Controversial Preston housebuilding plans to get a second look

Could a planning inspector's decision in South Ribble affect plans for more than 1,000 new homes in Preston?
Could a planning inspector's decision in South Ribble affect plans for more than 1,000 new homes in Preston?
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A series of applications for new housing developments in Preston are set to go back before the city council’s planning committee after an appeal decision blocked a proposed estate in neighbouring South Ribble.

An extra meeting will be held in February to look again at nine proposals which have been approved in Preston over the past 12 months – but which are currently awaiting a possible review by the government.

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The affected applications are for a potential total of just over 1,000 properties, including several in the Whittingham, Goosnargh and Grimsargh areas – some of which involve building in open countryside and have sparked protests from locals.

They were given the green light after committee members were advised that the grounds for refusing them were restricted by the fact that Preston was unable to meet a government requirement to show that it had five years’ worth of land available to meet its new housing needs.

But the authority says that conclusion – which it accepted during a planning inspectorate hearing back in April 2018 – has now been superseded by the more recent ruling in South Ribble.

The planning inspector in that case – who rejected a bid to build up to 100 homes in Whitestake – acknowledged that his judgement could have “consequences” for decisions in others parts of Central Lancashire. Preston, South Ribble and Chorley councils have pooled their three individual housebuilding targets since 2012.

“Planning is a complex issue and this decision underlines the varied interpretations that can arise,” said Preston City Council’s cabinet member for planning, Peter Moss.

“We must deal with [applications] in a timely manner according to the information, advice and policy that is relevant at that moment in time.

“We remain committed to sustainable development that supports the needs of the growing city and continue to seek the best for the city by applying a plan-led approach, when government policy allows us,” Cllr Moss added.

Wyre and Preston North MP Ben Wallace had called for the Communities Secretary to make a final decision on several of the applications which will now be re-examined by the planning committee. No such decision has yet been made by Whitehall, leaving the proposals in limbo.

The planning inspector in the South Ribble case concluded that housing targets should be calculated on the basis of the so-called “standard method” contained in new legislation introduced earlier this year.

That would see Preston required to build 241 homes per year – but after pooling the Central Lancashire target calculated using that method and redistributing it on the basis of need, Preston’s annual share would increase to 410 dwellings. Crucially, however, under both scenarios, the city’s current target of 507 properties would be reduced.

The higher figure was based on a Central Lancashire-wide policy dating back to 2012, which the inspector in the South Ribble case concluded was out of date, because it had not been officially reviewed since.

If a council is unable to show that it has five years’ worth of land available to meet its housing needs, there is a presumption that housebuilding applications should usually be granted, even on land not earmarked for that purpose - unless the impact of a proposed development would significantly outweigh its benefits. That is the situation which Preston has faced for almost two years.

The additional planning meeting will also consider six other outstanding applications which will now be examined in view of the South Ribble decision.

APPLICATIONS TO BE RECONSIDERED

The following applications, previously approved by Preston City Council’s planning committee, will be re-examined at a meeting in February:

Land to the rear of 126a Whittingham Lane, Broughton – up to 111 dwellings

Land north off Whittingham Lane, Goosnargh – up to 145 dwellings

Bushells Farm, Mill Lane, Goosnargh – up 140 dwellings

Land adjacent 329 Preston Road, Grimsargh – 30 dwellings

Land South of Whittingham Lane, Goosnargh – 80 dwellings

Land to the south/rear of Chingle Hall Cottage, 780-818 Whittingham Lane, Goosnargh and Goosnargh Cottage, 826 Whittingham Lane – up to 65 dwellings

Land at Cardwell Farm, Garstang Road, Barton – up to 151 dwellings

Land to the north of Hoyles Lane and east at Sidgreaves Lane, Lea – 48 dwellings

Forresters Hall, Great Shaw Street – 21-storey building comprising 299 studios/apartments