Housing plans will ‘give us certainty’

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CONTROVERSIAL housing expansion plans for Northampton have been backed by councillors despite fears being raised about the number of new job and school places needed to back up the developments.

At the beginning of January, The West Northamptonshire Joint Planning Unit (JPU), which is made up of councillors from across Northampton, Daventry, Towcester and South Northamptonshire, unveiled plans showing where 21,500 new houses could be built over the next 15 years.

With plans for 11,000 homes, the majority of the new houses would be on the outskirts of Northampton, but Daventry would also take 2,500, Towcester would take a further 1,500 and Brackley would have 1,760.

During a meeting of the JPU at the Guildhall in Northampton last night, members of the committee agreed to put the plans out for public consultation despite hearing concerns from members of the public and a number of committee members.

Addressing the committee, Roger Kingston, the leader of the Northants Residents Alliance, which opposes the plans, labelled the scheme ‘shocking’.

He said: “With this, you’re just repeating the mistakes that were made when Northampton was expanded towards the east. That development did nothing to save the town from its current state of lingering death.”

Some committee members also raised concerns that despite the plans showing where 21,500 new houses could be built by 2026, the plans only suggested one new secondary school should be built in Northampton and only 16,000 new jobs would be created across the whole area.

But officials from the JPU explained that greater numbers of new secondary schools and jobs were not needed because the new houses would only cater for the area’s current population, which is ageing. As the new houses are designed for the area’s current population, the officials also explained that despite the growth in homes, the overall number of children aged up to 19 in the area would ‘not increase significantly at all’ by 2026.

Northampton Borough Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, Councillor Richard Church (Lib Dem, Kingsthorpe), who is also a member of the JPU, added: “This is not for a massive movement of people into our area from outside and I think it’s very important for people to understand that.

“And if we didn’t have this, we’d be saying to people in 20 years you either live in a substantially overcrowded house or you’re homeless, that’s the truth of it.”

The areas around Northampton which have been highlighted for development include land at Buckton Fields near Whitehills, Dallington Heath near Kings Heath, land near Collingtree, land off Sandy Lane near New Duston, and an area between Wootton and Hardingstone.

The chairman of the JPU’s joint strategic planning committee, Councillor Chris Millar (Con, Guilsborough & West Haddon) told members of the public at last night’s meeting that despite any concerns they had, the plans would at least give certainty about the future.

Members of the public can give their opinions on the plans for six weeks from February 7.