Corby allows huge logistics scheme on unallocated site despite local plan officers' concerns

Corby Borough Council has given the green light to plans for a 400,000 square metre logistics scheme on open countryside despite the authority’s own local plan officers’ expressing concerns that the site is not allocated for development.

Logistics: huge scheme approved in Corby. Pic: Getty Images
Logistics: huge scheme approved in Corby. Pic: Getty Images

The council’s development control committee voted to approve outline plans by Mulberry Development Limited for up to 404,100 square metres of employment uses on a 162.5 hectare site. 

The site, on open countryside to the east of Corby on the A43, is in an area of high landscape sensitivity, adjoining a Site of Special Scientific Interest, according to a report presented to last week’s committee meeting.

It is also located within two and a half kilometres of the adjoining borough of East Northamptonshire, the report states. The two boroughs are due to be merged next year as part of a wider reorganisation of local government in Northamptonshire. 

However, Corby’s local plan officers pointed out in the report that the site was not allocated for development in the wider joint core strategy for North Northamptonshire, produced in 2016. 

They said the application was therefore "not supported in terms of planning policy".

The local plan officers also said there was an "over supply" of land allocated for employment across the joint strategy area, at "roughly double" the amount required over the plan period to 2031. 

They also pointed out that the proposed development was not included in the list of suggested sites for further evaluation when the last review of employment sites was carried out. 

However, the report goes on to say that Corby’s development management officers disagree with their local plan colleagues’ stance. They backed the scheme on the grounds that it would not distort the plan-led strategy, is located on a self-contained site close to other logistic uses along the A43 and would not result in a dispersed or unsustainable pattern of growth.

A response by the applicants state that the site and Corby more broadly is "highly attractive" to the logistics industry due to its geographical location and transport connections, which have been further enhanced by recent improvements to the strategic road network. 

They claim that the development will create more than 7,000 jobs and "no other" existing or proposed employment sites in Corby or beyond can accommodate the identified market needs. 

The report to members, which recommends approval for the scheme, concludes that sites currently allocated for employment are unable to accommodate a development on the scale proposed by Mulberry. 

It says: "If Corby is to compete economically at the sub-regional level it is important that it capitalises on its locational advantage to attract investment and grow the economy." 

The report also concludes that the impact of the proposed development on the open countryside is mitigated by the "general poor quality" of the agricultural land. 

The scheme’s "substantial benefits" are sufficient to clearly outweigh the harm to a site which the report says has "limited" amenity value. 

The report concludes: "Officers acknowledge that the building of a logistics proposal on the subject site results in some difficult choices, but taking all factors into consideration with this application, it is considered that the over-riding socioeconomic benefits of providing future jobs in the magnitude offered have been demonstrated to outweigh the loss of the site and any negative aspects."

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