Decision delayed over Charnock Richard housing development as councillors hear concerns about traffic and lack of services

A decision over whether to approve controversial plans for an affordable housing development in a Chorley village has been put on hold so that councillors can see for themselves some of the issues raised by concerned residents.

Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 8:22 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 8:23 pm

Almost 200 objections have been lodged to a proposal to build a 76-home estate on land east of Charter Lane in Charnock Richard – warning that it would pose a risk to road safety and exacerbate the existing exodus that occurs when locals who have to leave the village in search of everyday services.

Members of Chorley Council’s planning committee debated the issue for more than an hour before deciding to defer the matter until they had taken a trip to the site.

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Part of the plot in Charnock Richard where a developer wants to build 76 affordable houses (image: Chorley Council)

The plot was previously eyed as part of a wider proposed development of 90 properties – later reduced to 60 – exactly five years ago.

Back then, Chorley planning officers recommended that the blueprint should be refused, because the land was not earmarked as a site for housing in the borough’s local plan.

However, a slew of recent appeal decisions have seen the council told that it cannot demonstrate that it has five years’ worth of land set aside to meet its minimum annual new housing needs.

That leaves the authority exposed to a national planning rule which means that it is now expected to approve most applications for development unless the adverse impacts of doing so would “significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits”.

The junction of Charter Lane and Church Lane, which will be upgraded if planning permission is ultimately granted for the development (image: Google)

For that reason, planning officials in the borough advised councillors to approve the latest bid to build – but committee members were unconvinced after hearing a range of the objections from locals.

One of them, Colette Jolly, told the meeting that the village was bereft of the basic amenities needed to support the proposed estate.

“There is no convenience store, no GP Surgery, no chemist – and it is, and will remain, poorly serviced by limited public transport.

“Traffic congestion on Charter Lane has increased substantially over the years – mainly due to the oversubscribed school and increasingly successful football club. The number of trips out of the village from 76 dwellings – with potentially 360 new residents, including approximately 200 children – to access services…would be substantial,” Ms. Jolly said.

The entrance to the proposed estate on Charter Lane, shown on the left of the picture (image: Google)

Papers presented to the committee revealed that the majority of objections from residents related to highways concerns. These were echoed by Charnock Richard Parish Council, which warned that the junctions of Charter Lane with Chorley Lane and Church Lane could not cope with a significant increase in traffic “without seriously compromising highway safety for pedestrians and road users”.

Addressing the Chorley planning meeting, parish councillor Lucy Watson demanded to know what had changed since the refusal of permission in 2017.

“Were the planning officers wrong last time or are they wrong this time?” she asked

“The already overwhelmed services could not support this scale of development and [it] would detrimentally affect the already struggling village,” Cllr Watson added.

However, committee member Cllr Alistair Morwood said that it was no good “harping back to 2017”.

“We have not got a five-year supply – it’s clear. We have fought it many times and five appeals have gone against us, well and truly.

“We need houses – why shouldn’t anyone have the chance to go and live in a nice rural area should they choose [to do so]? Cllr Morwood asked.

The meeting heard that Chorley could show just a 2.7-year supply of housing land – a shortfall which was described as “significant”.

However, committee member Cllr Alan Whittaker highlighted the fact that the borough had successfully defended an appeal against its refusal of permission for 250 homes in Whittle-le-Woods – in spite of its inadequate land supply.

A planning inspector backed that decision on the basis of site-specific concerns about the suitability of the local road network – something which Cllr Whittaker said also applied in the case of the Charnock Richard proposal.

“The key is sustainability…and the definition of sustainability is not making excessive use of limited resources,” he added.

Cllr Martin Boardman said that “anybody [who] goes through Charnock Richard at three o’clock of an afternoon knows that Church Lane is gridlocked”.

However, the council’s planning services manager Adele Hayes said that the applicant – Conlon Holdings Ltd. – had gone through “protracted negotiations” with Lancashire County Council and agreed a suite of “mitigation measures” with the highways authority to address County Hall’s initial concerns.

These included traffic calming features on the Church Lane and Chorley Lane approaches to Charter Lane, the creation of a new two-metre-wide footway on the west side of Charter Lane for its full length, the relocation of a bus stop and a £45,000-per-year contribution to improving bus services, which is payable for five years.

Sarah Jones, the agent for the application, said that there would be a raft of other benefits to the proposed development.

“The scheme is for 100 percent affordable units that will be taken forward by a major local registered [housing] provider and will meet a significant identified need for such housing in the borough.

“[It] will provide bungalows for the elderly or less mobile residents, one-bed apartments for smaller families and also two, three and four-bed family homes – thus addressing a range of family needs.

“Ecological improvements to boundary landscaping and the existing pond will be supplemented by new tree-planting, bird and bat boxes and other native planting around the site.”

Ms. Jones added that the firm had “patiently sought to progress the application to a negotiated solution” since it was first submitted last March. If permission is ultimately granted, a £286,000 contribution will also be made to public open space.

Committee member – and cabinet member for homes and housing – Peter Gabbott said that the council was between “a rock and a hard place”.

“The planning inspectorate is saying that, realistically, we should be building houses where we can – and I think that’s what we’ve got to do on this occasion,” he said.

Cllr Harold Heaton – who said he was “disappointed” at the lack of public consultation over the plans – initially proposed that the application be refused. However, he later withdrew that suggestion after committee members appeared to coalesce around the idea of deferring their decision for a site visit.

That proposal was backed by a majority and the matter will now be reconsidered at a future meeting after councillors have assessed the site in person.

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