It’s crunch time for Harborougha housing plans

The Airfield Farm site, taken from Gartree Road. The Harborough Innovation Centre building can be seen on the horizon to the left. (Mail file picture by Andrew Carpenter).
The Airfield Farm site, taken from Gartree Road. The Harborough Innovation Centre building can be seen on the horizon to the left. (Mail file picture by Andrew Carpenter).

A planning meeting which is being described as the most important in Harborough’s recent history will be held in the town next week.

The extraordinary meeting of Harborough District Council’s planning committee on Monday, being held at Harborough Market to allow for a large public attendance, will discuss the building of 1,500 new houses in the town.

The homes, if approved, would increase the town’s population by about 3,600 people – or nearly a sixth.

The three major planning applications relate to development at Airfield Farm and adjoining fields on a great swathe of land to the west of the town, between Lubenham Hill and Leicester Road.

At a full council meeting on Monday this week, both Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders urged the public to attend this Monday’s meeting, which starts at 6.30pm.

Cllr Blake Pain, leader of the Conservative-run council, said: “It’s really important that Harborough people engage in the single biggest development that Harborough has seen for many years.”

Opposition Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Phil Knowles added: “It’s a very, very important meeting and I hope the public will turn out and become involved.”

The 1,500-home developments are divided into three separate planning applications.

The least controversial is the biggest – for 924 dwellings on the Airfield Farm site, off Leicester Road. It’s application number is 11/00112/OUT.

Market Harborough Civic Society says: “We support the principle of development on this area.”

The controversial issue with this scheme is the proposed southern access to the estate, in Leicester Road.

A bridge across the canal would link the proposed estate to the main B6047 Leicester Road, just north of St Luke’s Hospital.

Residents from The Woodlands estate nearby say the new link will bring traffic chaos to their area, destroy rural tranquility and mean the destruction of a 92-year-old footbridge.

“It’s a ludicrous plan,” said residents’ spokesman Lawrie Gatehouse. “Any other of the developer’s alternative routes would be better.”

The civic society agrees that the link road should be moved northwards.

The application that looks nearest to completion is application 12/00044/FUL for 119 dwellings and supporting development, on land north of Lubenham Hill.

But in an unusual intervention, council leader Cllr Pain has written: “I have significant concerns about the residential amenity aspect of this application.”

Cllr Pain says the development is too dense and characterless, and that the estate has house-height and drainage issues which need resolving. He concludes that this application needs “further work”.

The civic society says: “We have raised strong objections to this development.

“It will take development outside the town boundaries, to the detriment of its attractive rural setting.

“The development is too dense and out of character with the form of development in Lubenham Hill.”

Application 13/01483/OUT for 450 dwellings, lies between the other two developments.

County council archeologists have found extensive, well-preserved archaeological remains dating to the Iron Age and Roman periods on this site.

They recommend that no development takes place before a further programme of archeological work can be organised.

The civic society says: “We feel this development should be refused because of the impact on the wider landscape, and the amount of housing proposed for Market Harborough.”

Some objectors have condemned all three sites, saying the rapid growth involved could spoil our small market town.

But Cllr Pain says in his letter it is no longer a question of “if” development takes place on the three sites only “when”.