'˜We're under a pincer attack from housing developments' - Campaign group launched to fight huge developments threatening to '˜swamp' Goosnargh and Whittingham
Villagers are valiantly fighting to save their countryside which they say is being '˜swamped' by housing developments.
Residents of Whittingham and Goosnargh villages, near Preston, say plans for housing as they stand could triple the size of the area.
But because Preston City Council cannot show that it has a five year housing supply it is having to wave through development applications that it might not otherwise.
At the council’s latest planning meeting members of the committee gave the green light for 262 more houses in three separate applications for homes off Whittingham Lane.
MP for Wyre and Preston North Ben Wallace is now calling on the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government James Brokenshire MP to call in the applications for determination.
He also wants to see Preston’s planning department put in special measures over the housing supply issue.
Appealing to councillors to reject the applications, councillor Lona Smith, who represents residents in Preston Rural North, said: “We are being swamped, literally swamped.
“Whittingham and Goosnargh are under a pincer attack of developers. It just cannot go on.”
Michelle Woodburn, of the Goosnargh and Whittingham Against Overdevelopment protest group, also spoke against the developments at the meeting.
She said: “We want to make it clear we are not against the building of new homes. However we fiercely oppose overdevelopment.”
Discussing the residents’ concerns, councillors said they found themselves between a rock and a hard place. Coun Peter Moss, PCC cabinet member for Planning and Regulation, said: “I think it’s perhaps important for people to understand the position we are in and why we find ourselves here.”
He went on to explain the issue of Preston’s five year housing supply saying how the figure was determined was “not an exact science” because while some inspectors find that PCC can demonstrate a five-year supply, others find that it cannot.
“Who is to blame for the position the council finds itself in?” Coun Moss asked.
“I understand the frustration and I do have sympathy for it. All this is done under the planning regime of this Government.
“Ben Wallace is a minister of this country. It’s his Government who voted in this policy. It’s this Government’s priority to boost significantly the supply of housing.
“It’s that tilted balance that national planning policy framework that is in favour of development.”
Following the development meeting MP Ben Wallace wrote to the secretary of state to pull in the applications for determination and also called for the minister to put Preston City Council’s Planning Department into special measures.
In a letter to residents Mr Wallace wrote: “I understand that the councillors who voted in favour of the developments in Goosnargh did so on the basis that Preston is unable to able to demonstrate a five year supply of housing and as consequence any appeal made by the developer, if the council refused permission, would most likely be successful.
“It should be remembered that the housing target was set by Preston City Council and not the Government.”
Mr Wallace also wrote: “I believe revising the housing need target would be the best way for Preston City Council to overcome the current challenges it faces.
“It continues to be my view that the housing target has been set too high and I believe the slow build rates in Preston confirm this to be true.
“Preston City Council has lost control of its planning policy and this will be to the detriment of our rural communities.”
Chris Hayward, director of development at Preston City Council, said: “Planning is an incredibly complicated matter that is easy to criticise, but heavily regulated by Central Government.
We have consistently argued that the Government’s formula for house building supply numbers is wrong and would appreciate Mr Wallace’s support in changing national policy to focus on a plan-led system where there is certainty for the local community.
“The new housing needs figures published by the Government give the impression that a lower figure of 235 houses per year could be used for Preston. However, we have received legal advice that it would be reckless to rely on this new figure until the Local Plan is reviewed. We are currently working alongside South Ribble and Chorley councils to review the Local Plan, which will update the housing requirement for each area. The Local Plan currently requires a minimum of 507 houses to be built each year in Preston and the Government-appointed inspector has made it clear that the Council should use this figure at present.”
Cabinet member at Preston City Council for Planning and Regulation, Coun Peter Moss said : “I appreciate the frustration some residents feel watching the city change and grow around them, including on what has previously been green space. However, there is still a national housing crisis in the UK and we are proud to be building more affordable homes in Preston than anywhere else in Lancashire.
“Preston City Council has a high performing Planning Department despite the intense pressure it is currently under. The request by Ben Wallace to put the department into special measures is a political ploy that is both unreasonable and inappropriate. Special measures are not used by Government to influence the decision-making process, which, in this case, have been consistent with national planning policy – a policy which Mr Wallace’s party has implemented.
“The ‘five year supply’ concept only came into being when the Conservatives came into power in 2010. The resultant situation of placing pressure on rural land for development was entirely predictable at that time.
“I’d ask that Mr Wallace be more open with the people of Preston and instead he used his energy and influence to support us in making national changes to planning policy that better serve our residents.”