Plans for over 500 homes in Chorley dismissed over greenbelt fears

Proposals to build more than 500 homes in villages across Chorley on land not currently earmarked for development have been rejected by councillors, amid warnings about their potential impact on the borough’s greenbelt.

Wednesday, 14th April 2021, 8:46 am
Updated Friday, 16th April 2021, 4:42 pm

Members of Chorley Council’s planning committee refused four applications for a total of 197 new properties – and indicated that they would have come to the same conclusion about two bids for 330 others had they not already been passed to a national planning inspector for consideration.

In both of those cases – for 250 dwellings off Town Lane in Whittle-le-Woods and 80 homes on Tincklers Lane in Eccleston – Redrow Homes has lodged an appeal against the authority’s failure to determine the applications within a 13-week target period.

The fact that the committee has now suggested it would have been “minded to refuse” them will be used to inform the council’s evidence at a forthcoming inquiry where they will now be decided.

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Land off Town Lane in Whittle-le-Woods, which one councillor said was the worst location he had ever seen to build 250 homes (image: Google)

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Chorley tries to see off 'speculative' plans for over 500 new homes

All six of the applications – three in Eccleston and one in each of Adlington, Coppull and Whittle – were for areas of so-called “safeguarded land”, which is intended to be protected from development for the duration of Chorley’s current local plan, but may be released for housing in future.

The proposals were lodged in the wake of a planning inspector’s conclusion last August – relating to an appeal case in Euxton – that an agreement between Chorley and Preston and South Ribble councils to pool and redistribute their collective minimum housing requirement could be afforded only minimal weight.

The authority had been holding itself to the delivery of 278 homes per year based on an updated version of that deal reached in April 2020. For eight years prior to that, a separate arrangement had put Chorley’s minimum requirement at 417 dwellings.

However, the outcome of the Euxton appeal saw the borough’s target rocket to 569 – the non-redistributed minimum required under what is known as the “standard method” of calculating housing need – after the inspector found that the the agreement between the three neighbours needed to be more fully tested as part of the ongoing work to create a new joint local plan for the trio.

That decision also led to Chorley being unable to demonstrate a five-year supply of land for new housing, as required by the government – leaving the district open to the prospect of being forced to approve applications for housing on sites irrespective of whether they were safeguarded or not, unless the negative impact of doing so could be shown to significantly outweigh the benefits.

However, in Central Lancashire’s increasingly interconnected planning story, the committee heard that another planning inspectorate ruling involving Preston City Council last month has now reversed that position – leading Chorley planning officers to recommend the latest proposals be rejected.

Members lined up to condemn the proposals that had been brought before them. Cllr Alistair Morwood said that none of the sites were needed for housing.

“This administration is pro-development, but only where it’s appropriate and to benefit our local community and the environment.

“These applications are not for the benefit of the community, but the benefit of developers,” Cllr Morwood said.

He described it as “ridiculous” that a city like Preston should have a minimum housing need figure of 250 – less than half that of a borough like Chorley.

Meanwhile, Cllr Martin Boardman said that while he was unhappy about the authority’s “overdelivery” on housing in previous years, the cumulative impact of the six applications on the borough’s rural areas would be “grossly disproportionate to the actual need required within these village centres.”

A report presented to members stated that Chorley’s minimum housing need now stands at 144 dwellings per year, based on the inspector’s conclusions in the Preston case and after factoring in a previous “oversupply” against its target in recent years.

However, PWA Planning, the agent for one of the applications – a second site on Tincklers Lane – described that figure as “unfathomable”

Rachel Leather, a planner for the firm, said that the calculations made by the council were “not explained [and] nor are they backed up by any published evidence, meaning there has been no opportunity for us to review how these figures have been reached”.

She told the committee that appeal decisions elsewhere in the country had shown that any consideration of the impact of past overdelivery on current housing requirements was “flawed”.

“We therefore believe that there is a possibility that members are being misled in relying on the figures quoted in the committee report,” Ms Leather said.

Requesting a deferral of the decision on her client’s application, she called it “troubling” that the committee had been asked to determine the matter when Preston City Council was poised to bring a legal challenge to the planning inspector’s judgement in its area, on which officers in Chorley were basing their housing requirement figures.

