Petition launched to stop a new 2,000-home 'mini-town' being built on the outskirts of Harborough

“People have been stopping me in the street to protest after reading about this outrage in the Mail," said one councillor

Monday, 25th October 2021, 5:25 pm
Updated Monday, 25th October 2021, 5:26 pm
A petition has been launched to stop a new 2,000-home 'mini-town' being built on the outskirts of Harborough. Photo by Andrew Carpenter.

An outraged Harborough councillor is launching a petition in a bid to stop a “monster” new 2,000-home “mini-town” being built on the outskirts of Market Harborough.

Cllr Phil Knowles is acting as he vows to block any attempts to build the giant new estate on rolling farmland between Market Harborough and East Farndon to the south of the town.

He’s being backed by conservation leaders and furious residents after the Harborough Mail blew the lid off the potential massive development by neighbouring West Northamptonshire Council.

A petition has been launched to stop a new 2,000-home 'mini-town' being built on the outskirts of Harborough. Photo by Andrew Carpenter.

Cllr Knowles, who leads the Liberal Democrat group on Harborough District Council, told the Mail: “We’ve got one aim and one aim only – to stop this gigantic housing scheme taking off.

“We will fight night and day to prevent this enormous project ever getting off the ground," said the veteran councillor.

“Our local town councillors, Julie Simpson and Roger Dunton, are dead against this.

“And residents too are up in arms.

A petition has been launched to stop a new 2,000-home 'mini-town' being built on the outskirts of Harborough. Photo by Andrew Carpenter.

“People have been stopping me in the street to protest after reading about this outrage in the Mail.

“I know this is only in the formative stages and nowhere near being done.

“But this is precisely the time that we’ve got to nip it in the bud.

“We are calling on West Northants council to scrap this now and take it off the table.

“As I’ve already made clear – if this new mini-town goes ahead on the edge of Market Harborough its impact on all of us here would be catastrophic.

“Everybody knows that our entire infrastructure is already creaking – it’s bursting at the seams,” insisted Cllr Knowles.

“Another 2,000-3,000 new homes going up on our doorstep bringing in up to 10,000 more people will send us over the edge.

“Our roads, schools, dentist’s, medical centres, town centres, car parks – you name it, all of our facilities and services will be overwhelmed.

“So I’m calling on everyone in Market Harborough, East Farndon and across this area to sign our petition now.

“Tell West Northants council that enough is enough – we are just not having it.”

You can click on this link here to support Cllr Knowles’s petition: Pollak, 76, who leads the Harborough branch of the Open Spaces Society, the UK’s oldest national conservation group, told the Mail: “I retired here to Market Harborough seven years ago because I’ve always loved this town.

“But this madcap monster estate would wreck our fine town if it gets approved.

“We won’t be able to recognise the sleepy old market town we’ve all come to know and love.

“I live on Farndon Fields right by where all these thousands of new homes could be built,” said Peter, a lifelong rambler.

“I’ll put this petition on to our residents’ Facebook page here – and I’m urging all 900 members to get behind it now.

“I’d also warn people that if this new estate linking us up to poor old East Farndon does get built our council wouldn’t benefit from any of the Council Tax paid by the new residents.

“All that cash would go straight to West Northants council – along with any S106 builders’ money as well.

“So here in Market Harborough we’d get all of the negatives – and none of the positives.”

Cllr Jonathan Bateman, Harborough District Council’s Cabinet lead for planning, said: “West Northamptonshire Council is currently consulting on its Strategic Plan Spatial Options.

“There is a long-standing requirement for Local Plans to cover at least 15 years, but there is a new requirement to consider visions for 30 years in the case of significant growth.

“Having up-to-date evidence about land with development potential is a requirement of the Strategic Plan process.

“This involves a ‘Call for Sites’ which invites landowners to submit sites for consideration for future development.”

He added: “West Northamptonshire has made us aware at an officer level of sites submitted under their ‘Call for Sites’ process that are close the Harborough District boundary as part of the ‘Duty to Cooperate’ for planning authorities.

“It’s important to note that submitting a site does not give it any planning status.”

Cllr Phil King, the leader of Harborough council, said: “I can understand why people are concerned about this.

“I have concerns myself.

“But we have to approach this with an open mind – and keep all of our options open.

“Liberal Democrat councillors like Phil Knowles are ‘fettering their discretion’ by coming out and threatening to try and stop this now.

“They are not being objective and impartial – and they may not, as a result, be able to take part in any decision-making re this potential development in the future,” warned Cllr King.

“And that’s a shame because that would effectively disenfranchise the voters of Market Harborough represented by Cllr Knowles and his colleagues.

“We’ve got to be measured about this.

“This site isn’t in Harborough district and it might not even run.

“We’ll have to see if it’s deliverable or not as part of West Northants council’s Local Plan.

“No matter what you think about this, there’s a legitimate debate to be had here.

“The UK’s population has grown over the last 20 years and we need many more new homes – that’s the stark reality we’ve all got to face.

“We need the right mix of homes, facilities and services for proper communities to be created.

“We will work with and alongside West Northants council if their members do decide to go ahead with this particular scheme.

“And we would, I’m sure, make comments about the Council Tax and S106 money situation in our submission to their council.

“We’d also have to address practical everyday issues such as who would empty the bins?

“We would have to agree a statement of common ground with West Northants council before they could progress their Local Plan to the formal inspection stage,” said Cllr King.

“But I don’t want to get too hung up on just one possible blueprint when we’ve got 250 sites to look at ourselves in Harborough district itself.”

Cllr Rebecca Breese, West Northamptonshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, Built Environment and Rural Affairs, is imploring local people to make their voices heard on the bombshell issue.

“We’ve done our best to make sure everyone has a chance to have their say.

“Our drop-in sessions are taking place in some of the areas that have been identified as having potential for future building.

“We are ensuring events we hold are within reasonable reach of several areas where development could take place.

“We’re also organising a series of online events which people can register for, giving them the opportunity to discuss the plans and give their feedback,” said Cllr Breese.

“And of course, we’ll have physical copies of the relevant documents in a range of public buildings, along with paper forms that people can fill in.”

West Northamptonshire Council’s Strategic Plan (WNSP) states: “An area of land situated to the south of Market Harborough has been promoted previously through the call for sites process with a potential capacity of approximately 2,000 dwellings.

“Whilst the site is well-related to Market Harborough and would enable access for sustainable travel modes it does feature some notable constraints, part of the area is identified as special landscape area and it is relatively close to nearby scheduled monuments.

“Further historic assets exist in East Farndon and any development would need to protect against coalescence.

“Given the relationship of the area with Market Harborough, it is acknowledged that development in this location could help to meet the housing needs of Harborough District,” says the plan.

“As part of fulfilling requirements related to the duty to cooperate, discussions have taken place with officers at Harborough District Council.

“And at present, given they are in the formative stages of updating their local plan, it is not possible to establish at this time whether there is a need for land in this area to come forward.

“However, mindful that the WNSP covers the period to 2050 it felt appropriate to acknowledge the long-term development potential in this area and the need to maintain constructive dialogue with Harborough District Council moving forward.”

You can have your say on the council’s strategic plan until 11.59pm on Monday December 6.

Virtual public events will take place between 6pm and 7.30pm on Thursday October 21, Wednesday October 27 and Monday November 1.