alongside the Sustainable Urban Extensions” which in Northampton will mean providing 32 residential and 5 transit sites.
What will be helpful is the recommendation that single sites shouldn’t be bigger than 15 pitches to make any planned sites manageable which will mean that at least two sites will have to be provided.
Cllr Mackintosh may have decided last night that the subject wasn’t worth his undivided attention but I’m sure he will pay more attention when the residents of areas that are being taken for granted as the people of Collingtree, Wootton Hardingstone and the Hunsburys have been start to ask why they have been so badly let down by a Conservative administration who they helped put in charge of the Guildhall and County Hall.
Of all the issue affecting Northampton I predict that this will be one that will create, as we saw over Buckton Fields, a major onslaught against those in control of Northampton Borough Council, and one that they will ignore and disregard at their peril.
Labour recognise the importance but also the problems and concerns around the implementation of the JCS and growth of Northampton, unlike the Conservatives we will continue to Listen to Northampton not Ignore and Disregard them.