'Hugely disappointing': Campaigners, council and readers react to Northampton Gateway rail depot approval

A map of where the Northampton Gateway strategic rail freight interchange would go. Photo: Roxhill
A map of where the Northampton Gateway strategic rail freight interchange would go. Photo: Roxhill

Campaigners described the decision to approve a controversial proposal to build a huge rail depot to the south of Northampton as 'hugely disappointing'.

The transport secretary gave permission for the Northampton Gateway strategic rail freight interchange to go ahead on Thursday (October 10).

Rod Sellers from Stop Northampton Gateway campaign group said the impact of the scheme will be felt widely but believes there is 'little more communities can do'.

"This is a hugely disappointing decision by the minister. As it has been made by the government rather than a locally-elected planning authority, it is hard to combat," he said.

"We fail to see how this project is seen as of such ‘national significance’ that it can override the agreed strategic plan for West Northamptonshire, the objections of local MPs, Northamptonshire County Council, scores of local communities and a long list of environmental issues."

Developer Roxhill will build a large rail depot on land east of the West Coast Main Line and next to junction 15 of the M1 between Milton Malsor and Collingtree.

It will include including container storage and HGV parking, with landscaping, new access on the A508, a new bypass for Roade, and improvements to J15, as well as creating thousands of jobs.

But campaigners, MPs and residents cited concerns around existing unused capacity at nearby Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal and capacity constraints on the West Coast Main Line.

As well as the impact of thousands of additional vehicle movements on the roads, increased air and noise pollution, the blight on the landscape and that the sites are not earmarked for industrial development.

The government's approval split opinion between Chronicle & Echo readers on Facebook.

Shaun Oakey wrote: "A sad day for Northampton," while Susan Payne said: "More countryside swallowed up."

Nicola Timson posted: "What a shame. I can’t believe it. Tragic for the villages. Only tonight driving to Blisworth the traffic was bumper to bumper. The extra traffic is going to cause so many problems, accidents let alone pollution. Sad day!"

However HGV driver Marc Whitlock said he welcomed the proposal as lorry parking with facilities is very-much needed nationwide.

"Truck stops, laybys and services get full very quickly at night and lunchtime. Drivers are fed up with parking in unsafe spots with no toilets and having diesel and loads stolen," he commented.

"We are the people who keep your shelves stacked with food. We deliver fuel so you can get to work. All we ask is a safe place to stop and rest with a toilet. Not to much to ask?"

While Gavin Lynch wrote: "Growth is good, building equals jobs and money circulating the economy of Northampton."

And Carl Roberts put: "This is actually going to stop a lot of journeys by lorries bringing things from the ports. The train can bring 50 at a time, so actually a benefit for the environment."

A similar strategic rail freight interchange between Blisworth and Milton Malsor, called Rail Central, has also been proposed.

Cllr Phil Bignell, South Northamptonshire Council’s deputy leader and portfolio holder for planning, believed Northampton Gateway was the better of the two and hopes the government will turn down the other one.

“There are two similar proposals for this area, and while we would rather have had neither, Northampton Gateway had the least impact on the district and delivered the most benefits," he said.

“Roade is in desperate need of a bypass and junction 15 of the M1 requires improvements if it is to keep up with the pace of change.

“We will work closely with developers to minimise disruption to residents and maximise the benefits this development might bring to the wider district.

“The Rail Central proposals continue to falter after the applicant’s failure to prepare proper evidence and to stick to their own timetable.

“We would hope the planning inspectorate will now see the people of South Northants are doing their bit for the national good and that further development in this area is unwarranted.”

Roxhill did not respond to a request for comment. The full decision can be read here.

READ MORE: Controversial Northampton Gateway rail depot given green light by transport secretary