Pickering's Farm: Permission refused for 1,100 homes in Penwortham as one councillor asks, "How dare you?"

Controversial proposals to build 1,100 homes in rural Penwortham have been rejected - and rubbished - by councillors.

Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 8:38 am

Members of South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee threw out a joint bid by housebuilder Taylor Wimpey and the government’s housing delivery agency Homes England for the sprawling development on land off the A582 Penwortham Way.

The pair had a masterplan for the wider Pickering’s Farm plot dismissed just over a year ago after it was criticised by the committee for lacking the necessary detail - and they then subsequently withdrew outline applications for the dwellings that have now been put back on the table.

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The lanes of Penwortham would have looked very different if the plans for Pickering's Farm had been passed

A revised masterplan was also submitted in support of the fresh proposals, but, crucially, local planning policy demands that the document be agreed and approved in advance, before any specific planning permission is granted.

That was one of a litany of issues that the authority’s planning officers highlighted as reason to recommend the refusal of the applications - with councillors following their advice unanimously. Campaign group Keep Bee Lane Rural - which has vehemently opposed the development for the past three years - said that it was “over the moon” at the decision.

The committee was told of a range of highways concerns regarding the proposals, including the absence of a “firm commitment” to the completion of South Ribble’s cross-borough link road to run across the site and connect the A582 with the stretch of new east-west route between The Cawsey and the A6 which opened last year.

Lancashire County Council’s highways officials judged that there was a “lack of supporting evidence” accompanying the plans, which left them dissatisfied with “all aspects” of the applications and unable to support them as they stood.

There were concerns over whether the railway bridge on Bee Lane would become dangerous for pedestrians if the number of vehicles using it increased

Amongst the issues raised by County Hall - and also Network Rail - was the intention not to alter the Bee Lane bridge over the West Coast Mainline to provide a raised footpath for pedestrians, even though the pinch point would see an increase in vehicles due to the road being used to access 40 of the proposed homes.

Overall, South Ribble’s planning officers found that the evidence submitted by the applicants was insufficient to determine whether the “necessary infrastructure can be provided” to support the development.

Committee member Will Adams fumed that the conclusion could be encapsulated in a phrase that echoed the committee’s previous deliberations over the site back in September 2020 - “lack of detail”.

“The application is actually quite insulting to the residents of Penwortham, Lostock Hall, Farington and also this planning committee. This committee raised serious concerns last time - they have largely been ignored.

Bee Lane is part of a network of popular rural routes in Penwortham

“This development could have...a major impact on the lives of residents currently [living] there and potential new ones. How dare you not give that detail?

“I am very much pro-development - we need a better standard of housing, we need more affordable housing. But it has to be sustainable.

“I have never been so against an application as I am with this one - the total disregard...makes me furious,” Cllr Adams said.

However, Gary Halman, the agent for the applications - one for 920 homes off Penwortham Way, including a local centre for retail, employment and community uses, a two-form entry primary school and green infrastructure, and another for 180 properties to the east of the plot close to the railway line - reminded the committee that the overall site they were considering is earmarked for development in South Ribble’s local plan.

“Realising this potential is fully consistent with the borough council's own strategy. I have to say those who oppose this [development] in principle either fail to recognise that or choose to ignore it.

“It’s clear that there are differences between the applicants and the council in how this site is to be delivered - but delivered it must be in order to provide a continuing source of housing that the borough needs and, specifically, the affordable homes that are so urgently required for those in housing need in the borough.

“This is a high-quality, carefully conceived scheme which, if approved, will deliver multiple benefits for the borough,” Mr. Halman said.

However, committee member Cllr James Flannery condemned what he described as an “arrogant” stance.

In an eight-page document presented to committee members, Taylor Wimpey and Homes England sought to address the various road-related concerns raised by Lancashire County Council - including that of the main entry to the development being taken from the A582, which would be the access point for more than 1,000 properties.

The authority had wanted a secondary access to be included from the Kingsfold area, but the applicants had argued that there was no evidence that their plans were inappropriate - and nor that a connection into the residential streets of Kingsfold would make “a material difference to the performance of the Penwortham Way junction”.

The applicants also stated that they had “taken the opportunity” to consider creating a segregated footpath on the Bee Lane bridge and a priority give way system for motor vehicles, rather than the two-way flow previously proposed.

Meanwhile, Mike Axon, managing director of Vectos, the traffic consultants for the application, told the committee that South Ribble’s local plan did not require the creation of the cross-borough link road “in whole or part...for the application to be acceptable”.

He also claimed that there would be “no meaningful traffic effect” as a result of the development, citing typical increased journey times on the A582 from the A59 through to the M6/M65 junction of between 30 and 80 seconds. But County Hall deemed the modelling approach used in the application “unacceptable and a significant concern”.

Speaking in objection to the proposals, Keep Bee Lane Rural member Mike Bowe said that the development would encourage “car dependency”, adding:

“The true impact of traffic generated from the site will be truly catastrophic, generating severe delays to the local road network - with journey times on key routes doubling at peak times. It is estimated that these delays will cost the local economy £5.5m per year and generate over 4,000 tonnes of CO2 per year - and will further damage poor local air quality,” Mr. Bowe said.

