Chorley Council’s planning committee gave the go-ahead for the executive enclave – off Sandy Lane in Mawdesley – which will consist of just five distinctive dwellings.
The land was once used for horticulture and was occupied by glasshouses. However, councillors were told that those structures were removed more than a decade ago and that the outcome of a previous planning appeal established that there is permission for the site to be in industrial use.
It is currently a mix of overgrown, rundown and hardstanding areas, along with outbuildings and two residential properties.
The agent for the application described the location, known as Springfileds, as “a thorn in the side” of the borough authority – but one committee member said that it would be the thin end of an ever-widening wedge if permission were granted for the mini-estate.
Under national planning rules, development on greenbelt land is permitted in some limited circumstances, including when a plot has previously been developed – but only provided it does not have a greater impact on “the openness” of the greenbelt than what was there before.
Amy Aspinall, a senior planning officer at Chorley Council, told the committee that the proposal met that test, adding that it would also lead to “the visual enhancement of the site without detriment to the character and appearance of the area”.
However, a woman whose parents live alongside the parcel of land said that the plans would wreck their “visual [and] peaceful enjoyment of the surrounding countryside” .
Claire Caunce added that the five houses would not be “in keeping with the rural location” – because there are only four houses on the entire lane.
However, planning agent Chris Weetman stressed the kind of activity that could already take place on the plot, without the need for any further permission – including manufacturing, repair and testing of machinery and metal fabrication.
He added: “That is unrestricted…hours, unrestricted manpower, unrestricted vehicles going in and out [of] the site.
“This is not a green space, this is an industrial site which has been a thorn in the council’s side for the best part of 20 years. There are two dwellings there already, so the net increase is only three,” said Mr. Weetman.
He told councillors that the applicant – Markus Wierenga. – had responded to local concerns by, amongst other things, changing the proposed layout of the development.
However, committee member Cllr Keith Iddon – a Mawdesley resident – appealed to councillors to visit the area before making their decision.
“It would open your eyes to how narrow the road is where people want to put residential houses in [what is] a real rural area.
“I’m totally against doing anything like this – I do appreciate that it has been an industrial site [and] I appreciate all the things that could go on on that site at this present time.
“But if we keep giving in to this…we will keep going on forevermore,” Cllr Iddon warned.
However, his proposal for a site visit was voted down and fellow committee member Alex Hilton proposed that the planning officer’s recommendation to approve the application should be supported.
“Whilst I do have some sympathy with the objector, there are no clear planning reasons that I can think of to refuse this,” he said.
The application was backed by a majority of 10 votes to two.
Four public objections had been lodged to the proposal, with concerns including the impact of the housing on the “unspoiled beauty” of the area and the fact that the land had been returned to a more natural habitat over the past two decades.
As part of the redevelopment of the site, all of the current buildings will be flattened and the replacement properties will have a 28 percent greater combined volume than the collection of existing structures that they will replace.
National planning policy permits the replacement of a building in the greenbelt – but it must not be considered to be “materially larger” than its predecessor. Chorley Council defines the threshold for meeting that test as a volume increase of no more than 30 percent.
The development will also result in an eight percent decrease in the footprint of the current buildings on the site.