In what is believed to have been the first poll of its kind held anywhere in Lancashire, residents in the Samlesbury and Cuerdale parish were asked whether they were for or against the 1,300-dwelling Story Homes scheme on greenbelt land just to the east of the M6. The proposal also includes a blueprint for a primary school, leisure facilities, a local shopping centre and employment space.
In answer to the question, “Do you oppose the Story Homes/Cuerdale Garden Village development?”, 474 people said “yes” and just nine - or two percent - responded “no”.
Turnout in the resounding – but non-binding – vote was 49 percent of the 982 eligible voters in the area, who were all invited to have their say at a polling station set up for five hours in the Samlesbury War Memorial Hall on Thursday afternoon and evening.
While the result has no direct bearing on whether or not permission will be granted for the development, Jasmine Gleave, chair of the recently-formed Save Samlesbury Action Group, says that worried locals “can only hope” that the housebuilder gets the message that they have been sent at the ballot box.
“They said that they would consult with us - so here you go. You’d like to think that Story Homes would respect the strength of feeling that has been shown.
“The turnout was amazing - there was such a rush, particularly in the first hour, that Cuerdale Lane was backed up with traffic.
“We also received messages from people who were abroad on holiday and so were unable to vote [postal voting was not permitted], but who would also have been opposing the development.
“We feel like we have done our best - we certainly couldn't have shouted any louder,” Jasmine added.
South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee will ultimately determine any planning application for the garden village - and Samlesbury and Cuerdale Parish Council chair Graham Young says he hopes that they will be as “blown away” by the referendum result as he was.
“It should really strengthen the armour of our opposition that all these people - the electorate of the borough council - are against what is being planned.
“It’s just money to Story Homes - and I don't really blame them, they have to keep speculating. But I would hope they would now consider the result and go somewhere else,” said Cllr Young, who has previously warned that the proposed scheme would triple the size of the parish at a stroke.
The initial phase of the Cuerdale Garden Village would straddle the A59, Preston New Road, with most of the construction taking place on the south side of the dual carriageway, which leads to the Tickled Trout roundabout at junction 31 of the M6.
Responding to the referendum outcome, John Winstanley, Story Homes’ managing director for strategic land, said: “We are aware of the poll results and are actively engaging with the parish council.
“We have also recently undertaken our own extensive local consultation and are considering the feedback we received from the local community about our proposals for Cuerdale Garden Village.”
The developer estimates that up to 3,100 jobs could be created by the garden village once it is completed.
Story Homes has also set out the potential for a further 1,400 properties to be built - in a second phase of the proposed development - on land largely to the north of the A59.
The greenbelt status of the land means that “very special circumstances” would have to be demonstrated in order for permission for the proposal to be granted.