Controversial plans to create a 1,300-home “garden village” in South Ribble have been officially lodged.
Story Homes revealed its blueprint to build the sprawling development - on greenbelt land to the east of the M6 at Samlesbury - back in February, when it launched a public consultation into the proposal.
The firm says that it received “significant feedback” which it has factored in to the outline planning application that has now been submitted to South Ribble Borough Council for consideration.
However, locals campaigning against the Cuerdale Garden Village scheme - which would lie largely to the south of the A59, Preston New Road, close to junction 31 of the motorway - say they are disappointed that the housebuilder is pressing ahead with its plans after a referendum amongst existing residents in the area showed overwhelming opposition to the project.
Ninety-eight percent of the 474 people who voted in the poll in April - a turnout of half the parish popukation - said that they were against the proposed development.
Story Homes says that around 3,000 jobs would be created by the garden village, which would also include employment space, a local shopping centre and a primary school.
The company has also revealed that the public consultation generated what it describes as a “high volume” of registrations of interest in buying a property on the 165-hectare plot, if the plans are approved.
John Winstanley, managing director for strategic land at Story Homes, said that the constructor is “proud to bring forward plans for Cuerdale Garden Village, which have been thoroughly designed with place-making at the core, demonstrating our commitment to delivering an exemplar garden village”.
He added: “The plans have been sensitively designed with the feedback received during the pre-application consultation to deliver a high-quality, sustainable development fit for modern-day living.
“We understand there have been some concerns to the proposals within Samlesbury parish; however, we are confident that the plans will unlock significant benefits for all residents in South Ribble and beyond.
“Cuerdale Garden Village will bring forward a range of quality homes in a carefully designed, sustainable new community, whilst unlocking significant business investment within the borough.
“We will continue to engage with the council and the wider community on the plans as they progress,” Mr. Winstanley said.
The application will now be assessed by South Ribble Borough Council's planning officers who will then make a recommendation to the authority’s cross-party planning committee, through which councillors will decide whether to give the outline application the go-ahead.
If they do so, that would establish the principle of development on the site and enable Story Homes to put forward more detailed plans, seeking full permission, at a later date.
The greenbelt nature of the land means that the firm will have to demonstrate “very special circumstances” if it is to get approval for its proposal.
Graham Young, chair of Samlesbury and Cuerdale parish council, - which organised the non-binding referendum on the garden village - says he would have liked to have seen the plans abandoned in the wake of the public vote, but accepts that “that was never going to happen”.
“I’m disappointed, but I suppose the realist in me knew that they’d have to [continue] - because if they stalled it now after saying they were going to put in an application this year, they’d have egg on their face. So they have to keep the whole situation moving.
“And in one respect, I'm actually glad that they’ve done something, because having to sit back and wait for it to happen is almost worse,” Cllr Young said.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the community was now “making ready” to oppose the application as part of the formal planning process.
“We’re getting our ducks in a row,” he added.
A campaign group, the Save Samlesbury Action Group, was established earlier this year.
South Ribble Borough Council leader Paul Foster said that he appreciated an application the size of the one for the garden village would “generate a lot of interest locally”.
“We have asked the developer to ensure that it offers plenty of opportunities for residents and businesses to learn more about what is planned and to provide feedback.
“The principle of a garden village is one that provides a ‘whole’ development, with all the infrastructure that is required - and so there will be a lot of information to consider.
“The first step will be for our officers to scrutinise this initial application in detail before it is considered by our planning committee at a later date.
“As always, our goal is to ensure that any development is right for the borough, our residents and the community - and we will carefully consider the proposals put forward.
“If any of our residents have a question for us about the application, please email [email protected],” Cllr Foster said.
A website set up by Story Homes ahead of the public consultation remains live and provides more detail on the proposals.
The firm claims that the development would generate an extra £225m a year for the South Ribble economy and more than £29m in additional spending with existing retail and leisure businesses.