Rail Central plan for large transport depot near Northampton withdrawn...but will be re-submitted

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Rail Central, a controversial plan to build a large transport depot to the south of Northampton, has been withdrawn but will be re-submitted once changes have been made.

Applicants Ashfield Land and Gazeley were recommended to alter their strategic rail freight interchange (SFRI) on land between Milton Malsor and Blisworth by the planning inspectorate.

A statement from the developers said: "Ashfield Land and Gazeley will now continue to progress their work on the highways mitigation package for the project.

"We intend to submit a revised application to the planning inspectorate at the earliest opportunity, following completion of the highways work, public consultation and finalisation of the application material."

The SFRI, a collection of large warehouses, would be where the West Coast Main Line and Northampton Loop Line intersect, adjacent to the A43 and within two miles of junction 15A of the M1.

Stop Rail Central campaign group was set up to fight the plans, citing the land being earmarked to stay as countryside, pollution impacts and whether there is any need with a similar site near Crick.

The application was previously turned down by the planning inspectorate because it 'was not of a standard the secretary of state considered satisfactory' due to inconsistencies.

After being resubmitted, it was accepted by the inspectorate on November 15, but the developers asked for a delay before it was examined 'potential to improve its

proposed package of highways enhancements'.

On October 9, the inspectorate wrote to the developers saying ‘the application should be withdrawn and a new application incorporating the changes should be submitted’, with a deadline of today (Wednesday, October 23).

A similar SFRI for land next to where Rail Central would go, Northampton Gateway, was approved by the government on October 11, much to the disappointment of campaigners, MPs and councils.

Cllr Phil Bignell, South Northamptonshire Council’s deputy leader and portfolio holder for planning, hoped it would mean Rail Central would be rejected.

But the developers argue the decision 'recognises the suitability of this location for SRFI development'.

"Ashfield Land and Gazeley’s position has always been that, subject to the relevant planning decisions, there is no reason why Rail Central and Northampton Gateway cannot both be brought forward in this location," the statement reads.

"In addition, Rail Central has distinctive operational benefits, not least in its ability to service traditional container freight and the fast freight markets because of Rail Central’s direct connections into both the Northampton Loop Line and the West Coast Main Line."