Preston park-building plans rejected by councillors

A developer has had a proposal for a new estate in Preston thrown out - because it would have encroached onto a metropolitan park planned for the city.

Monday, 5th April 2021, 10:13 pm

Preston City Council’s planning committee rejected a bid by Wainhomes to build 42 properties on land off Sandy Lane in Cottam, after also expressing concern over the amount the housebuilder was prepared to contribute to a new link road being constructed in the area.

The proposed site was due to be part of a wider development of 213 homes for which the company was granted outline permission almost four years ago.

However, its plans for the overall plot changed earlier this year when it got the go-ahead also to build a new district centre and apartments. That has seen the developer rethink its proposal for the smaller site - increasing the number of properties planned for the location to offset some of those lost elsewhere as a result of the changes.

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Planned and existing development off Sandy Lane, part of the North West Preston Masterplan area, where around 5,500 homes will eventually be built (image: Wainhomes/Google, via Preston City Council planning portal)

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Committee members were told that three quarters of the 42 planned homes would lie in an area reserved for parkland as part of a masterplan drawn up to direct the development of the North West Preston area, where a total of 5,500 properties are expected to be built by the mid-2030s.

City council planning officer Jonathan Evans said that approving any development in the park risked setting “a precedent” which could jeopardise the four areas of green infrastructure earmarked for the area - which include two metropolitan parks - as part of attempts to create a “garden city” feel in the radically revamped suburbs of Preston.

“We have been consistent throughout this application that we didn’t want any development into the park. [Wainhomes] have never presented another proposal...that would be appropriate,” Mr. Evans said.

Wainhomes is already building elsewhere off Sandy Lane, to the south of the site that has now been rejected by Preston City Council (image: Neil Cross)

He added that the green spaces were necessary to ensure “a high quality of place throughout North West Preston for the new residents of the urban extension to the city”.

However, Katie Delaney, agent for the applicant, said she was “disappointed” that the matter was being decided when the developer was “still in discussions” with the council over its plans - and asked for the decision to be deferred.

Individual developers are required to make open space proposals within their own estates - over and above the “strategic” green areas set out in the masterplan - and Ms. Delaney said that the amount proposed by Wainhomes “far exceeds” that requirement.

She also claimed that the council had not been consistent over the “buffer zone” required either side of existing pylons that run through the proposed park area.

However, committee member Cllr Sue Whittam said that the issue had “nothing to do with” the reason the application was recommended for refusal by officers, while Cllr Jennifer Mein said there was no reason to delay a decision when it was obvious that the developer had “absolutely no intention of taking the houses out of the park”.

The council's head of development management and building control, Natalie Beardsworth, said Wainhomes had refused a request from the authority for an extension of the time available to determine the application, leaving it with “no choice” but to come to a decision at the meeting.

ROADBLOCK OVER CASH FOR CONNECTING ROUTE

Planning committee members were told that there were “fundamental differences” between Wainhomes and the city council over how much the developer should stump up towards a new road that would have provided access to the proposed estate.

The east-west link road is currently under construction and will ultimately connect Lightfoot Lane to the Preston Western Distributor route that will run between Blackpool Road and the M55.

The agent for the application, Katie Delaney said that the housebuilder was not prepared to pay the £6,700 per dwelling being demanded by the authority.

However, she added that Wainhomes was “absolutely willing to make some form of contribution..and the problem lies in the specific amount and the calculation of it”.

“The total cost of the link road is in excess of £17m. In the case of the almost 3,000 dwellings already granted planning permission in North West Preston, they have, in total, contributed £1.5m to the link road - with only three developments making any contribution at all.

“The sum now requested from us is based on the remaining £15.7m road cost being divided by the remaining 2,500 dwellings yet to be [approved].

“[Neither] myself as a planning consultant, nor the highways consultant acting for the applicant can make sense of these figures. Even on the most basic level, the contribution for a one-bedroom apartment is [under this scenario] equal to that for a four-bedroom detached.

“We have not been able to understand from officers how this can be directly related to the impact of [the] development, as is required by law,” Ms. Delaney said.

However, planning officer Jonathan Evans said legislation had initially capped the number of developers from whom cash for infrastructure like the link road could be secured - and the authority had sought contributions from the largest estates to maximise the amount available.

Explaining that the rules had now changed and that the amount sought in this instance was “reasonable and justified”, he added:

“Wainhomes are reliant on that infrastructure to deliver this scheme and for people to want to live here and buy their dwellings - so it is in their interests to provide [it].

“Obviously, they are a private developer [and] they don't want to have to contribute anything more than they are required to, but this development requires the east-west link road, it requires schools and green infrastructure to make it sustainable - and they need to contribute towards [it], it’s not for the council to provide all that.”