Touring caravan plan puts the brakes on South Ribble leisure scheme
The businessman behind plans to create a recreational development in a South Ribble village has been told to think again over a proposal to allow more than two dozen touring caravans to pitch on the site.
Paul Kenworthy, whose family has owned Turbary House Nursery in Whitestake since 1970, wants to bring activities including combat games and archery – along with a petting zoo – to the six-hectare greenbelt plot off Chain House Lane. An electric vehicle off-road driving experience for youngsters and laser clay shooting are also planned.
However, a meeting of South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee heard concern from nearby residents and councillors over a proposal to host 26 touring caravans as part of the redevelopment – and deferred their decision on the overall scheme to give the applicant a chance to reconsider that element of it.
Half of the land on which the caravans would be located is currently a hardstanding area used as storage by a tanker business, while the other half contains glasshouses.
The glasshouse section of the proposed caravan pitches is not covered by a lawful development certificate issued in 2018, which applies to around a quarter of the site and permits uses that would not normally be deemed appropriate in greenbelt, including storage.
Because of that development permission, committee members were tasked with deciding whether the plans now on the table would have any “greater impact on the openness” of the greenbelt than the existing operation.
Cllr Phil Smith said that the suggested 26 touring caravans were “far too many” for the site.
Lesley Keller, a villager who addressed the committee, said she and her family were not “anti-development”, but took issue with the “scale and scope” of the proposals.
She then made a direct appeal to the applicant, asking him to withdraw the half of the touring caravan pitch that would be on a greenfield, rather than brownfield, portion of the plot.
“Mr. Kenworthy, our objections are not personal. We are respectfully asking that you place the wider needs [of] the greenbelt before inappropriate development – we want to support you and this development, but not at the expense of our precious greenbelt,” Ms. Keller said.
Planning officer Chris Sowerby said that while an application to turn agricultural land into a touring caravan site would usually be considered “inappropriate development”, members had to take a “more holistic approach” that considered how the proposal in this case would sit within the wider site.
Residents’ concerns were not limited to the touring caravans – with a total of 19 objectors laying out fears, including the potential for noise and traffic impact from the development. One of them, Christine Furlong, told the meeting that the proposal would “not be in-keeping with the local semi-rural ambience”.
However, 26 people also wrote in support of the plans, claiming that they would improve the appearance of the site and create jobs.
Daniel Hughes, the agent for the application, said that the Kenworthys had “always sought to respond positively” during discussions with the council over their plans and had amended their latest proposal to turn an area to the west of the site, currently used for open storage, back into a maintained field.
He added: “[The family] are aware of the relationships with neighbouring residents and businesses and are keen to maintain good relationships with them all, as has been the case since they have owned the site.
“In overall terms [the scheme] presents a betterment of the existing land use and condition of the site, with improvements to the impact on the openness of the greenbelt and [a reduction in] current amenity impact on neighbouring properties – amongst other economic, social and environmental benefits.”
Committee members wrestled with the issues for almost 90 minutes, before finally agreeing to defer their decision to allow for a rethink of the touring caravan element.
During the debate, Cllr Mary Green came out against what she said were “great” ideas, but in the wrong location.
However, her committee colleague James Flannery said that the site was in “much need of investment” and that members should “try and support and endorse local businesses who are trying to invest at this time”.
“We want everyone to take a little bit from [this process], [for] no-one to lose and [there to be] a bit of compromise,” Cllr Flannery added.
The Post understands that Mr. Kenworthy is currently considering his options following the committee’s decision.
Under the proposal, existing storage areas within the site would be redesigned and shifted to a central location. That would lead to the addition of 40 storage caravans on the land, bringing the total to 130 – over and above any residential caravans.
There would be no changes to a birds of prey centre and fishery that operate elsewhere on the site.