It’s been a quiet few months regarding both the Northampton Gateway and the Rail Central SRFI proposals, but I know residents are keen to hear the latest on where both developments are.
The two action groups have been working hard to keep the community updated; my office and I have been in regular contact with them throughout the summer coordinating next steps.
For Northampton Gateway, the Planning Inspectorate has made its recommendation to the Secretary of State on whether to grant or not grant a Development Consent Order, and we await his decision by the 10th October. He has recently asked for further information from the developer, Roxhill, on measures relating to air quality and vehicle emissions, as well as for more detail on assessments for construction of the Roade Bypass and A508 corridor. At this stage, it isn’t possible to infer anything from the request for more information, nor do we yet know what conclusion the Transport Secretary will reach. I have however written to him to ask what impact the recent acknowledgement by the Chairman of HS2 Ltd that HS2 Phase One may not be delivered until 2031 will have on the business case for Northampton Gateway, and I will update as soon as I know more. You can read more about the application, including a timeline of events, here.
The Rail Central situation is more complex, and deeply frustrating. We had originally anticipated the DCO application being made in June 2017; this subsequently was pushed back to September 2018. In October 2018, the Secretary of State rejected the application as it was not of a standard deemed acceptable. A new application was submitted and accepted in November 2018. In March 2019, the developer, Ashfield Land, wrote to the Planning Inspectorate requesting a delay to the preliminary meeting and the formal start of the examination of their proposals. This was accepted, and the date of the preliminary meeting was pushed back to the 10th December 2019, with requirements that the developer adhere to strict milestones between now and then to provide detailed additional information. In August, the Planning Inspectorate wrote to the developer expressing substantial concerns about the level of detail provided in the milestone returns and the implications of the limited progress on the revised programme. The developer has since responded to request a further delay to the preliminary meeting to the 10th December 2020, which is being considered by the Planning Inspectorate. You can read more about this process, including timelines, here.
This is most unsatisfactory, as it extends the delay and uncertainty that all residents in the surrounding area are feeling, causing misery and heartache to so many. If the developer is incapable of adhering to milestone requirements set by the Planning Inspectorate, then they should have their application thrown out. I have written to the Transport Secretary to request an urgent meeting to discuss this, and I am grateful that he has accepted my invitation. This will happen as soon as possible, subject to diary availability, and I will report back.
Further, most recently, at the request of the Chairmen of the two local action groups – Mark Redding and Rod Sellers – and on behalf of the 17,500+ people who are signatories, yesterday I formally presented a public petition to the House of Commons, requesting the Secretary of State not grant a Development Consent Order for either proposal. You can view a copy here, and as below.
And finally, before I was appointed as Business Secretary, in July I asked the Transport Secretary – via a Written Parliamentary Question - when his Department last (a) undertook a review and (b) updated the National Policy Statement for National Networks which governs SRFI policy; and whether he plans to undertake a (i) review of and (ii) public consultation on the National Policy Statement for National Networks in the next parliamentary session. The then-Minister, Andrew Jones, responded to say that “the Secretary of State may review and update the National Policy Statement for National Networks (NPS NN) at his discretion. The Department’s focus is to ensure that the NPS NN, introduced in 2014, remains fit-for-purpose. At this time there are no ambitions or fixed timescales for a review of the NPS NN. Should the Secretary of State decide to amend or replace the NPS NN there will be a public consultation.” In a subsequent letter to me of the 22nd August, the Transport Secretary has outlined that his Department is currently considering its response to the National Infrastructure Commission Freight Study and will take the NPS NN into account, as appropriate.
I will continue to do everything I can to support my constituents on these two applications, and would always welcome anyone with any concerns getting in touch with me if I can help on any specific issue.