Leyland test track plan put on hold amidst affordable housing wrangle

The former Leyland DAF test track has been unused for more than a decadeThe former Leyland DAF test track has been unused for more than a decade
The former Leyland DAF test track has been unused for more than a decade
A decision about a major housing and employment development on the site of the former Leyland test track has been deferred – after a housebuilder held out the prospect of changes to the scheme and persuaded councillors not to reject it altogether.

South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee met to discuss a proposal by Barratt Homes for up to 950 properties on the site, along with new industrial units.

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Revisiting Leyland test track's heyday

The authority’s planning officers had initially recommended that the development be refused, because of concerns over the number of affordable homes which would be included.

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The entrance to the Moss Side industrial estate which borders the planned test track redevelopmentThe entrance to the Moss Side industrial estate which borders the planned test track redevelopment
The entrance to the Moss Side industrial estate which borders the planned test track redevelopment

South Ribble’s planning policies require 30 percent of all properties on new estates in the borough to be available for affordable rent or shared ownership. But the Barratt scheme – which also includes an enclave of executive housing by linked company David Wilson Homes – had proposed just 10 percent of the total plots should be reserved for that purpose.

Members of the cross-party committee condemned the proposal as “deplorable” and “pitiful”.

But a series of last-minute concessions by the developer saw the officers recommended a deferral to allow the amendments to be considered.

Barratt Homes agreed to increase the proportion of affordable homes to 13.8 percent of the total – up from 85 properties to 117 – based on analysis by council-commissioned consultants about the number which would be viable to deliver. The housebuilder estimates that it will have to pay £20.7m in order to “incentivise” the current landowner to sell, whereas the consultancy put this figure at closer to £18m.

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Tiger junction, where Longmeanygate meets Golden Hill Lane - one of the surrounding areas which will be modified as part of the developmentTiger junction, where Longmeanygate meets Golden Hill Lane - one of the surrounding areas which will be modified as part of the development
Tiger junction, where Longmeanygate meets Golden Hill Lane - one of the surrounding areas which will be modified as part of the development

The firm has also pledged to remedy the separation distances between some properties which did not meet the minimum required by the council – and also to ensure that all the of the employment space is reserved for “light industry” and not warehousing, as previously proposed.

Barratt’s planning manager, Simon Artiss, said the company had addressed “head-on” the initial reasons for refusal.

“It is clear that the council wants to see the site developed and this is the closest we have all got to achieving that important goal,” he said.

But committee member Barrie Yates said the application should be refused outright.

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“They have said, ‘to hell with your local plan’ – 154 fewer affordable homes than we require is deplorable by any standards,” Cllr Yates said.

However, council officers warned of what would be lost if plans for the site – which has been derelict for 14 years and has long been earmarked for development by the authority – were ripped up.

“If you refuse the application, where does it get you?” South Ribble’s director of planning Jonathan Noad asked.

“Either the applicant appeals or they resubmit another proposal and we have to go through the process of consulting [on a] large scale again. You need to weigh up the balance of where refusal would get you compared to deferral.”

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Committee member Ken Jones noted that councillors, even if they deferred their decision, “still have the right to throw [the proposal] out when it does come back.”

Under pressure from some members over whether they were prepared “to move” on the number of affordable homes on the site, Richard Lever from land acquisition company Property Capital, said that the developer had “limitations”. However, he indicated that they may be able to change “the mix” of affordable properties, which could result in more of them actually being built.

Currently, Barratt is proposing a 50/50 split between homes for affordable rent and shared ownership. As part of their most recent submissions to the authority, the firm has scrapped plans for the majority of its affordable homes on the site simply to be discounted on the basis of their open market value – after South Ribble expressed reservations about the proposal.

The development is expected to generate about £7m in community infrastructure levy payments – cash which the borough and county councils can use to improve services and facilities in the area.

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Part of the money will fund the construction of a new primary school on the site and a neighbourhood retail centre will also be incorporated.

The application will now return to the committee at a later date, with a fresh officer recommendation based on the revised proposal made by the developer. Permission is being sought in full for the first phase of the development, totalling 197 homes, with outline permission for the remainder of the site.


Residents – many of whom were from the Midge Hall Community Group – lined up not to condemn the principle of development, but to call for changes to its design.

Nick Berry hailed a “healthy approach to compromise” which had already seen some residents’ concerns alleviated. But he added that the plans could be significantly improved.

