New innovation centre approved near Daventry as 'benefits' outweighed planning policy breach

The innovation centre is associated with the re-use of the former Catesby railway tunnel for aerodynamic testing
The innovation centre is associated with the re-use of the former Catesby railway tunnel for aerodynamic testing

A new ‘innovation centre’ will be built as part of a vehicle testing hub in a Northamptonshire village - despite it breaching a local council’s planning policy.

Residents had objected to the new building on the former Charwelton rail station site, which also has planning permission for a vehicle testing and research facility. It is associated with the re-use of the former Catesby railway tunnel for aerodynamic testing, which is now under development.

The proposed two-storey centre will include offices, seminar space, café, and workshop which are proposed as a hub on the site of the tunnel and associated research and technology park.

It is anticipated 13 full-time and 35 part-time staff will work at the building, which is considered by the applicant to be a crucial element of the overall business venture and to have significant economic benefits to the area.

But objectors said that the scheme breached the council’s own policies on development in rural areas.

David Shelton, chairman of the Charwelton Neighbourhood Forum, said: “It has so many conflicts with policy and meets so little criteria. Neither does it have the scope required to be a success. A mock victorian engine shed will be an ugly addition to the landscape.”

A number of residents had also complained about the scale, size and design of the building.

But the applicant, Totamsim, said it had listened to neighbours’ concerns by withdrawing a previous application and changing the design.

Speaking at the Daventry District Council planning committee on Thursday evening (May 16), a spokesman for the applicant said: “This will encourage economic growth and employment and this is a key component of the success of the overall site.”

Planning officers recommended that the scheme be approved despite its policy conflict as the benefits outweighed the breach in policy.

Councillor Alan Chantler was one of the councillors who voted in favour of the scheme. He said: “This has come back to us and it’s actually better than the previous application and less obtrusive, so I have no hesitation in supporting it.”