Plans for 1,100 homes in South Ribble are withdrawn - for now
Campaigners say they will fight on after learning that a developer intends to submit a revised plan that could see up to 2,000 homes built in South Ribble – just moments after being told that the original proposal they have been battling against for the past three years had been taken off the table.
Housebuilder Taylor Wimpey and government agency Homes England have formally withdrawn applications for an initial 1,100 properties on the Pickering’s Farm site in Penwortham – along with a controversial link road that would have run through it.
However, the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) can reveal that a new proposal to develop the largely rural plot is already in the pipeline.
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It follows a decision last September by South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee to reject a masterplan for the area outlining how 2,000 homes could eventually populate the 100-hectare site, known as The Lanes.
Committee members demanded that more detail be provided about the proposal, which would radically alter the largely rural site, made up of an area bound by Chain House Lane and Coote Lane to the south, Penwortham Way to the west, Kingsfold to the north and Lostock Hall to the east.
A question mark was placed over whether the second phase of South Ribble’s cross-borough link road – deemed necessary to facilitate the development – could be delivered because of the cost of constructing a new bridge over the West Coast Mainline.
For Graham Eastham, from campaign group Keep Bee Lane Rural, jubilation at the withdrawal of the applications was short-lived – but he says that the work already done by locals to oppose the wider plans stands the community in good stead to completely defeat them.
“This is a good sign and an early victory – if we keep winning these individual battles, that will enable us to eventually win the war overall.
“It has been pointed out by all the statutory consultees that this development is not sustainable – and it’s hard to see how it can ever be made so, because of concerns over air quality and also the link road.
“This is completely inappropriate development driven by greed. A huge number of people have done an awful lot of work – trawling through websites and submitting freedom of information requests – to enable us to get this far.
“So we’ll fight on – the big boys have tried to get this development through and so far they have failed,” Mr. Eastham said.
The site is earmarked for development in South Ribble’s current local plan. However, borough council leader Paul Foster says that its status will be reviewed during the ongoing process to draw up a joint local plan for the whole of Central Lancashire.
“Every option needs to be considered. That site faces fundamental challenges – Homes England, the council and the residents all know that.
“This administration is pro-development, but only where it is appropriate for our local communities and our environment.
“For many years now, we have challenged whether this proposal is suitable and it has been clear that our reservations have been shared by many local residents. They have fought tooth and nail to protect their local environment.
“South Ribble have now received a letter from Taylor Wimpey confirming that they are withdrawing from the site,” said Cllr Foster, who previously said he believed plans to turn the A582 into a dual carriageway needed to be completed before any consideration could be given to developing Pickering’s Farm.
One of the main reasons for the refusal of the masterplan last year centred on the road which would run through the estate from the planned entrance to the development off Penwortham Way, through to the junction of Bee Lane and Leyland Road. It would then flow into to the recently-completed section of the link route running from The Cawsey to the A6.
Highways bosses at Lancashire County Council concluded that the approach taken in the masterplan risked placing an unviable financial burden on housebuilders who would develop the section of land not owned by Taylor Wimpey, risking the entire road scheme.
Criticism was also made of the distinction drawn between a “short-term” option to route traffic via the narrow Bee Lane – because the duration of that arrangement could actually be between 10 and 15 years.
Network Rail raised concerns over the long-term plans for the route – namely, a new bridge over the West Coast Mainline.
They described the proposals as “insufficiently detailed” and also stated that any new structure would need to be completed before the occupation of the estate, because of the inability of the existing bridges at Bee Lane and Flag Lane to cope with carrying a significant increase in traffic.
A spokesperson for Taylor Wimpey and Homes England said after it was revealed the applications had been withdrawn: “We will be preparing and submitting a new application and will be in touch with officers to discuss this in due course.
“The withdrawal of the applications will allow a review of the proposals for this important site, having regard to ensuring a sustainable form of development is secured and the most appropriate approach to be taken with regards to its overall viability.”