Preston shops and flats plan delayed over concern about kids' play area and parking

Residents have reacted angrily to plans for a retail and residential development in suburban Preston which they say would overlook a children’s play area - and cause parking chaos.
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A meeting of Preston City Council’s planning committee heard a litany of concerns from people living in the vicinity of the proposed scheme on land off Haydocks Lane in Cottam.

The scale of public opposition to the development - at least in its current form - persuaded councillors to defer a decision over whether or not to grant permission for it until they had gone to see the site for themselves.

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They had been asked to give outline approval to a block of up to three storeys in height, which would include four shop units - one of which would be a takeaway - and up to nine flats above.

The block could be three storeys high - much to the dismay of locals (image: RPS Design Group via Preston City Council planning portal)The block could be three storeys high - much to the dismay of locals (image: RPS Design Group via Preston City Council planning portal)
The block could be three storeys high - much to the dismay of locals (image: RPS Design Group via Preston City Council planning portal)

The blueprint for the plot - next to Cottam Hall Community Centre and close to Cottam Primary School - attracted 72 objections, several of which were set out at the meeting.

For Lea and Cottam Parish Council chair Christine Abram, one of the biggest complaints accounted for why there were so many others - namely, a lack of consultation by those behind the plans.

“The developer has shown no interest in what local people…think of this proposal. We actually have no idea what type of shops they’ve got planned, or if it's what residents actually want or need.

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“The residents of the flats would look directly into the [community] centre and the children’s play area,” said Cllr Abraham.

A children's play area is located just towards the top left of this picture - an area that residents says would be overlooked by the new flats (image: RPS Design Group via Preston City Council planning portal)A children's play area is located just towards the top left of this picture - an area that residents says would be overlooked by the new flats (image: RPS Design Group via Preston City Council planning portal)
A children's play area is located just towards the top left of this picture - an area that residents says would be overlooked by the new flats (image: RPS Design Group via Preston City Council planning portal)

Of the additional parking demand likely to be generated, she predicted: “It can only be chaos.”

The plans include 11 parking spaces to service the new shops and nine for the flats. The development would be accessed through an existing car park to the south.

However, Ingol and Cottam ward councillor Trevor Hart said that that facility was already “very cramped” during school pick up and drop-off times. Cottam Primary is also to undergo a phased 210-pupil expansion over the next seven years.

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Cllr Hart added that locals were not opposed to the retail element of te plans, but wanted a building that was “sympathetic” to the others in the immediate area, which he said were all just one-storey. He also explained that he had offered to facilitate a community consultation event with the developer, but was ignored.

Daniel Hughes, acting as the agent for applicant Denise Carroll, said that “the message” regarding consultation would be relaid to his client so that it could be addressed for the more detailed “reserved matters” application that would be required should outline approval be granted.

He added that it might have been better “with hindsight” if the indicative plans had offered more detail about “how the site might look” - but stressed that the council’s own checklist of requirements issued during the pre-application process that had been followed did not demand a public consultation.

“The applicant has always sought to respond positively to all requests from the [planning] officers and…as a result of this, changes were made to the proposed scheme - most notably in ensuring that the parking arrangement[s] can be found acceptable in planning terms,” Mr. Hughes said.

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Committee members were left to balance the concerns of locals with the fact that the council’s own officers had recommended that the application be approved.

Cllr Lynne Brooks said she remained concerned about the residential properties overlooking the play area - and warned that proposed trees were going to do little to prevent that intrusion.

During a near hour-long debate, members wrestled with whether - and how - they could make the plans more acceptable to residents.

However, in response to a question from Cllr Jennifer Mein about whether a condition could be imposed limiting the height of the building to two storeys, development management team manager Phil Cousins said that the committee was not in a position to “change the description” of the proposed development.

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Case officer James Mercer added that members were being asked to agree to “the principle” of a three-floor facility, irrespective of what was eventually brought forward at the next stage of the application process.

Cllr Stephen Thompson said that he and his colleagues were “the last line of defence” to prevent a development that locals did not want as it was presently proposed.

The committee voted by a majority to delay its decision until members had been on a visit to the site to get a better understanding of the issues that had been raised.