Controversial employment park at Brixworth refused planning permission

A masterplan shows how the estate would have looked had planning permission been approved.A masterplan shows how the estate would have looked had planning permission been approved.
A masterplan shows how the estate would have looked had planning permission been approved.
A controversial employment park that had been earmarked for the edge of Brixworth has been refused planning permission.

Pedrix Limited had applied for an extension to the Brixworth Strategic Employment Area (SEA), to the west of Mercedes Avenue, for up to 33,500 square metres of commercial units for research and development, office space, industrial units and storage and distribution.

But members of Daventry District Council’s planning committee refused planning permission when it met virtually on Wednesday (August 5), agreeing with concerns that the scheme went against the Brixworth Neighbourhood Plan. It was also cited as going against the Local Plan Part 2 and the Joint Core Strategy for the area.

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Brixworth, Scaldwell, Old and Lamport & Hanging Houghton Parish Councils had all raised strong objections to the proposals and over 90 letters of objection were received from local residents – with approximately 75 from residents of Scaldwell, three from Brixworth, four from Old, one from Hanging Haughton and six from Maidwell.

The application site (in red) is next to the Mercedes site in Brixworth.The application site (in red) is next to the Mercedes site in Brixworth.
The application site (in red) is next to the Mercedes site in Brixworth.

An objection on behalf of the Brixworth Parish Council and the village’s Neighbourhood Plan steering group read: “We object on the basis that the proposal represents an unacceptable development as it is in the open countryside, harmful to the character and form of the village, it lies outside the confines of the village and is contrary to the Development Plan.

“Despite the assertions by the applicants that there is a need for the development, the proposals are speculative and development will be harmful to the village and are in direct conflict with relevant policies. It is considered that the proposal, by virtue of its scale, layout and uses would have an unacceptable visual impact on the character and appearance of the village. The proposal sets a dangerous precedent for other unacceptable development outside the village.”

And the majority of councillors appeared to be swayed by those arguments. Councillor Kevin Parker, a member of the committee who also represents the Brixworth ward, proposed that the scheme be refused, saying: “If you’ve got policies you have to adhere to them. There’s no point selecting or being selective on what you want to use or don’t want to use.

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“It’s quite clear that with the Part 2 Plan – which is the latest one – the inspector found no reasons to allocate further land and you have to show clear evidence that there is a need. There isn’t a need because of the four firms that showed an interest in going there, we’re down to one. So there’s not the clear evidence to go forward, so we have to stand by the policies.”

Councillor Cecile Irving-Swift, who represents the area for the county council but was speaking as a district councillor on the committee, added: “A lot of the villages have sent me their concerns. Brixworth spent a lot of time on their Neighbourhood Plan and approving this would demoralise everyone who worked on it. To go against that would be very sad.”

Planning officers had recommended the scheme for approval, saying that although it was contrary to some policies such as the Neighbourhood Plan, the Local Plan Part 2 allowed such developments if a need for certain developments was apparent.

Officers wrote: “The view is taken that the proposal would satisfy Policy EC4 which supports further economic development beyond defined employment areas, where it can be demonstrated that the existing SEA is at capacity and providing it is demonstrated that the proposal is necessary to support or enhance the role and function of the SEA.”

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And four of the 13 councillors supported the applicant’s proposals, saying it would bring much needed employment to the area. Councillor Malcolm Longley said: “I think we should be encouraging development. I’m in support of this because I think it’s the sort of thing we should be doing going into the economic downturn that we likely are. I think we have a duty to support the economics of Northamptonshire, not put a damp cloth on it. I’m actually quite surprised at how many of the parish councils are so clearly very opposed to it, I would have thought the economy and jobs would outweigh that.”

But speaking just before the scheme was refused, Councillor Mark Wesley said: “I think we should listen to the local people here. They’re not being silly. It’s easy to say we need to build industrial units because we have to get employment. Times are changing and it’s not all about that, we have policies on planning and development and this cuts right across it. If you’re going to go to the trouble of having policies, what’s the point in opening the window at the first opportunity just because it looks a little bit nice and there’s the possibility of an industrial estate and jobs. I know jobs are important, but so is the countryside and peoples’ quality of life.”

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