'Developers are trying to browbeat Chorley into building more homes,' says council leader

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Chorley Council has approved an agreement with its Central Lancashire neighbours over how they should divide up the number of new homes to be built in each area – just days after developers claimed that the move could be unlawful.

The so-called “memorandum of understanding” between Chorley, Preston and South Ribble councils means that the authorities can deviate from government housebuilding targets in each of the three districts – provided the wider area achieves the overall number of dwellings which should be created.

Chorley Council has become the first to approve the housing agreement

Chorley Council has become the first to approve the housing agreement

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According to a new method of calculating housing figures introduced earlier this year, Chorley would be expected to accommodate 57 percent of all development over the next three years – or 579 properties annually.

Under the proposed agreement, that figure would be more than halved to just 282 homes – acknowledging the fact that Chorley has more greenbelt than any other part of Central Lancashire and has historically over-delivered against previous housing targets.

But a consortium of developers and planning agents, led by Preston-based PWA Planning, have written to the authorities questioning the “lawfulness” of the process to come up with the redistributed totals.

Chorley Council leader Alistair Bradley told a full council meeting that the figures – provided by independent planning consultants – were “eminently sensible”.

“We have had advice that says there needs to be more development in Preston and South Ribble, because they haven’t done as much development as we have in Chorley.

“We are very happy with the numbers and can now protect this council from speculative development – which, I suspect, is why the developers are trying to browbeat us into accepting something worse in the short term,” Cllr Bradley said.

The memorandum is designed to cover the period between now and the end of 2022, when the three Central Lancashire councils will adopt a new local plan – a wide-ranging document which governs all aspects of development, including housing numbers, for the following 15 years.

The current distribution of housing across each council area is based upon on a “core strategy” adopted in 2012 – and which some developers have sought to argue is out of date. If councils are deemed unable to demonstrate that they have a five-year supply of land for housing, they could be forced to approve planning applications for areas which they have not yet released for development.

Cabinet member for planning, Alistair Morwood, said that future applications would still have to be judged on their own merits, but added that the memorandum could see the number of approvals reduced.

“There is every chance – without predetermining anything – that we will be able to say to developers: ‘We don’t need these houses at this time’.”

Preston and South Ribble councils will have to formally vote on the memorandum before it can come into effect.