Controversial plans to build two warehouses near the M1 in Northampton have been approved by councillors.
The warehouses, to be used for storage and distribution, will be built on Milton Ham Farm near junction 15 of the M1, and will have the capacity for 47 lorries to be on site.
The application was submitted by Northampton firm Travis Perkins, who will use the receipts of the site to help fund restoration work on their existing facilities in the town.
This latest scheme follows a previous application that was rejected back in 2015, a decision upheld by a planning inspector a year later.
But the latest proposals were given the green light by councillors on Northampton Borough Council’s planning committee on Tuesday (November 20), bringing to an end to decades of speculation over what would happen with the site.
The decision though is likely to upset a number of local residents.
More than 30 logged objections with the council, complaining about the visual impact it would have on the character of the area, as well as the potential of congestion.
Local resident and former borough council leader Brian Hoare objected on the basis that the scheme breached the Northampton Local Plan policy due to the building's proximity to the site boundary.
But council officers felt that ‘the harm was not significant enough to warrant refusal’.
Mr Hoare added: “The report from officers says this is a better application than the last one, but that is not the basis on which you should make your decision.”
Concerns were also raised over ‘bunding’ that would screen the warehouse from the view of surrounding areas, the height of the building, and the fact that no occupiers were lined up for the site.
Martin Meech, group property director at Travis Perkins, told the planning committee: “Our intentions will be to seek occupiers for it and fill it up. We believe there’s a very healthy demand because we’ve not marketed it yet but we’ve already been approached.
"With the receipts, we will intend to invest in our facilities in the town. In particular, our head office needs rebuilding.”
And Jonathan Best, of Montagu Evans, the applicant’s agent, added: "The application was dismissed in 2016 due to the visual impact. So what’s changed?
“This has 40 per cent less floor space and the building heights have been reduced by five metres. The bunding will provide a more natural appearance, so it will not be a significant impact. No statutory consultees have objected to this scheme and it will create 350 jobs.”
Councillor Dennis Meredith was the only committee member not to vote in favour of the scheme, raising concerns that no archaeological digs had taken place on the site, which was occupied during Roman times.
But committee chairman Councillor Brian Oldham, said: “I spoke very strongly against the previous application because it got too big for its boots. But I think Travis Perkins has got to be commended for ticking all the boxes on this one. This site has been talked about for 30 years, and I think it’s time it was now developed.”