The proposed estate, to the south of Whittingham Lane, straddles the Whittingham and Broughton border and was originally granted permission by Preston City Council’s planning committee in January 2019.
The site lies in an area defined as open countryside in Preston’s local plan – and so would usually be deemed unsuitable for development.
However, when the application was first considered, the city council was unable to demonstrate that it had five years’ worth of land set aside to meet its new housing needs. That meant that the authority was forced to permit housebuilding proposals on land which was not earmarked for the purpose.
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The original approval was left in limbo after an attempt by Wyre and Preston North MP Ben Wallace to have it – and several other permissions – assessed by the government. When a separate planning appeal decision in South Ribble changed how Preston’s minimum annual housing requirement was calculated, the committee took the opportunity to re-examine the Whittingham Lane proposal – and reject it.
The application, for 111 homes, was thrown out again when it was brought back before members last November - and is now the subject of an appeal due to be heard later this year.
However, the latest meeting of the committee heard that the plot was “landlocked” and the agent for the proposal said it should be assessed in the light of its “unique circumstances” – namely, that it is bound by two other developments currently under construction and the M6 motorway.
One of those schemes is phase one of “Broughton Park” – a 101-dwelling development which was itself approved when Preston could not show a five-year housing land supply – and of which this application would form phase two.
“The site serves no functional purpose as open countryside,” said planning agent Helen Leggett.
“This parcel of land is left over after planning, a fact which is even more glaring now that phase one is so advanced. Should planning permission be refused, [then] yes, the site would remain undeveloped – but it would remain landlocked and make no functional contribution to the open countryside.”
Ms. Leggett added that the applicant, Andy Bradshaw, had secured a “high-quality development” with Stewart Milne Homes, which is building phase one and is also committed to phase two. She also noted that the duration of the forthcoming appeal inquiry had more than doubled to 10 days – and said that the council could save “significant resources” if that process were no longer necessary.
However, officers once again recommended refusal of the application because of its conflict with Preston’s local plan, with case officer James Mercer telling the committee that the circumstances that led to the approval of phase one were “materially different” to the current situation.
Committee member David Borrow said that it was “quite clear” why the proposal should be blocked, but added: “It’s perfectly possible that under the next local plan, this bit of land could come forward as [somewhere] that could be included in the area where we would be sympathetic to applications for development. But at this stage, I don’t think that’s where we are.”
Preston, Chorley and South Ribble councils are currently developing the first Central Lancashire joint local plan, which is expected to be adopted by the end of 2023. But Cllr Neil Darby warned that going against the current city-wide document could be “setting ourselves up for problems in the future”.
Last year, Andy Bradshaw condemned the city council’s decision to reverse its original approval of the phase two plans. He told the Lancashire Post that it was “unreal – as wrong as wrong can be” – and asked whether the authority really believed that he would “just go away” after spending £130,000 on preparing the application.
Appeals against seven other approved-then-refused applications for over 600 properties, mostly around Goosnargh, were heard at a public inquiry in April, with a decision due this autumn. The inquiry into Mr. Bradshaw’s application will be held in November.
The committee was told that there were two options for the second phase of Broughton Park – one which saw a third of the homes built in the Broughton area and the rest in Whittingham, with an area of open space in the centre of the development. Under an alternative design, the layout would be reconfigured so that none of the homes were located within Broughton – which would remove an objection from Broughton Parish Council.
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