Pickering's Farm: decision over controversial plans for 1,100 homes in Penwortham put back for the third time

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A decision over whether 1,100 homes can be built in a rural part of Penwortham has been delayed - for a third time.

The government has said that the outcome of an appeal by developer Taylor Wimpey and housing and regeneration agency Homes England over their plans for the site known as Pickering’s Farm should not now be expected until 20th November.

As the Lancashire Post revealed in July, a decision had been due this week.

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The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has now told the Post that the latest hold-up is because “more time [is] needed to consider the case”.

Will the Bee Lane area remain rural?Will the Bee Lane area remain rural?
Will the Bee Lane area remain rural?

However, the further delay has prompted a furious reaction from South Ribble Borough Council leader Paul Foster who has accused the government of “interfering in the democratic process”.

The bid to build the sprawling estate – in the Bee Lane area – has twice been rejected by the authority’s planning committee, most recently in November 2021, when concerns focused on the capacity of the road network in the area to cope with the increase in traffic that the new housing would bring.

The applicants appealed against that decision, leading to a three-week public inquiry in August last year, at which the issue of highways once again dominated the debate about the suitability of the plot for such a significant development.

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Ordinarily, the inspector chairing the proceedings, Patrick Hanna, would have made the final decision himself about whether or not to uphold the council’s refusal of planning permission or reverse it.

However, as the Post revealed last summer, the government opted to take the rare step of “recovering” the appeal, meaning that the Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove will get the ultimate say.

Cllr Foster - who spoke against the application during the inquiry - said that the further delay smacks of “a fudge”.

“I cannot understand what is causing these continued delays. I just think they’re either going to use it as an election gimmick or they’re trying to push [the decision] past a general election - it just doesn't stack up at all,” he said.

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He added that the uncertainty was also having a “huge detrimental impact” on the ongoing process of drawing up the first ever Central Lancashire Local Plan - a joint policy between South Ribble, Preston and Chorley councils that will dictate the shape and volume of housing development across the three areas over the next 15 years.

“It is just completely scuppering everything that we’re trying to do,” Cllr Foster claimed.

The DLUHC said that it had “nothing further to add” in response to the Labour leader’s comments.

A campaign group set up to oppose the controversial plans for Pickering's Farm - called Keep Bee Lane Rural - told the public inquiry last year that some residents faced the prospect of living on a building site for the rest of their lives if the development went ahead, because it would take around 15 years to complete.