'This isn't the time': anger over Chorley housing estate consultation during coronavirus crisis
A developer has been accused of insensitivity and stifling public protest after launching a public consultation over controversial plans for a new housing development in Chorley during the coronavirus crisis.
Leaflets have been delivered to residents living in the vicinity of the proposed 115-dwelling development off Wigan Road in Clayton-le-Woods, seeking their views.
Chorley Council’s planning committee granted permission for the estate – but only if the then applicant, Redrow Homes, provided access from its neighbouring, completed development on Parkhurst Avenue.
Locals have now learned that that site has been acquired by a new company – Monaco Nell Lane Limited – which has submitted a fresh application reverting to the original plan to provide access from Nell Lane itself. But under the latest proposal, the controversial entrance would not just be for the duration of the building work – but would serve as the permanent route into the new estate.
Clayton-le-Woods and Whittle-le-Woods ward councillor Mark Clifford said it “stuck in his throat” that the company had made its move now.
“They have written to residents at a time of national emergency when people have enough to worry about.
“Based on what happened the last time these plans were put forward, we know that residents would be organising meetings and protests in opposition – but of course they can’t do that at the moment.
“I’m not trying to stop the company submitting a plan, but there is a time and place – and this isn’t it,” Cllr Clifford said.
Planning committee meetings are currently suspended because of lockdown restrictions, but the new application is still expected to be lodged later this month.
Planning agent Lichfields, acting on behalf of Monaco Nell Lane Limited, rejected claims that the timing of the submission was convenient.
A spokesperson said: “We initiated pre-application discussions with Chorley Council in October 2019. Following these discussions, and in order to prepare the necessary plans and reports, we programmed a target submission date of April 2020.
“The preparation and submission of the application has therefore been ongoing [for five months] – it is unrelated to the Covid-19 global emergency.
“It is not our intent to avoid scrutiny and once the application is formally submitted, both members and the public will be able to submit comments as per the normal procedure.”
In documentation sent to local councillors, the company also says that it plans to introduce traffic-calming chicanes and new footpaths along Nell Lane in order to improve pedestrian safety and deter drivers from using the road as a rat-run.
But Chorley Council leader Alistair Bradley also expressed dismay at the decision to press ahead with the proposals during the current crisis.
“The community engagement exercise is being undertaken by the developer ahead of any planning application being submitted. While the timing, in my view, is far from ideal – because people have got lots of others things to deal with while we are right in the middle of a pandemic – it is led by the developer and isn’t something we can control.
“While the government guidance is for the planning system to continue largely as normal to support the economy when we get through the pandemic, we need developers to be mindful of the current situation.
“Residents in the area may be ill or anxious with worry already, isolating with family away from their home or working around the clock to save lives in hospitals – and the last thing they may want is something else to consider right at this point in time,” Cllr Bradley added.
It is not known when the next planning committee meeting will be able to take place, nor when any backlog of applications will be considered by members.