Residents were left thrilled after councillors listened to their calls to defer a planning application to knock down their garages.
More than 165 people had signed a petition calling on the garage court at Keswick Drive, in Boothville, to be retained.
Councillors on Northampton Borough Council’s planning committee met last night (December 18) to determine an application from Northampton Partnership Homes (NPH) to knock the garages down to make way for two new homes for over 55s.
But councillors felt unable to vote the scheme through, and the plans will now go back to the drawing board, with the hope that some of them may be retained.
Speaking at The Guildhall meeting, Ann Brooks, who is chairman of the Save Our Garages campaign and leases one of the garages, said: “The community will be severely affected by this, for what is a small scheme from NPH’s five-year plan. We have been treated as an inconvenience throughout this. We believe it is wrong, immoral and unjust. The thought of losing their garages has been very distressing for some people.”
Councillors were told from the public gallery that the consultation by NPH had not been ‘sufficient’, with resident John Connolly saying: “This has been a really rushed through project, and the lack of consultation has left NPH red faced.”
But NPH disputed the assertion, with its representative Gary Owens saying that it had held two consultation events, and had actually altered the plans from three-bedroom homes to one-bedroom homes to mitigate parking concerns it said were raised during the workshops.
Residents added that an offer from NPH for another garage a mile away from the current site wasn’t good enough.
They were backed up by their ward councillor Paul Joyce, who told the committee: “If this development goes ahead this will raise the risk of additional vehicles being parked on the main road, especially on the corner of the proposed development, limiting vehicle visibility and creating a blind spot which could lead to a fatality.
“I understand the need for more social housing to be built, but this should not be at the expense of dividing the local community, and the loss of 20 garage areas which have only been refurbished in the last 18 months. Why demolish garages that have been refitted and demolish them again? Has NPH got money to burn?”
Councillor Jamie Lane, one of the councillors voting on the application, felt that the proposals would actually lead to more on-street parking, but was caught in two minds.
He said: “This is difficult, a real heart versus head decision. I know where I want to go on this because there's a petition of 165 people, but there's no planning reason for me to go there."
He ended up abstaining, as fellow committee member Cathrine Russell added: "It seems cruel to take away something from long-standing residents and not offer something similar in return."
Planning chair Brian Oldham shared their frustrations, but proposed the application be approved, saying: “Offering a garage a mile away isn’t reasonable, but it’s not a planning consideration. Every pantomime needs a villain I’m afraid, so I propose that we go with the officer’s recommendation to approve this.”
But Councillor Oldham failed to get any of the four other councillors to second his proposal, meaning that the scheme would be deferred, sparking scenes of delight in the public gallery.
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.