Rail Central (Strategic Rail Freight Interchange)

The views expressed in this page do not represent those of the Planning Inspectorate. This page consists of content submitted to the Planning Inspectorate by the public and other interested parties, giving their views of this proposal.

Rail Central (Strategic Rail Freight Interchange)

Received 30 November 2018
From Stop Rail Central Ltd

Representation

Stop Rail Central Limited (SRC) is a non-political, non-profit making Organisation formed to represent the local community. SRC strongly object to Rail Central for the following reasons:
1. POLICY COMPLIANCE. Strategic rail freight interchanges are required to conform with many policies within the National Policy Statement for National Networks. The proposal for Rail Central does not conform with several of these policies including air quality, environmental impact, local workforce availability, proximity to residential areas, road safety, quality of life and establishment of a national network of SRFIs.
2. TRAFFIC CONCERNS We do not believe, for the reasons summarised below, that Rail Central will function as a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) and, consequently, that it will generate greatly increased traffic on the highways and village road network in the local area whilst bringing no, or only marginal, benefits in the form of modal shift:
a) It is too close (15 miles) to DIRFT which has sufficient additional capacity (~7,860,000 sq ft) to satisfy the regional need for the next 13 years. Both will compete for tenants and finite rail paths over the same time frame
b) It is not close to a major conurbation meaning that the primary objective of reducing the secondary leg of the freight journey by road will not be fully realised
c) The percentage of rail connected warehousing is too low, compared to the overall size of the development, to facilitate a beneficial modal shift. This is confirmed by the Applicant’s forecast that 90% of containers will arrive or depart from Rail Central by road
d) The location is remote from the industrial heartlands meaning that the rail terminal will only receive goods, not send them: the majority of trains will return empty
e) The low unemployment in the area will result in increased employee commuting from outside the area leading to increased, rather than reduced, carbon emissions and congestion
f) The distance to all the major ports in England is too short to make most journeys economic by rail
g) An additional 21,823 vehicle movements per day would be generated with at least 70% predicted to use the M1 J15a and the busiest section of the M1. The Applicant has failed to demonstrate the effects that perturbation of this critical artery will have on the surrounding village roads
h) The Applicant has failed to demonstrate, at an early stage, that the rail network can provide sufficient capacity to facilitate a beneficial modal shift. The labelling of a RFI as Strategic brings with it higher expectations in terms of modal shift and carbon reduction. The Applicant has also failed to demonstrate that there is sufficient freight capacity (or demand) to support all the SRFIs currently being built.
3. STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE The alternative sites assessment fails to demonstrate that this is the best placed location to contribute to a strategic national freight network taking into account existing SRFIs, consented SRFIs and those SRFIs still in the application process. Given the excessive number being brought forward in one region (The East Midlands) the Applicant has provided no evidence that theirs is best placed to facilitate an effective modal shift. Consequently it fails to satisfy the over-riding NPS objectives of delivering a ‘strategic network’ ‘across the regions’. The Applicant’s study focused on an area of the country already well served by SRFIs, ignoring those that are ‘poorly served’. The Applicant has also failed to select the site which would cause the least environmental impact.
4. VISUAL IMPACTS There are significant adverse visual impacts on a large number of receptors that are not, and cannot be, mitigated by the proposed provision of bunds and trees. The applicant has failed to grasp the significant adverse impact that replacing rural views with an industrial landscape will have on the quality of life of a rural community.
5. HISTORIC HERITAGE Being in such close proximity, the development will cause a dislocation between rural communities and have a significant adverse impact on the historic setting of two ancient villages and three conservation areas. The industrial landscape being imposed is completely foreign to, and unsympathetic with, the rural environment which is currently afforded the protection of the adopted West Northants Joint Core Strategy and other local plans. The Important Local Gap would be leap-frogged and future development and infill of marginalised land would be inevitable, resulting in the coalescence of Milton Malsor, Blisworth and Roade into the Northampton conurbation. The individual identities of these historic villages would be lost.
6. PUBLIC RIGHTS OF WAY The dislocation of the villages of Collingtree, Milton Malsor and Blisworth would be further exacerbated by the diversion of the footpaths linking the three villages. The attractiveness of the paths to ramblers, dog walkers and local people will be severely diminished by their additional length and proximity to the intermodal terminal, warehouses and railway.
7. NOISE AND LIGHT This rural environment currently enjoys dark night skies and tranquil evenings. The noise and light pollution generated by the operation (exacerbated by the fact that a large proportion of freight movements and associated activity will be at night) will have a significant adverse impact on the quality of life and health of residents living close by.
8. SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS The Policy Statement advises that Applicants should provide evidence that they have considered reasonable opportunities to deliver environmental and social benefits as part of schemes. No socio-economic benefits are being proposed or would be delivered and the Applicant has failed to identify the most damaging impacts of the scheme in that some local residents will have their homes demolished and a number of others will be forced to sell them in order to secure their future financial security (or, alternatively, live within 50 metres of an industrial building). These are the most significant of adverse impacts (amongst many) that the Applicant has under-played.
9. ECOLOGY The proposed development would almost exclusively build on currently productive farmland (not brownfield as recommended by the NPS NN) which cannot be regarded as sustainable. There would be extensive loss of habitat for wild life and the total loss of many veteran and notable trees. The proposed mitigation for these losses is inadequate.
10. CUMULATIVE IMPACT The (very limited) assessment of the cumulative impact of building Europe’s largest warehouse park (Rail Central and Northampton Gateway combined) on productive agricultural green fields is inadequate as it fails to address the impacts on: the efficacy and success of a strategic national network; passenger rail services; strategic and local road networks; the availability and resilience of power supplies; the loss of recreational utility associated with significant footpath diversions; the physical and mental health of the community; socio economic factors (most fundamentally the disruption to the employment market); the ecology and environment.