Lancashire Cricket: councillors condemn 'lack of consideration' for locals over planned new ground in Farington
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That was the damning verdict of a senior councillor who said that plans to build a prestigious second home for Lancashire Cricket on a site in Farington needed a rethink.
James Flannery, South Ribble Borough Council’s cabinet member for planning, business support and regeneration, said that the proposal was “very impressive”, but had not taken into account the impact on households in the vicinity of the earmarked plot off Stanifield Lane.
He was speaking at a meeting of the authority’s planning committee at which members were formulating the district’s official consultation response to the proposed development, which has been spearheaded by Lancashire County Council.
Although Lancashire Cricket’s main ground at Emirates Old Trafford will continue to host the club’s major matches, the Farington facility would stage several men’s and women’s competitive games each year – potentially including T20 and one-day events.
Since plans for the 5,000 capacity venue – which would include two full-size cricket ovals, a two-storey pavilion building and practice nets – first emerged last year, residents of leafy lanes surrounding the site have spoken of their fears over the disturbance and loss of privacy that they say would result from the scheme.
Speaking on their behalf at the committee meeting, Farington East ward councillor Jacky Alty said that while locals had not been bowled over by the blueprint in its current form, the notion of building a new ground in the planned location – south of the A582 Farington Road and west of Stanifield Lane, from which it would be accessed – had been “welcomed by all”.
However, she said that “the threat of overbearing structures, noise and …a loss of green-land views” would destroy a tranquil environment in which residents have long “delighted”.
“The [seating] mounds surrounding each pitch are to be of significant height and will compromise the privacy of adjoining neighbours within a few metres of the site boundary.
“The planned pavilion is an imposing structure, only the rear of which can be viewed by residents [and] a planned bin storage area is to be sited at the [back] of the pavilion, creating a noise disturbance with the emptying of bins into larger waste receptacles.
“One could have expected that two cricket pictures and a pavilion could have been so designed as to visually and practically improve the quality of life for those who have…lived there for years, while continuing to become established as a community asset.
“The site is quite obviously designed to generate an income alongside the community benefits it will bring. It would be naive to suggest that when cricket matches are not in play the pavilion will not generate traffic, noise and general disturbance.
“The residents I represent… want the conceptual project to go ahead in a manner that benefits everyone and, despite having worked hard to collaborate without success, are [now] relying on proposals with mitigation built in to provide a credible solution to [a] problem not of their making,” Cllr Alty added.
The committee was shown photographs of the site perimeter demonstrating what South Ribble planning officer Daniel Power described as the “close proximity” between the proposed location of the practice nets and existing properties on Fowler Avenue.
Committee member Phil Smith said that the nets were likely to prove to be the “noisiest” part of the development – and would be in much more regular use than the ovals.
“A match day once a month or once every few weeks might be a hassle locally, but it’s not a huge hassle. But the [nets] could be used every single day,” said Cllr Smith, who also stressed that he believed that the development would be a “superb” one for Farington and the wider borough.
“We should all welcome something like that to South Ribble – but the impact on people’s lives needs to be taken into account,” he added.
Cllr Flannery, who sits on the committee as well as being the planning cabinet member, echoed his colleague’s overarching support for the scheme – but also went into bat for the residents who would have to live alongside it.
“It’s like [there has been] a complete disregard for a small [number] of residents in the immediate vicinity.
“[They] are very sincere and very supportive of development – but if you look at the design of this and where they’ve actually put the bin store, it’s like there’s been little, if any, consideration on any level for these people. It’s as if they don’t exist.
“I want to make it known that we strongly object to elements of this design which impacts these residents,” said Cllr Flannery, adding that the practice nets and bin storage area could have been sited “more sympathetically”.
Main and overflow car parks would provide a total of 500 spaces for spectators and visitors, but committee member Mary Green also called for on-street parking within two miles of the site to be banned on match days – save for residents and permit-holders – so as to limit the impact of the development on the roads.
That suggestion, along with the other concerns raised by committee members at the meeting, will now be drafted into a letter which will form South Ribble Borough Council’s response to Lancashire County Council’s plans.
