Town centre apartment block ‘that could harm Chorley Little Theatre’ gets the go-ahead
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Plans for 24 flats have been given the go-ahead on land that currently operates as a small car park on Dole Lane, opposite the town’s police station.
However, a meeting of Chorley Council’s planning committee heard that parking for the new properties could pose a problem for the nearby Chorley Little Theatre - as well as fears that a neighbouring pub might have to keep the noise down so as not to disturb the new residents.
Seventeen parking spaces will be provided for the occupants of the new flats, which committee members were told was more than would be expected for a town centre location with such good public transport links.
But Ian Robinson, one of the volunteers who runs the theatre - just yards away from the development site - said that he was worried about its “viability as a venue” if the proposal was approved. He said that it was easy to overlook how busy the narrow Dole Lane can get.
“There [are] daily near misses with cars and pedestrians. We are constantly having to repair our building after it’s been hit by cars, vans and trucks.
"[The theatre has] a very busy schedule - events run day and night with sessions [for] children, the elderly and dementia sufferers, as well as the hundreds of volunteers and theatre-goers. These people…need to be dropped off and collected - and for pedestrians, the narrow pavement is already hazardous.
“We’re concerned that the noise of construction and the increased traffic will affect the quality of our shows and the enjoyment of our audiences - and thus hit our income,” Mr. Robinson explained.
While he accepted that the concerns could be an over-reaction, he said that he did not want to see the venue “struggling” in two years’ time - and then regretting not having spoken out.
Committee member Cllr Debra Platt said that she did not believe that the council should “break our own rules” over parking standards, which would usually require 31 spaces to be provided for a development of the type proposed.
However, principal planning officer Iain Crossland said that the authority’s policy on parking allowed for a “deviation” from the suggested standard if the properties were being built in a “sustainable location” like the town centre, which has bus and train stations nearby.
Head of planning and enforcement Adele Hayes stressed that the rules were being neither broken nor bent - and noted that the committee had previously approved several developments where a reduced level of car parking - even down to zero - had been considered acceptable. She added that there were “all kinds of solutions” to a further concern about where construction workers might park - including bussing them in to the site.
Meanwhile, committee member Cllr Roy Lees questioned whether noise complaints from residents of the new properties could harm the operation of the theatre and also the Rose and Crown pub, which stands on the opposite corner of Dole Lane to the proposed apartments.
While the hostelry itself made no objection, Cllr Lees compared it to the development of flats alongside the Cosmopolitan restaurant and baron St. George’s Street, which he said resulted in the venue having to “cut down their business” because of revised licensing conditions.
Iain Crossland said that a key difference was that the Dole Lane proposal was for an entirely new build rather than an automatically-approved change of use of an existing building - meaning that conditions specifying types of glazing and ventilation could be imposed in order to better protect future occupiers from disturbance in the first place.
The stretch of Dole Lane in between the apartment site and the pub is currently closed to accommodate outdoor chairs and tables for which the Rose and Crown was given permission at the height of the pandemic. However, the meeting heard that highways officials were looking to reopen the route, irrespective of the flats plan.
None of the apartments - 17 one-bedroomed and seven two-bed - will fall into the affordable homes category after the applicant, Bare Capital Ltd., successfully argued that the scheme would not be financially viable if it were obliged to fulfil Chorley’s usual 30 percent-per-development quota.