Charnock Richard housebuilding plan rejected after councillors "shocked" by parking problems

Residents of a Chorley village say they are relieved and delighted that plans for a new housing estate have been kicked out by councillors.

Members of Chorley Council’s planning committee rejected a bid to build 76 homes on land off Charter Lane in Charnock Richard over traffic concerns.

That was one of the reasons that the proposed development – which would have consisted entirely of properties classed as affordable – had been vehemently opposed by locals. Existing villagers also claimed that a dearth of local services meant that the area could not sustain such a substantial influx of new arrivals.

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Councillors took a trip to Charnock Richard to see for themselves the trafic chaos claimed by locals on roads like Church Lane, particularly at school pick-up and drop-off times (image: Charnock Richard Residents' Association)

Colette Jolly, chair of Charnock Richard Residents’ Association, told the Lancashire Post and Chorley Guardian that the whole village had played its part in getting what she described as “an outrageous scheme” refused.

“We are relieved and thankful that the planning committee members made the right decision,” she added.

Council planning officers had recommended that the application – made by Bamber Bridge-based Conlon Holdings – should be approved, because the authority does not currently have a five-year supply of land set aside to deliver the minimum number of new homes it is deemed to require each year.

Under government rules, that means a local authority is usually obliged to grant permission for development – even on sites which are not earmarked for the purpose – unless the adverse impact of doing so would “significantly outweigh” the benefits of boosting the supply of housing.

Charnock Richard villagers had fought against the planned estate off Charter Lane, in a camapign involving parish councillor Lucy Watson (centre) and residents' association chair Colette Jolly (second from right)

However, councillors voted back in March to pay a visit to the Charter Lane plot before deciding whether or not to approve the proposals, after they were presented with claims at a previous meeting that the perilous state of the roads in the village meant that any increase in traffic posed a safety risk.

Committee member Martin Boardman told the latest gathering that he and his colleagues had been “shocked” by the number of cars parked in the vicinity of the proposed development when children were either being dropped off at or collected from school.

The applicant had claimed that occupants of the new homes would walk to school – and a nearby shop – and the agent for the proposal, Katie Delaney, said that the current school-related congestion “passes quickly”.

However, Cllr Boardman said that the committee could not “dictate” to parents that their children must walk to school.

The housebuilder behind the proposed development claimed that vehicles on Charter Lane and surrounding roads cleared quickly after the school rush (image: Charnock Richard Residents' Association)

“If they choose to drive their children to school, then so be it – [although] I’d much prefer to see them walk,” he added.

Colette Jolly told the committee that the “character of the village [would] be changed forever” by a development which would lead to a 20 percent increase in the population of a settlement with “no convenience store, no GP surgery, no dentist, no pharmacy, no post office” – all of which were some two miles away in Coppull. The committee heard that the shop referred to by the applicant was a pantry-style outlet which was closed more days of the week than it was open.

Conlon had pledged to fund a new bus service in the area for the next five years and Lancashire County Council highway officials had not objected to the planned estate – provided some nearby footpaths were extended and traffic-calming features installed.

Katie Delaney also suggested residents had made contradictory “assumptions” about the people likely to want a property on the new estate.

“They set out significant concerns about high traffic levels, parking congestion and highway safety issues. However, they go on to state that the future residents … would have limited access to cars and would be reliant on public transport due to their presumed limited means.

“The proposed development seeks to accommodate house types to suit a range of families and ages. It is likely to be a mix of shared ownership and affordable rent, where many residents are likely to be working and to own – or have access to – a car,” Ms. Delaney said.

Charnock Richard parish councillor Lucy Watson told the committee that the type of housing being proposed was “not the issue” – and stressed that nothing had changed since an application for 60 properties on a larger plot of land, of which the latest application site forms a part, was refused back in 2017.

The committee heard that just two households on the housing waiting list in Chorley had registrered an interest in living in Charnock Richard, but that there was a significant shortfall in affordable homes borough-wide.

Councillors were left to wrestle with what several described as a “finely balanced” decision about whether Chorley’s lack of housing land meant that they should give the green light to building on the site under consideration – even though local planning policies decreed that the plot was suitable only for small-scale development.

Committee member Cllr Aaron Beaver said that current and future residents should not be left to face the fallout from the deficit in the council’s housing land supply, while vice-chair of the committee Alex Hilton added that development “should not come at any cost”.

Cllr Alistair Morwood – Chorley Council’s cabinet member for planning as well as a planning committee member – said that he was unconvinced that the new estate would make the traffic situation any worse, given that there was already “no free flow” as it is.

However, he was in the minority – and the committee voted by 12 to one, with one abstention, to refuse the plans, because of the “cumulative impact” they would have on highway safety by worsening existing hazards.

Speaking after the meeting, parish councillor Lucy Watson said that the way in which Charnock Richard residents had united to defeat the proposal “showed what a village is all about”.

Dozens had gathered inside and outside the town hall for the planning committee meeting, which Cllr Watson said had almost certainly helped to “tip the balance” in favour of the application being refused