More houses for Botany Bay site as senior Chorley councillor says "enough is enough"

An extra 45 houses are set to be built on land surrounding the former Botany Bay site in Chorley – in spite of strong opposition from a Chorley Council cabinet member, who warned that the authority should be saying “enough is enough” over the rate of housebuilding in the borough.

By Paul Faulkner
Wednesday, 12th August 2020, 4:36 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th August 2020, 4:40 pm

Permission had already been granted last year for 188 homes on land off Blackburn Road, along with a further 100 dwellings on a neighbouring plot. That brings to 333 the total number of properties approved for the overall site, which a masterplan had previously suggested could accommodate 250.

Planning services manager Adele Hayes told the authority’s planning committee that such indicative figures could not be considered “a ceiling” – and added that the density of the development being proposed remained low.

However, cabinet member for customer and advice, Adrian Lowe – who also represents the Chorley North East ward where the planned development sits – told the committee that the revised proposal amounted to “over-intensification” of the land and would worsen existing traffic problems in the vicinity.

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The former shopping development to the right of the picture is due to be replaced with a designer outlet village, with housing planned for the surrounding land (image: Google)

“The numbers just keep going up. The council needs to reassure residents and, I would suggest, restore some of its reputation by quite clearly [stating] that enough is enough – we will not allow building to go on at such a rate.

“Recently, traffic has come to a complete standstill in the area on three separate occasions – this will just exacerbate the situation. Please don’t let the carrot of highways improvements being dangled in front of you sway you,” appealed Cllr Lowe, who was also speaking on behalf of fellow ward councillor Marion Lowe.

As part of the previously-granted permission for the scheme – which will be accessed from the A674 Millennium Way – developer FI Real Estate Management will have to fund highways improvements including traffic signal upgrades and queue detectors at both junction 8 of the M61 and the Hartwood Hall junction between the A674 and the A6, as well as widening and reprofiling work at the roundabout close Chorley Hospital.

Planning agent Fran Lennon said that the extra housing was necessary to “optimise deliverability of the site” and that it would bring “economic, environmental and social benefits”.

The developer will also have to make a contribution towards 35 new secondary school places in the area – although councillors heard that the final amount was likely to be less than the £846,000 suggested, because that figure was based all of the homes being four-bedroom detached properties. Permission for the eaxct housing types to be built will be sought at a later date.

The revised plans will lead to less open space on the development and committee member Yvonne Hargreaves expressed concern that ecology of the area would be damaged by the additional dwellings.

“There is a lot of wildlife here and…to retain green space is important. It’s not a good idea to concrete over everything,” Cllr Heargreaves warned.

However, Adele Hayes said that the committee needed to bear in mind that it was the “resolved position” of Chorley Council to allow housing on the site – and that they would have to demonstrate the nature of harm caused by the extra 45 properties in order to justify refusing them.

Committee member Martin Boardman said that the application was a “difficult one to call” – but warned that the council could “lose control” of the deatiled conditions that had been imposed on the development if permission were refused, but subsequently granted by a planning inspector on appeal.

Cabinet member for planning, Alistair Morwood – who sits on the committee and is the third ward councillor for Chorley North East – exprssed reservations over the demand that the development would place on local servies, but added: ” If we don’t use the allocated areas that we have for housing, we’re going to find ousleves in trouble.”

Outline permission for the application was granted by a majority of seven votes to five.

BOTANY BAY OUTLET VILLAGE PLANS “ONGOING”

It is three years since plans for a designer outlet shopping village and hotel on the Botany Bay site were unveiled.

The previous retail units on the plot, mostly made up of independent operators selling items including collectibles and furniture, closed in February 2019.

The plan was for the former mill in which they were housed to be converted into a modern five-floor development selling discounted brands.

However, at the planning meeting to approve extra housing on the wider site, several councillors questioned why the focus now seemed solely to be on new homes, rather than the retail scheme.

“Was this much-heralded designer shopping village just a ruse to allow more houses to be built?” asked Chorley North East councillor Adrian Lowe.

“Residents are concerned as to what will come next.”

However, a spokesperson for developer FI Real Estate Management said that the shopping scheme was “ongoing” – but warned of the challenges it faces.

“We must be prudent and adapt to industry challenges – and these currently include increased uncertainty in the retail sector as a result of Brexit and compounded by Covid-19. We are currently developing solutions to address this and remain confident that we will deliver a fantastic development for Botany Bay that will be of great benefit to the surrounding community and local economy.”

Responding to the granting of permission for the additional housing, the spokesperson added:

“We are confident that this decision will enhance the prospects of the residential development planned.

“These new homes will deliver a financial boost to the area, both through their construction and via our community funding package. The education-led deal, drawn up alongside our partners at Chorley Council, will see local provision receive a welcome injection of investment.”