Mark Phillips, senior planning and enabling manager at Homes England, told the committee that the body had so far made £8.8m worth of investment in South Ribble, creating 1,000 new homes. He said that while he appreciated that there was “public concern” over the current application, Homes England was “committed” to bringing it forward.

However, committee members lined up to lay into what they saw as a failure to put right the wrongs of the previous masterplan application.

Cllr Mary Green said that the developer “hasn't shown any inclination whatsoever of working with residents or the council, while Cllr Gareth Watson it appeared that “there has been a lot of effort made to not really make any effort to address the issues that they have been asked to consider previously”.

Dave Whelan, South Ribble Borough Council’s deputy monitoring officer, told the committee that although prior approval for the masterplan was required before specific planning permissions should be granted, refusal on that ground would have been considered “weak” if the masterplan had been assessed as “fully fit for purpose”.

However, he added: “The planners do have concerns with the contents of the masterplan - it doesn't address all the concerns [of the council] - so that, as a reason for refusal, is still a valid one.”

In three separate votes, members resolved unanimously to reject the masterplan and both housing applications.

Speaking after the meeting, one of the founding members of Keep Bee Lane Rural, Graham Eastham, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that his delight at the decision was “off the scale” - and paid tribute to the group’s other members, many of whom addressed the committee, for their efforts to defeat the proposals.

“We drilled down into every bit of detail and tore into the data bit by bit.

“We are over the moon, but there are still some questions - like why was such a poor, inadequate submission put forward by a government body?” Mr. Eastham asked.

In a statement issued after the committee's decision, a spokesperson for Taylor Wimpey and Homes England said: “We are disappointed that our revised proposals for the Pickering’s Farm site, which has been allocated for development in South Ribble Borough Council’s Local Plan, have been rejected.

"We will continue our dialogue with both South Ribble Borough council and consultees to identify the next steps in bringing forward a scheme that meets the needs of the local community.”


South Ribble’s politicians were on the same page in their opposition to the Pickering’s Farm proposals as they addressed colleagues on the cross-party planning committee.

Labour council leader Paul Foster described the bid to build on the plot as a “flawed application”.

“As an administration, we are pro-development, as the borough clearly needs commercial, employment and residential development to thrive. However, development must be appropriate...for the local authority, but also appropriate for the local community.

“The infrastructure challenges [that] Penwortham, Lostock Hall, Farington and Leyland will experience if this was approved would be catastrophic - our community would be blighted for generations," Cllr Foster said.

Penwortham East and Walton-le-Dale Conservative county councillor Joan Burrows derided what she said appeared to be a “standalone town that is being created within a town that already exists”.

“What consideration has there been of the existing community, our lifestyles and our connectivity? Bee Lane, Moss Lane, Lords Lane, Flag Lane - all popular lanes for us locals to walk [along] and have recreation time in idyllic countryside.”

Karen Walton, Conservative opposition group leader on South Ribble Borough Council, said that air quality in Lostock Hall and Tardy Gate would be further damaged by the development.

“[The area] already suffers from one of the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide particles in the borough. The result of such an increase in volume of traffic has the potential to cause even poorer air quality that will result in [a] substantial detrimental effect on the health of residents,” Cllr Walton said.



"This area floods - not once in 100 years...but ever increasingly to [become] a now annual event. The developers propose raising the ground and completely reordering the site hydrology to mitigate flooding of new properties at the expense of existing, lower-lying properties like my own." (Peter Hambleton)


"The lanes [are] essentially a vast network of ancient hedgerows that act as superhighways for wildlife. This application has little or no detail of which hedgerows are to be retained and which are to be bulldozed - the same goes for many of the ancient trees, too. This is totally unacceptable and is not what is expected of masterplan planning, This application pays lip service to ecology." (Caz Kay)


Lancashire County Council claim that 476 primary places are available from 15 schools in the catchment. Yet...six of the 15 schools...are in fact closer [by road] to other committed developments. These committed developments will take approximately 180 of the available places. Lancashire County Council claim that the primary [school] demand from the development would be 350 places, but by using...more up-to-date information, we calculate the true demand to be over 500. [The] result is an overall primary place deficit of around 150 to 200 places." (Paul Shencoe)


“We are particularly disappointed in the support [for] this application from Preston City Council. While it may be the case that they need the [community infrastructure levy] payments to prop up a failing, out-of-control, unaudited City Deal, it should not be at the expense of the health and wellbeing of our community in South Ribble.

“Nothing about this site and the access is sustainable. It may have made sense in 1972, when the site was first allocated, but much has changed since - not least climate change, the loss of green spaces and the associated ecology. And now the local plan needs to change to reflect this. We sincerely hope the new plan in 2023 will reflect the hopes and aspirations of this community.” (Graham Eastham)


In response to Mr. Eastham's comments, Chris Hayward, director of development and housing at Preston City Council, said: “Preston City Council supported the principle of the development as it lies within a strategic location for development in the Central Lancashire Core Strategy, is allocated for housing in the South Ribble Local Plan, and is a key City Deal housing site.

“It is for South Ribble Council to consider the planning merits and detail of the planning application as the determining planning authority, which they have done.”

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