Bulldozers move in on new Northampton house development fought for over a decade

Bulldozers and diggers turned up yesterday (Monday, June 25) on land near Lancaster Way. (Pictured Cllr Davenport and Alec Brit).
Bulldozers and diggers turned up yesterday (Monday, June 25) on land near Lancaster Way. (Pictured Cllr Davenport and Alec Brit).

Bulldozers have moved in on a stretch of green space in Delapre despite an 11-year fight by members of the public to save it.

Back in January this year, Northampton Borough Council granted planning permission for Xcite Projects to develop a nine-acre space off Lancaster Way, off Towcester Road, to build nearly 140 houses - and tear through the street's last patch of green space.

The build has been controversial for the residents of Lancaster Way and the proposal has been contested since 2007.

In the past, residents have protested against losing the road's last green space, which would need to be torn up for a mini roundabout to serve the new development.

Those living nearby say children have used the grassy area to play football on for a number of years.

Xcite Projects has recently sold the land to Barry Howard Homes, who have now moved heavy machinery onto the site to start the work.

Resident Alec Brit, 76, moved into his house back in 1998 and walks his westiepoo, Giggles, to the park.

He said: "Would you like to have a house build close to yours in an area where you have been looking at fields for the last 20 years?

"It will increase traffic and decrease the value of my house.

"The council does not own the land - the taxpayer does. This is our only green space and they are taking it away from us."

Alongside the 139 new houses, Barry Howard Homes was told it must build nearly 7,000 square-metres of public land and a play area into the new development as part of its planning agreement.

But the green land on the new development will not be adopted by the borough council.

Instead, the land must be signed off to a management company within 18 months of completion.

A Northampton Borough Council spokesman said: “Since the council sold its land adjacent to Lancaster Way to Xcite Projects Ltd, our understanding is that it has subsequently been disposed of.

“As part of planning permission granted for the site last autumn, a number of conditions were imposed including matters pertaining to contamination, ecology and drainage.

“Officers have recently been in touch with the developer to remind them of the conditions and their responsibility to discharge these ahead of work commencing on-site.

“And as part of the S106 agreement negotiated before planning permission was granted, the public open space, which forms part of the development, must be accessible to all members of the community.”

Councillor Julie Davenport (Independent, Delapre & Briar Hill) said: "The kids had their goal posts down there for months. They played football down there all the time. We had a fete up there once with games, and we were going to have a badger event last year.

"It's also our meeting place when we talk locally. If they fence it off today we won't be able to use it.

"A complaint has been submitted and accepted by the Local Government Ombudsman over the sale of the land."

Around 50 of the houses must be affordable housing, and Barry Howard Homes will have to make contributions to local education.

Before any building can take place, a toucan crossing must be added to the nearby Towcester Road.

Development company boss Barry Howard said: "I can understand the residents' confusion about this but it's fairly commonplace for developers to sell and buy land off each other.

"The works taking place yesterday are simply the erection of a fence and a gate, which have been discussed with the planning officer.

"As always, we will comply with the pre-commencement planning conditions before implementing our planning permission for the development itself. We do have to provide temporary Welfare Facilities for our engineers while they carry out the work for the pre-commencement conditions as laid down in the health and safety policies.

"Being able to use a loo is a basic function.

"I don't have any details of a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman - and this would be a matter between the residents and the borough council - but we are committed to working with the local community to allay any fears, which they might have about our development, which will bring much-needed new houses into the locality.

"This has been a long journey and we are looking forward to finally delivering the much-needed affordable and family housing on this location."