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“Great opportunities are still being missed to build a development to be proud of in the years to come. The concept of a village green-style development has been lost and there are still details that cause the residents great concern.

“We still believe there are too many houses on the proposed development and that open space has been sacrificed to allow for [them],” Mr. Berry said.

The original masterplan for the area suggested the site could accommodate 1,100 homes. That figure was eventually revised down to 950 – but is still far above the indicative 750 which was suggested when the site was put forward for development under the local plan.

The style of the proposed estate also came in for scrutiny with local resident Alan Green saying the housebuilder had given nothing more than a “cursory nod” to the heritage of the surrounding area.

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“What is being proposed are the off-the-peg type houses as found anywhere in the country. The sheer number of properties is at odds with the vision put forward by the developers of a strong and bold network of green spaces.

“One uniform grey roof tile was originally proposed for every house. To be fair to the developer, they have recently offered to break this up by the introduction of some coloured tiles on certain properties.

Sadly, the budget won’t stretch to the odd slate roof, as found on most traditional Lancashire houses – and I will, therefore, be passing round the hat for poor Mr. Barratt,” he added.

Local councillors also criticised the proposals as they stand, with Moss Side member Michael Green telling colleagues on the planning committee that they could “do better” than the application which had been put before them.

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Susan Snape, representing Earnshaw Bridge, called for infrastructure to be put in place before the first phase of development and not after it, as under the current plans.

However, the developer did receive support from the Friends of Paradise Park, which lies on the perimeter of the site. David Williams, from the group, said Barratt Homes had “addressed concerns and taken our ideas on board”.

The housebuilder also denied that it had incorporated the existing park into its calculations for how much green space would be provided on the development.

“There is no double counting – we do not argue that the park is part of any net gain in green infrastructure,” Simon Artiss, from Barratt Homes, said.

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“The enhancements which we will fund will not change its character.”


The potential impact of the development on surrounding roads was – as is so often the case in South Ribble – the focus of much of the discussion at the planning committee meeting.

The new estate will see the introduction of weight restrictions along certain routes leading from the A59 onto Midge Hall Lane. Longmeanygate will also see the introduction of traffic calming measures along much of its length.

But Stuart Duffield, from the Midge Hall Community Group, said an opportunity had been missed to make mandatory use of the forthcoming Penwortham Bypass to remove the largest vehicles from many more roads in the area.

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“We are now given a scenario that, by design, seems to promote HGVs travelling from the Southport approach to rat-run through Bretherton, over Cocker Bar bridge and either go straight down Dunkirk Lane – or turn left into Longmeanygate and travel through the newly-proposed development.

“This heavily compromises all communities from Bretherton to Moss Side to Leyland itself – this is not supported by the community group nor, I believe, the developers.

“The new bypass is the correct movement for HGVs from the Southport approach. [They would] have a more purposeful route either to the motorway network or the industrial estate on Comet Way.

“We haven’t fought hard enough for this with hindsight – and the development will suffer for this reason,” Mr. Duffield said.

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But Lancashire County Council highways officer, Neil Stevens, said an “evidence base” was needed before weight restrictions over such a wide area could be imposed. The meeting heard that Barratt’s has committed to £90,000 to fund a future review of traffic movements in the area, once part of the development is completed.

“This monitoring will target Bretherton to Cocker Bar, Dunkirk Lane and Longmeanygate and other roads in Leyland, used as part of a through route,” a report to committee members notes.


Under the proposals, the main access to the development will be via Titan Way – which will also be the route used by construction traffic.

Additional access will be provided from Longmeanygate to the north and west of the site, via new roundabouts. The section of Longmeanygate between these two access points will become a designated “quiet lane”, with traffic calming measures introduced and a 20mph speed limit.

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A new stretch of Longmeanygate will be created to run through the new development.

Paradise Lane will remain closed to most traffic, but will be open for use by buses – with a bollard system introduced to provide access. The developer has committed £800,000 to support an enahnced local bus service.

Work – variously to improve capacity, safety and traffic flow – will be funded by the developer at the following locations:

***So-called Tiger Junction where Longmeanygate meets Golden Hill Lane and Leyland Lane;

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***Schleswig Way and Dunkirk Lane signal-controlled junction;

***Comet Road / Longmeanygate / Flensburg Way / Schleswig Way roundabout

***Footpath to replace existing grass verge on Titan Way

Neil Stevens, a highways officer with Lancashire County Council, told the meeting the authority is “satisfied the [road network] has sufficient capacity with the proposed changes and will operate safely”.