However, Chorley Council’s planning services manager Adele Hayes said it was “imperative” that the future status of safeguarded land was considered as part of the development of the joint local plan, due to be completed by the end of 2023.

“Safeguarding is for the express purposes of ensuring greenbelt boundaries are long-lasting – and for meeting long-term development needs.

“The proposals would, if approved now, bring forward the prospect that greenbelt boundaries would need to be redrawn or increase pressures to release greenbelt land for development,” Ms. Hayes warned.

Committee member Cllr Alex Hilton said: “The people of Chorley…deserve better than these applications”.

The votes against all of the proposals were unanimous.

HIT FOR SIX

This is what was proposed at each of the sites – and what was said about them. They were all rejected because of the safeguarded nature of the land, while some also had site-specific reasons for being refused.

Town Lane, Whittle-le-Woods – up to 250 homes (applicant: Redrow)

Redrow has appealed to the planning inspectorate over the fact that Chorley Council did not make a decision over the application within the 13-week timeframe to do so. The planning committee was told that the move was “rare” and that the housebuilder had not formally responded to a request from the authority for a time extension.

Councillors indicated that they would have refused the application had it not now been passed to a planning inspector to determine, with committee member Martin Boardman saying he did not think he had ever “seen a worse location for a site of 250 houses”.

Cllr Yvonne Hargreaves warned that bringing additional traffic onto Town Lane was a “recipe for disaster”, because of the absence of a footpath on parts of the route and the fact that a bridge over a canal in the area could take only one car at a time.

Clayton and Whittle ward councillor John Walker said that schools in the area were full and that the addition of 250 homes would lead to families driving elsewhere in the borough to get their children to class.

His fellow ward member Mark Clifford – who is also the council’s environment champion – described the application as “highly speculative”.

He predicted that the proposed estate would increase “bird and bat strikes” on the nearby M61, adding: “The building of what is, in effect, another village on these green fields will dramatically alter how wildlife lives and transits the area, bringing conflict with vehicles.”

An objector, Trevor Howarth, questioned “the urgency” behind Redrow’s decision to take the matter to a planning inspector. The company did not address the committee.

Tincklers Lane, Eccleston – 80 dwellings (applicant: Redrow)

A second application that Redrow has appealed to the planning inspectorate due to it not having been determined within 13 weeks.

Cllr Gillian Sharples, who said that she had previously lived in Eccleston, told the committee that the area was “in danger of not only having its village character chipped away, but completely destroyed”.

Blainscough Lane, Coppull – up to 123 dwellings (applicant: Lea Hough & Co LLP)

Just hours before the committee met, Lancashire County Council highways officers confirmed that they could not support the application as it stood. They requested an updated traffic assessment with more details on issues including proposed safety measures on Spendmore Lane and the capacity of its junctions with Preston Road and Grange Drive.

Coppull ward councillor Steve Holgate said that the council “cannot plan when speculators come through willy-nilly looking to maximise their profits with little to no regard for the community that they’re appearing in”.

Chisnall member Julia Berry said that residents were working on a neighbourhood plan to inform development and that the application “disregarded and disrespected the aspiration of local people to shape future planning in their own area”.

Tincklers Lane, Eccleston – 15 dwellings (applicant: Lynne Howard)

Chisnall ward councillor Alan Whittaker appealed for the committee to consider the “cumulative” effect of the three proposed developments in Eccleston.

He said that they would lead to an “Irreversible loss of greenbelt land which we can ill afford in Chorley”.

Village resident Martin Fisher said that “almost all” locals were opposed to the plan and that no evidence had been presented of a need for it.

Carrington Road, Adlington – 25 dwellings (applicant: Hollins Strategic Land)

Adlington town councillor Kevin O’Donnell said that the village welcomed new residents, but that better infrastructure was needed – including to address the issue of oversubscribed schools.

Adlington and Anderton ward councillor – and deputy council leader – Peter Wilson added that such infrastructure would be the only “justification” for such an application in future – but that it did not currently exist.

Parr Lane, Eccleston - 34 dwellings (applicant: Metacre Limited)

Committee member Martin Boardman said he might have been able to support the application if it had been for “sheltered accommodation bungalows designated for the elderly...because there is a need for that in nearly all of the borough at the moment - but that isn’t what developers are building”.