Residents fuming at return of planning application to knock down community garages in Northampton estate

Residents have been left fuming after a planning application to demolish their garages has come back ‘virtually unchanged’.

Friday, 15th March 2019, 11:52 am
Updated Friday, 15th March 2019, 2:26 pm
John Connolly and Ann Brooks are trying to save the garage block in Boothville

Northamptonshire Partnership Homes (NPH) had applied to demolish the block of 20 garages at Keswick Drive, in Boothville, to build two new homes.

Councillors decided to defer the application when it previously came before the Northampton Borough Council planning committee in December after hearing from residents that the garages were well used.

The council’s head of planning Peter Baguley told the committee that he would be happy to take the plans back to NPH to see what alterations could be made, including the potential retention of some of the garages towards the north of Keswick Drive.

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The garage block is set to make way for two new homes, but residents say they are well used and don't want to lose them

However, the application has now surfaced again, and the only change is an extra two parking spaces being created.

It has left resident Ann Brooks, who lives next to the garages and leases one of them, frustrated that it has come back. She has also criticised the lack of consultation.

Ann, who is the spokeswoman for the Save Our Garages campaign, said: “We were told that we would be kept in the loop if any changes came forward, and that hasn’t happened. I can say hand on heart that I’ve not been sent anything. Some neighbours got letters, others got emails.

“I am so frustrated. This is a quiet community and we are happy and content. There’s no aggro, graffiti or drugs. But this community could be destroyed for just two houses, which is a drop in the ocean of what is needed.”

Neighbour John Connolly is also opposed to the plans, but is in the unique position of being one of the 11 directors on the board of NPH.

He has urged his colleagues to think twice about the application, saying: “It’s not about not wanting homes, it’s about losing garages. They should have looked at this and seen that the community strongly want these garages. But they just haven’t listened at all.”

The residents are being backed up by Labour ward councillor Paul Joyce, who also criticised the lack of information being passed on to both himself and the residents.

He said: “I’ve looked at it and I can only see an additional two parking spaces. They were tasked with looking at retaining some of the garages, but to me it looks like virtually the same plan.

“Since that meeting I’ve heard nothing really. And I would like to think that some residents have not been a target, but I’m concerned with what has happened in the consultation. I will be raising these concerns at the meeting on Tuesday. The local community feel like they are not being listened to throughout this.”

Planning officers at the borough council say that discussions have taken place with NPH regarding whether it is feasible to retain any of the existing garages.

The planning papers, which will be read by councillors when they meet to discuss the application again on Tuesday (March 19) say: “It has been confirmed that some of the garages do have structural issues that are likely to create further issues in the future. Furthermore, there are some vacancies within the garage court and some of the garages are likely to be more challenging to access.

“Whilst it has not been possible to amend the scheme to retain some of the existing garages, as a satisfactory layout would not be achieved, the layout of the development has been amended in order to increase the number of parking spaces from seven to 11.

“Given that the development is for the provision of two one-bedroom dwellings, it therefore follows that there is a likelihood the majority of the replacement parking spaces would be available for the occupiers of existing dwellings. In addition, the applicant has confirmed that the occupiers of garages would be offered a replacement facility and has provided the council with a list of alternative sites within the localised vicinity where alternatives garages are available.”

But residents have argued that the alternative garage provision is too far away, and questioned the report’s findings on the structure of the garages.

Ann Brooks said: “There’s nothing wrong structurally with the garages. One of them has had the cement come away, but structurally they are sound.”

Northampton Partnership Homes is an organisation that manages Northampton Borough Council's housing services.

With regards to consultation, planning officers say it has been the subject of public consultation ‘in line with the requirements of the council’s adopted Statement of Community Involvement in respect of planning applications’.