Plans for Preston 'countryside' estate kicked out amid wrangle over whether the site is really rural at all
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Preston City Council planning officers have refused so-called “permission in principle” for a proposed development on land just off the new Cottam link road, Avice Pimblett Way.
The plot - just to the north of the new route and west of Sidgreaves Lane - had been eyed for up to nine detached homes and is made up of the gardens surrounding an existing property called Quaker Lodge. It also lies just a quarter of a mile away from the new Preston Western Distributor dual carriageway, which opened - along with the link road - in July.
The site is classed as an area of open countryside, meaning that the type of development that can be permitted on it is heavily restricted. However, the applicant - Preston-based Sapphire Properties Investments Ltd. - had argued that the significant road and house building that had already taken place in the vicinity meant that the location was “no longer representative” of a rural spot.
Documents lodged with the town hall claimed that the site sits “right on the edge of the conurbation” being developed both by the expansion of Cottam and development within the North West Preston Masterplan area, less than a mile away, where around 6,000 new homes will be built in the 20 years up to the mid-2030s.
The design and access statement adds: “The locality surrounding the site is very much an urban location and it is in this context that any views of the site are seen. The nearby existing properties are varied in character and…[the estate] would not appear as an unnatural or discordant incursion into the countryside.”
However, city council planning officials concluded that the plot "does not fall within Preston’s urban area” - irrespective of the recent road developments.
Local planning rules governing countryside locations like the one proposed allow only for agricultural or forestry-related schemes, the re-use of existing buildings or small “infill” builds in gaps between established properties. The proposal was deemed to have failed the only one of those three criteria that it could have met - the last.
Planning case officer Shaun Knights stated in the report outlining his decision: “Although Alice Pimblett Way and a new connection between Sidgreaves Lane and Alice Pimblett Way are located to the south and west, the site does not border them directly, being offset by a minimum of 25 metres and 13m respectively. The [planning] policy wording requires infill to be between buildings, but even if road infrastructure was considered, it would still not meet the definition given the offset.”
The site also lies within an area listed as a location for a possible future development - of more than 1,800 homes - under the new Central Lancashire Local Plan, which is currently being drawn up by Preston, South Ribble and Chorley councils.
The applicant noted that if that vision was ultimately realised, the small piece of land would be ‘overrun’ with houses anyway. However, development site options for a future local plan are not deemed to hold any weight when considering current applications.