The committee also approved recommendations from South Ribble planning officers that the borough authority should stress that the development must preserve the openness of the greenbelt location in which it will sit – and also formally raise objections about the impact of the scheme on “neighbouring amenity, by means of overbearing, noise and disturbance”.
However, the district council has also recognised the public benefits of the proposal, which it says will deliver “world class sporting facilities…for a sport with a strong history in Lancashire” – as well as generating new jobs and supporting existing businesses.
Responding to the issues raised by South Ribble planning committee members, a spokesperson for County Hall said that there were specific reasons for the proposed locations of the various features within the venue.
“The positioning of the practice nets, close to the pavilion building, was a requirement from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to ensure the safety and security of users, particularly younger cricketers.
“The practice nets would be enclosed on three sides within a sloped enclosure, with a timber-fenced visual and acoustic screen to contain the activities and maintain privacy.
“For operational purposes, the bin storage needs to be close to the pavilion. We considered this carefully to minimise the impact on neighbours. This area also benefits from an acoustic fence, designed to minimise noise impact.
“People can share their views on the planning application as part of the usual process. These will be considered as part of determining the application.
“We engaged with neighbours during the consultation process and amendments were made to the proposals as a result of their feedback.”
Lancashire County Council owns the land on which the new ground would be built – and so under national planning rules, it is the authority’s own cross-party development control committee that will make the final decision about whether to approve the proposal or hit it for six .
As the Lancashire Post revealed last month, that committee’s members voted to take a trip to the site to see it for themselves before considering the application in detail at a later date.
SECRETS BENEATH THE SURFACE?
Specialist archaeology work has this week begun on the site of the proposed new cricket ground to see if any historical remains are hidden beneath the soil.
The search – which is being carried out by Salford University’s Archaeology Service – is required as part of the planning application process.
County Hall told the Post that “other finds” have been made in the local area in previous years, but the authority is not aware of any discoveries in the exact location of its proposed development.
In 2019, a “pristine” section of Roman road was uncovered at the neighbouring Cuerden site, which was - and remains – subject toproposals for a mixed employment, retail and residential development now known as Lancashire Central. The find was described as the most significant one to be made in the county for 50 years.
Several large trenches will be dug and explored through until just before Christmas – and then a report submitted to planners.
County Cllr Aidy Riggott, the county council’s cabinet member for economic development and growth, said that the work that is now under way will “help us to understand the history of the site and the area”.
“This is an important stage in the planning process, so that we can check for any historical artefacts or remains of archaeological interest, which would be affected by the proposed cricket development.”
CREATING THE CRICKET STARS OF THE FUTURE
Lancashire County Council says that it intends to bring grassroots and elite sport together at the proposed new ground by supporting the development of community, youth and women’s cricket.
The venue would become a Women’s Centre of Excellence for the North West and also help Lancashire Cricket to continue to bring through future generations of male and female cricketers.
The second pitch would be used for training, but would additionally be opened up to the community throughout the year, potentially for recreational cricket clubs or schools. Lancashire’s Disability Team will also make use of the facilities.
The county council says: “The intention is for the pitch and new facilities to be of the necessary standard to enable all of the county’s teams to play or train here, including the Men’s First XI and Lancashire Women. We anticipate all county cricket formats could be played here, apart from The Hundred and International fixtures.
“The new facilities will help to support additional health and wellbeing opportunities through active participation in sport and can assist the Lancashire Cricket Foundation to deliver a number of their nationwide cricket programmes such as All Stars Cricket and the Dynamos Cricket programme, which links in with the Hundred, the new ECB-run competition. All have the aim of increasing participation in the game of cricket.”
South Ribble Borough Council planning committee member Mary Green praised the intent behind the plans and the potential for “encouraging young people to get involved more in sport and take an interest”.
“I think these facilities will be used a lot by local children and…schools when there’s not an official match going on – so that’s all to the good and the betterment of everyone.
“I feel that they’re world-class facilities and they’ll bring in economic benefits and…hospitality events. We are very short of hospitality in South Ribble,” Cllr Green said.
As well as housing changing rooms, a gym and groundskeeping store, the two-storey pavilion building will include a dining and hospitality space capable of accommodating 160 people. Two formal seating areas are also planned on the pitch terraces.