Saturday 9 December 2023

What I said to the Planning Inspectorate


I was one of the nearly 40 people who spoke up in defence of Weekley Hall Wood and Meadow this week. This is what I said.

My words this evening come from my heart and while I appreciate that planning decisions must be made on legal grounds, there is surely some space for common sense and compassion.

Although I’m a recent émigré to Northamptonshire, having been here a mere 40 years, my children were born here. They both explored the woods on foot and on their bikes. Now our whole family enjoys the physical and mental health benefits of the natural environment there. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that on the dark days, Weekley Hall Wood and Meadow has been a life-saver.

Perhaps you’re not swayed by an emotional response, but let’s not forget that while you’re here in an official capacity, you surely have a place in your own life that is special to you. How would you feel if a warehouse were to be built on this?

There has been talk about the creation of thousands of jobs. Well, I worked for over 20 years for the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, and as such I am familiar with the skills shortages that prevail throughout the entire sector. The developers claim they will be creating jobs. No, they will be creating vacancies that will not be filled.

The traffic considerations, too, have been explored. Imagine yourself standing in our meadow or in your own special piece of the countryside, listening to the birds sing. Now imagine how difficult this it would be against a background of the rumble and disturbance of lorries and warehouse activity, not to mention the chaos that would occur during the construction phase.

I could wax lyrical about the wonderful opportunity that this situation offers the Duke to put right in part the atrocities carried out by his ancestors during the Newton Rebellion. However, I doubt you’d be swayed by such rhetoric. But what a lovely gesture it would be if the Duke were to give this land back to the town, perhaps as a country park. There is no doubt we are in the midst of a climate emergency and should be preserving our natural world. We have heard recently that England will get a new national park as part of a government set of ‘nature pledges’ to give greater access and protection to the countryside. Let’s accommodate that intention here. It would be so much better a legacy than concrete and steel.

We have of necessity been subject to a lot of legalise and jargon during these proceedings. ‘Mitigation’ has joined the list of my most hated words. And if we decipher that other phrase – ‘impact on biodiversity’ – we will see that it means destroying plants and killing wildlife.

There are many reasons not to allow this development but I cannot think of one reason to let it go ahead.

I’ve heard it said that there is no room for morals in planning decisions. Prove me wrong, please, by dismissing Buccleuch Property’s application. Thank you.

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