Cllr Alan Whittaker made the comments as Chorley Council’s planning committee debated whether to approve an application by Redrow for up to 83 homes in Whittle-le-Woods – on the day which it publicly stated that it would be building only 53.
Permission was initially granted for the development on land between Town Lane and Lucas Lane in Whittle-le-Woods back in 2014, subject to an agreement securing a minimum number of affordable homes and financial contributions towards open space in the borough.
But that agreement was never signed and Redrow this summer resubmitted their application after claiming that “technical issues” meant that the site would be more challenging to develop than was initially thought – and so would not be viable with the financial contributions first proposed.
The developer will now pay £134 per dwelling towards public open space, compared to £1,748 per property under the original application – and will deliver 26 percent affordable housing, rather than 30 percent.
However, it was in our sister paper, the Chorley Guardian, that the housebuilder also revealed its revised plans for fewer homes – even though the fresh application submitted to the council remained for “up to 83 properties”.
Planning services manager, Adele Hayes, advised the committee that it had to make its decision based only on the application which had been put forward.
“A subsequent reserved matters application may come forward with fewer dwellings – [this application] is basically setting a maximum number,” she said.
But Cllr Whittaker said the committee was being “premature” in making its decision.
“In this very day’s Chorley Guardian, the company are talking about a reduction in number. It makes us look a bit daft when we are approving 83 and the firm are saying very clearly they are going for 53,” Cllr Whittaker said.
However, committee member Martin Boardman said anything reported elsewhere was “totally irrelevant” to the decision being made.
“Not everybody believes what they read in the papers [anyway],” Cllr Boardman added.
But in a statement issued after the meeting, Redrow’s head of planning, Robin Buckley, said he could confirm that the new house tally was correct.
“The outline application was submitted in 2013 and a lot more is now known about the technical constraints on the land. Hence we now believe that the actual yield from the site, assuming traditional family housing, will be 53 units.
“It is not unusual for an outline application to propose more houses than may actually be built on a site,” Mr. Buckley said.
At the meeting, committee member Christopher France said that fewer homes would actually be “a better application” – adding that the real issue was the reduced sum for open spaces.
A member of the public and a committee member raised concerns about the impact of the development on highway safety and flooding – but were reminded that, in 2014, councillors had already approved an identical application to the one in front of them, except for the lower financial contributions.
Adele Hayes said that the discussion should be limited to that monetary issue – and not used to “rehearse previous arguments” about whether the land was suitable for development, as it had long been allocated for housing in the borough’s local plan.
Cllr Alistair Morwood added that the situation had arisen because of a change in circumstances, not a change in policy by the council.
After hearing that the council’s independent viability consultants had accepted Redrow’s case about the profit potential of the development, members approved the application by a majority of seven to four.
THE RIGHT ROAD?
Highways bosses at Lancashire County Council suggested that a section of Lucas Lane East should be widened – from Lucas Green Farm to the junction with Town Lane – because most of the northbound traffic from the proposed estate would use the narrow lane instead of the A6.
But local resident Brian Walkden told the committee: “Members familiar with Lucas Lane, with its numerous blind bends and a steep gradient at the junction with Town Lane, will know that its features make it impossible to widen.
“This narrow picturesque track is extensively used by walkers, cyclists and families with young children – this will inevitably conflict with traffic from the existing and proposed developments,” Mr. Walkden said.
Papers presented to the committee state that widening Lucas Lane would “decimate” its rural character, outweighing any benefits.