Bamber Bridge inquiry into a plan for nearly 200 new homes - all the details from day 2
The design of a proposed 200-home development in Bamber Bridge has come under the microscope at an inquiry which will determine whether the estate is built.
The second day of the hearing also heard further debate about traffic and air pollution. Bellway Homes is appealing against a decision by South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee to refuse permission for the site off Brindle Road.
The inquiry was told that the proposed density of houses on the estate was within the maximum level permitted by the local authority.
But Claire Bradley, a town planner called to give evidence by South Ribble’s legal team, said that the overall effect would be “a cramped, dense, urban design, not reflective of the context in which the development sits”.
The amount of green space within the proposed estate - and whether it could be used safely - also came under scrutiny.
Bellway Homes has committed to a providing just over a hectare of open space, nearly double that required under local guidelines. The areas include a pond and meadow.
Michael Wellock, another town planner called by South Ribble’s representatives, described the pond as “quite an attractive feature”, but he went on to criticise several of the other green locations.
He described one as a “classic example” of an area which was left over after the design of the estate and which “nobody quite knows what to do with”.
“[It is an an area] which is not overlooked and has existing vegetation,” Mr Wellock said. People will congregate to get up to no good and it also offers an opportunity for access which could lead to crime.”
He also claimed that the planned border of an existing public footpath across the estate looked “uninviting” and that “the first feeling any user would experience is one of anxiety”.
Mr. Wellock said that varying heights of fence along the route would mean residents whose houses backed onto the path would only glimpse the tops of people’s heads and that it undermined their privacy and security.
But David Manley QC, representing Bellway Homes, said the view of Lancashire Police was that safety along the footpath could be “managed by a proper approach to lighting and width” - as included in Bellway’s plan.
“Perhaps, when it comes to security, it’s best to go with [the advice of] the police,” Mr. Manley added. He also rejected a suggestion that the houses along the footpath should be re-orientated so that their front doors faced the thoroughfare.
There were further sharp exchanges over the distribution of affordable homes throughout the estate.
Just over a fifth of the properties will be offered for affordable rent and the inquiry heard that the operator due to manage them had requested they be clustered in groups rather than scattered across the site.
Michael Wellock told the hearing that central Lancashire planning guidelines indicated that the best way to achieve social inclusion and interaction was to intermingle affordable homes with those offered on the open market.
That prevented the creation of “enclaves” which could lead to segregated communities, Mr. Wellock said.
But David Manley QC said there was no requirement for so-called “pepper-potting” of different house types and added that the wider county guidelines should be given less weight than South Ribble’s local development plan- which makes no mention of the measure.
The inquiry later returned to the issue of road safety. Day one of the proceedings had heard concerns from local residents about the potential impact of increased traffic on Brindle Road - particularly at a level crossing close to the proposed estate.
Peter Russell, a traffic engineer - called by Bellway Homes’ legal team - said there would be a predicted 40 extra trips along Brindle Road during the morning rush hour.
He told the hearing that the impact on the level crossing itself could not be modelled because of “variation” in the length of time the barriers would be down at any given time.
But Mr. Russell added that traffic would “clearly quickly” even if the queues themselves increased.
He added that the estate would be accessible by ‘non-car’ modes of transport such as bus and bike.
On the issue of air quality, the inquiry was told that the development would be exposed to levels of particulate pollution at “less than 40 percent of air quality objectives”.
A survey of air pollution levels had been commissioned in the area - but not on the site itself.
Ian Ponter, representing South Ribble Borough Council, quizzed a witness for Bellway Homes about the way in which air quality had been assessed.
Jethro Redmore, a chartered environmentalist, said that on-site air quality measurements had not been taken because of the “effort involved and the usability of the results”.
But Ian Ponter said a separate methodology used, in part, to predict air quality levels on the estate “diluted the effect of motorway traffic” from the M61 across a wider 1km square area.
The hearing also received a brief submission from a representative of Persimmon Homes, which had its own application to build 261 houses on another part of the site rejected by South Ribble's planning committee. The housebuilder has launched an appeal against that decision, which will come before a separate planning inquiry in December.
The current inquiry continues on Thursday.