Chorley country lane housing scheme left in limbo after drainage plan is blocked

A controversial development alongside a country lane in Chorley has potentially been derailed just days after it was granted permission.

By Paul Faulkner
Sunday, 12th December 2021, 12:12 pm

Plans to build 115 homes off Nell Lane in Cuerden were approved by a planning inspector late last month after previously being refused by Chorley Council’s planning committee, because they would have led to a loss of hedgerow on the rural route.

However, members of the same committee have now rejected a separate application to install the drainage pipelines needed to serve the planned estate.

Read More

Read More
Chorley country lane 'will be ruined' by road changes for new housing estate

Sign up to our daily newsletter

A drainage pipeline to serve an approved new development on Nell Lane would have passed through part of Cuerden Valley Park (image via Chorley Council planning portal)

The applicant, Leith Planning Ltd, had proposed to dig a trench to the east of Shady Lane, which would have cut across Cuerden Valley Park - including several fields and an area of protected woodland - before emerging on the banks of the River Lostock. The plan was to install separate surface and foul water drains, which would connect to an existing foul water sewer at the riverside.

The work would have involved the removal of around 50 mature and semi-mature trees and a 20-metre section of hedgerow.

The authority's planning officers had recommended that the proposal be approved, noting that the pipelines would be “imperceptible” within the greenbelt plot once the land has been restored. They also concluded that the trees to be lost were of “lesser quality and landscape impact” - and that a pledge to plant 20 new trees close to Shady Lane and create almost 1,800 square metres of woodland between the pipeline and Ice House Woods would “exceed the level of...losses”.

However, the plans attracted almost 200 individual objections - and committee members were urged to throw out the application. One local resident - who is part of the Save Nell Lane campaign group - said that she would personally plant the proposed new woodland and “tend to it for the rest of my life”, free of charge, if councillors rejected the pipeline plan.

Save Nell Lane campaigners Ann Phelan and Olga Gomez-Cash

Ann Phelan also told the committee: “Trees don't need humans to survive and thrive, [but] humans cannot survive without trees.”

Meanwhile, concerns were raised about the claimed potential for the works to cause flooding, with Cuerden parish councillor Neville Whitham stating that the River Lostock is “renowned for bursting its banks”.

“We feel that it would be an act of negligence to discharge large quantities of contaminated surface water into the river...especially during extremes of weather, caused by climate changes,” Cllr Whitham added.

His fears were shared by Clayton West and Cuerden ward councillor Mark Clifford who described the proposal as “a disaster in the making” - because it failed to take account of pressure being put on drainage systems by developments being built upstream.

One councillor was not convinced that Cuerden Valley Park would have been able to be restored after the pipeline was installed (image via Chorley Council planning portal)

“I take great exception to the statement in the application that the site...has a less than one in one thousand annual probability of flooding. If I was a betting man, I'd put a thousand pounds on [at] these odds.

“The River Lostock is flooding massively, several times a year, due to excessive development, compounded by climate change,” Cllr Clifford said.

He also claimed that the Nell Lane development could be drained via existing foul and surface water connections on a neighbouring estate.

“It is my personal belief that this application is only before us to save a developer cash by using an alternative drainage route, as they refuse to pay for usage of the existing pipework,” Cllr Clifford added.

Cllrs Mark Clifford and Neville Whitham both opposed the pipeline plan

However, Joel Turner, speaking on behalf of Leith Planning, said that the application had been designed to deal with issues raised in previous similar proposals - including the retention of more existing trees, as well as the planting of new ones, which he claimed would represent “an enhancement” to the park.

“The development will not be visible from paths used by the general public - with this part of the site closed off from general use - [and] the development will not result in any detrimental visual impacts to the local area or parkland setting.

“The development will also result in environmental benefits for the site including biodiversity gains and other ecological enhancements.

“The funds the park will receive directly as a result of the development will also help the wider site...and will allow the park to enhance their current offer to the local community," Mr. Turner said.

However, committee members were largely unconvinced. Cllr Alex Hilton said that the promised replacement trees would “take a generation to actually come through”

“We are talking about chopping down mature trees and ancient hedgerow - the immediate loss of the environment there and the impact on biodiversity is significant - and you cannot mitigate for that straight away,” Cllr Hilton said.

The proposed drainage system would have discharged into the River Lostock (image: Kelvin Stuttard)

Fellow committee member James Nevett rubbished the suggestion that the land could be adequately restored after the pipes were buried beneath the surface as “an absolute fallacy”.

“It would depth charge the revered dignity of this beautiful park,” Cllr Nevett added.

The committee voted by a majority to reject the proposal.

The company granted permission for the housing estate - Monaco Nell Lane Limited - has been approached for comment about the refusal of the pipeline scheme.

SOLD DOWN THE RIVER?

Several speakers at the meeting criticised Cuerden Valley Park Trust, the independent charity charged with maintaining and managing the site, for what they claimed was a failure to oppose the planned pipeline - and for standing to financially benefit from it.

Local resident Ann Phelan described it as “disturbing” that the organisation had objected to a previous proposal from Redrow Homes to build an estate on Nell Lane, but was now “apparently prepared to sell their neighbours down the river [and] to incur more damage and disturbance to the biodiversity of the park they protect, to facilitate a different housing developer”.

Cuerden parish councillor Neville Whitham accused the trust of being involved in a “dash for cash” even though they are the “custodians of the green belt” in the area.

However, Mark Clifford - a director of Cuerden Valley Park Trust, but speaking in his capacity as Clayton West and Cuerden ward councillor on Chorley Council - said that a statement on the charity’s website makes it clear that “the trust did not make the current application for planning permission for the proposed pipeline and does not support it”.

The Lancashire Post approached the trust for further comment after the planning committee meeting.

Reacting to the rejection of the application, Cuerden parish councillor Sara Elsy said that residents and park users were "over the moon".

She added: "Both the trustees [of the park] and the developer should never have been allowed to come back to the table with this application and waste everybody’s time. Chorley councillors have, quite rightly, listened to people and shown that we need to protect what is left of our precious, beautiful environment.

"Why on earth the park trustees thought it would be okay to sanction an environmental disaster is beyond me and we must now show an awareness of decisions at [climate change conference] COP26, rather than make it easy for developers to line their pockets with cash, leaving a trail of destruction behind them."

Meanwhile, Ann Phelan, speaking after the meeting, welcomed the formation of the Community Planning Alliance to draw together grassroots campaigns like the one that had been waged against the Cuerden pipeline and Nell Lane development. She also called for the balance to be tipped "back in favour of the environment over the economy" and said that “when there’s two options [for a scheme], the one that has the least impact on the environment must be the only option”.

Part of Cuerden Valley Park through which the pipeline would have passed