Building plans that have split the village of Gregson Lane are recommended for refusal by council bosses
A controversial plan to build 75 homes in order to pay for a new Â£1.2m community centre has been recommended for refusal when it goes before council planning chiefs.
The proposals have split the village of Gregson Lane, near Hoghton, with more than 1,100 people signing a petition objecting to the development of a 3.8 hectare piece of agricultural land on Daub Hall Lane, and 237 signing a petition in favour.
The idea is that profits from a new housing estate would fund a new two-storey community centre, which would replace the current facility in Gregson Lane, developers argue is "not fit for purpose or refurbishment".
But the recommendation - made by South Ribble Council planning officers to councillors before a meeting on January 6 - said: "It is felt that on balance the harm of providing 75 dwellings on protected open countryside is not offset by the benefits that may be realised by a new community centre".
The area has been designated as Protected Open Land, which allows for natural breaks between built-up areas, and seeks to retain openness.
Officers warned councillors they should "be mindful that there are only five areas of G4 (Protected Open Land) within the borough, and the redevelopment of one of these sites could set a precedent to allow development of the others".
The guidance - which might not be taken up by councillors - has been hailed as a "massive step in the right direction" by administrators on the Keep Gregson Green Facebook page, which orgnaised the STOP the Gregson Green Housing Development petition.
The main objections are over:
- a loss of character for the village and loss of a green buffer
- loss of privacy to neighbouring properties
- excessive traffic generation
- inadequate school, doctor and dentist provision
- a loss of environmental biodiversity and habitat
Objectors also raised concerns over the ability to ensure the community centre is built once permission for the housing is in place and say a total of £300,000 has been raised for the a new community centre by the local community, which is seen as "more than enough" to replace the existing building.
Sport England has objected to the scheme as a ball strike assessment has not been carried out relating to the cricket pitch, which will not be altered. The group has said it would consider changing its stance if an assessment is done.
Alban Cassidy, on behalf of applicants, the Gregson Green Community Initiative, has argued that the development would provide 17 affordable housing units, would financially help deliver improved community facilities, and would contribute to the council's five-year housing land supply.
A spokesman for the Initiative said the officers recommendation was "no surprise", and they awaited the result of the committee members.