Alistair Bradley has asked local government secretary Robert Jenrick to “recover” the appeals into proposals to build a total of more than 450 properties in Whittle-le-Woods, Eccleston and Coppull in order to ensure a "consistent approach".
That would mean that the secretary of state would have the final say over the applications – not the planning inspectors who will hear the cases at forthcoming public inquiries.
Redrow Homes has appealed to the Planning Inspectorate over Chorley Council’s failure to determine – within a 13-week target period – applications for 250 dwellings off Town Lane in Whittle-le-Woods and 80 homes on Tincklers Lane in Eccleston. A joint inquiry into both matters is due to start on 17th August and the final day for submissions from members of the public and to register to speak is this Friday (30th July). The authority’s planning committee indicated in April that it would have been “minded to refuse” the applications had they not already been sent to appeal.
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A separate appeal into the council’s rejection of plans by Lea Hough and Co. for 123 homes off Blainscough Lane in Coppull will begin on 14th October.
All three proposed sites are on so-called “safeguarded” land which is not currently earmarked for development, but which may be used to meet housing requirements in future years.
Cllr Bradley claims that the government’s intervention is needed to end the “grim merry-go-round” of what he says are conflicting decisions by inspectors in appeals across Central Lancashire.
A series of rejected housebuilding proposals in the Chorley, Preston and South Ribble council areas have gone to appeal over the past year.
However, as the Local Democracy Reporting Service has previously revealed, the planning inspectors considering those applications have often come to different conclusions about two key issues that determine whether or not the original refusals of permission are upheld or overturned – specifically, the methodology that should be used to calculate how many homes new homes should be built in each area and whether the three neighbouring authorities are permitted to pool and redistribute their combined housing tally between them.
The outcome of that assessment matters to Chorley – whether or not the appeal site lies within its borders or elsewhere in Central Lancashire – because it dictates whether the borough is expected to build a minimum of 278 new homes per year or 569.
In turn, that affects whether the district is deemed to have a five-year supply of land set aside to meet its housing needs – and whether safeguarded land should be released for development earlier than it would otherwise have been.
Cllr Bradley said the authority was “running out of ways” to express its frustration and confusion at the ever-changing situation, which he described as “a waste of time, money and emotion”.
“Recent decisions from the national Planning Inspectorate are conflicting and in turn are causing us more issues as we try to navigate the rules. As an example, one recent decision said that we did have a good enough supply of land for development and the next one said we didn’t. The constant flip-flopping is exhausting and is at the detriment of our communities and at a no doubt significant cost to the taxpayer.
“The responsibility we have to make good, sensible and balanced planning decisions is something we take extremely seriously – and more frequently we are finding it harder to make decisions that make sense locally because of national rules.
“We are at a loss now of what the policy is, what the Planning Inspectorate will decide and what the outcome will be for our residents.
“This is concerning and deeply worrying for our communities who will be most affected – and if government will not listen to them, we will speak up. We are no longer prepared to be at the beck and call of erratic decision-making,” Cllr Bradley said.
He told the LDRS that he would like to see all appeals on safeguarded sites subject to the recovery process until Chorley, Preston and South Ribble have adopted their joint local plan, which is expected to be in late 2023.
Cllr Bradley said that public engagement with the process to form that overarching plan to inform development in the borough over the longer term risked being undermined by rows about individual sites where building was now being proposed imminently.
“We hope that with this request the secretary of state can ensure consensus and a consistent approach in decision-making which will significantly benefit long-term sustainable development within Central Lancashire. It would also provide certainty for the council and our residents as well as developers and landowners in the area,” he added.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said in response to Cllr Bradley’s letter: “These planning appeals are currently with the Planning Inspectorate for decision. As these are live cases it would not be appropriate to comment further.”
“We have made a number of important changes to the National Planning Policy Framework to support councils in delivering beautiful places to live and work and ensuring communities have greater influence over development location and design.
“Councils were consulted on these changes to the National Planning Policy Framework and all responses have been considered.”