The future of Fletton Field in dispute

In the face of fierce opposition from the Oundle community and the Oundle Town Council, Northamptonshire County Council is continuing its efforts to sell Fletton Field for development.

The NCC’s latest planning application seeks outline planning permission for the development of 33 extra care apartments for older people, along with associated parking, community green space and landscaping. The development would comprise self-contained apartments, both for sale and for rent, with 24-hour staff support on premises.

In 2016 a planning application for 13 dwellings was refused by East Northamptonshire Council planners. However, ENC did indicate that the planning authority would look favourably on a planning application for extra care homes.

The field was designated by the ENC as an Asset of Community Value in 2016, for its role in furthering the social wellbeing of the local community.

The Draft East Northamptonshire Local Plan (DENLP) identifies the most pressing need facing the district is the growth in older person households and the need for retirement housing and extra care accommodation. The NCC believes their plan for Fletton Field fulfils the DENLP policy requirements to meet the needs of an ageing population.

It is not clear that the size of the site would be suitable for an extra care facility, however. In comments made to the application, the Housing Strategy Manager said that a scheme of 33 units might not be enough for a viable facility.

“Extra Care schemes usually provide in excess of 40 units and often between 60 – 80 units. Schemes often provide a number of related services on site for residents in order to be sustainable. However, a larger scheme would require more storeys and may not be sustainable from a planning perspective on a site of this size.

“We support the principle of an extra care scheme close to the centre of Oundle, but from a housing perspective are not certain if this is the right site for such a scheme given the above factors.”

The application does not detail how the expected personal care services or the 24-hour staff support would be accommodated. The planning application also proposes that the development could suit specialist support for dementia care, although such care is usually provided in a secure care home environment, not in extra care units.

The Oundle Recreation and Green Spaces Group has been campaigning to retain the field as a green space for use by the wider community. They calculate that if the site was developed, the town would lose forty percent of its accessible green space. They argue that the NCC had not submitted “robust evidence to support the assumption that the site is redundant”.

Their argument is supported by the Town Council, which points out that the site is marked in the draft Oundle Neighbourhood Plan as a local green space and is not allocated for residential development in the existing local plan. The OTC urged that no application should be considered prior to 2021 and the adoption of a new local plan and Oundle Neighbourhood Plan. The council also questioned the haste in which the NCC is pushing forward this application. It wrote: “OTC further questions the disposal of the land by NCC at the present time and considers that no such assets should be disposed of prior to the coming into force of the new Northamptonshire unitary authorities.”

Fletton Field was sold to the Guardians of the Poor of the Oundle Union in 1899. The NCC acquired the land for free, and it was used by the primary school as a playing field, and by the residents of Oundle for a variety of recreation purposes over many years.