A little over a month ago, when I was still your MP prior to the dissolution of Parliament, I held a public meeting in Roade Village Hall on behalf of local residents concerned about the two strategic rail freight interchange (SRFI) proposals, Rail Central and Northampton Gateway. It was good to have both developers at the meeting, Ashfield Land and Roxhill respectively, but it was truly excellent to see so many people turn up on a Friday evening to ensure that their voices were being heard and to allow the developers to see the collective strength of local feeling against the proposals.
So oversubscribed was the meeting that there were at least a hundred people listening outside through the open windows and doorways, and I am particularly grateful to them. I was glad to come out and speak to you during the start of the Q&A session, and many of you have been in touch with me directly since.
I made clear at that meeting that I was not at all convinced either developer has put forward a plan that meets the right criteria for development, and this remains my position.
Many residents have written to me to flag their concerns about there being no local need for further warehousing, the lack of capacity for additional freight paths on the West Coast Main Line, the low unemployment locally, the already stretched capacity of our local road networks and their inability to take additional traffic flows for HGVs and commuting workers, the significant environmental impacts, and a number of other issues. The onus is very much on the developers to a) prove the business case and b) deliver effective mitigation.
One of the key points, as Roxhill admitted at the public meeting in Roade, is that they expect to only operate two trains per day until 2026. My understanding of the Government’s policy guidance for SRFIs is that they must be “capable of handling over 4 goods trains per day” - I would encourage everyone to familiarise themselves with this policy guidance and consider it when responding to any future planning consultations, particularly if and when either proposal goes before the Planning Inspectorate.
You may be interested in some of the correspondence I’ve had with Network Rail whilst I was your MP regarding capacity on the West Coast Main Line. You can read my letter of the 27th March to Network Rail here and Network Rail’s response of the 12th April here.
I would strongly welcome any continuing comments and feedback from local residents about either proposal, and you can find the best way to contact me here.
Those of you who follow my blog will be aware that I have provided frequent updates about the two SRFIs as they have progressed so far, including submitting my responses to both developers on their initial consultation documents. You can find out more about my work for you on Rail Central and Northampton Gateway when I was your MP here.
I do hope to be re-elected as the Member of Parliament for South Northamptonshire on June 8th so that I can continue to represent you and work on your behalf to hold both developers to account. If I am re-elected, I will be seeking meetings with both developers, Network Rail, and the local action group (Stop Rail Central) as soon as possible, and engaging with the next stages of consultation for both proposals as soon as they are announced - I hope to use all of the hundreds of emails, letters and comments I have received from residents as the basis for that submission, so please do keep sending them to me!