Preston village would be 'collectively destroyed' by plans for over 400 homes, council says
A planning inspector will be told that the cumulative impact of proposals for more than 400 new homes surrounding the village of Goosnargh would “destroy” its rural character.
That will be one of the arguments put forward by Preston City Council at a public inquiry in April when the authority will be forced to defend its decision to reject five controversial planning applications in the area.
The authority will partially base its case on condemning the combined effect that building the 412 proposed properties on the outskirts of Goosnargh would have on a village which has only 532 dwellings within its official borders.
The city council will argue that the scale of the developments would result in “a radical change to the character” of Goosnargh and “collectively destroy its character as a rural settlement and its intimate relationship with the surrounding countryside, by surrounding the village on all sides with suburban new development”.
The position was backed by the authority’s planning committee at a meeting during which three of the applications in question were refused for a second time.
However, the council received a foretaste of the kind of response that it might get from the developers behind the applications with one of them telling members that applications should be judged “on their own merits” and not in the context of other proposals.
Outlining the authority’s argument, planning officer James Mercer said that the cumulative impact case was justifiable, because each of the appeals was being heard at the same inquiry.
“There is a prospect that a planning inspector may grant permission simultaneously for some or all five proposals.
“While it is appreciated that the introduction of a new strand to the council’s case may be criticised by the appellants, it is considered that there is a reasonable case to be made regarding the impact the five appeal proposals would have on the character of Goosnargh as a rural settlement,” Mr, Mercer explained.
The council will also advance its original reasons for refusal the applications, including that they amount to the “unplanned expansion” of a rural village.
The five proposals date back to 2018/19 and are part of a wider series of boomerang-like applications that keep reappearing before city planners.
All five were originally approved – in spite of being in areas of open countryside – when the authority was unable to show that it had a five-year supply of land available to meet its then housing target.
Under planning legislation, that meant the city council was often obliged to pass proposals for housebuilding on land that it had not earmarked for development. However, that position changed following a ruling in an entirely separate planning appeal in South Ribble.
Due to a delay in confirming the original permissions as a result of a potential ‘call-in’ by the government at the request of Wyre and Preston North MP Ben Wallace, the council was able to reconsider its original decisions and reverse them – duly doing so last February.
The public inquiry into the is due to open on 13th April. A separate inquiry into the refusal of an application for over 150 homes in Barton will take place in February.
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The three Goosnargh applications resubmitted to the city council in advance of the pending appeal received short shrift from planning committee members for the second time in less than a year.
Land at Swainson Farm, Goosnargh Lane (40 homes)
Documents submitted on behalf of the applicant, Michael Wells, argued that the current agricultural use of the site did not make a positive contribution to the village setting.
“The proposal would result in visual change, away from an industrial-looking farm – and the visual impact [of the estate] would be…positive – providing a much more attractive and appropriate entrance to the village, including new tree and hedgerow planting,” Steven Harris from planning agent Emery Planning told the committee meeting.
The resubmitted proposal also hiked the planned proportion of affordable homes from 35 to 45 percent.
However, local campaigner Michelle Woodburn, from the group Goosnargh and Whittingham Against Overdevelopment, said the scheme would exacerbate existing problems with flooding in the area.
“This is another case of a developer not considering residents’ concerns – they have lived there for many years and know the problems relating to water coming off the fields. Developers are not in touch with our area and think they know better,” Ms. Woodburn said.
However, there were no objections to the proposal from statutory consultees – nor to a related application for land north east of Swainson Farm, (87 homes).
But Ms. Woodburn said that on a recent visit to the area, United Utilities had told residents that the surface water drains and sewers “are inadequate for their workload”.
“And this is without more properties [being built],” she added.
Members voted without debate to refuse both Swainson Farm applications by a majority of eight to one.
Bushells Farm, Mill Lane, Goosnargh (140 homes)
Planning agent Daniel Hughes said that a commitment by the applicants, Gerald Gornall and Community Gateway Association, that half of the proposed housing would be classed as affordable should not be treated as a “generic benefit” – because it was 15 percent more than developers are obliged to provide.
“The applicant is surprised at the inclusion of cumulative impact as a reason for refusal,” he added.
“The application should be determined on its own merits and not [based on] what may or may not come forward in close proximity to the site, whether by application or an appeal,” Mr. Hughes stressed.
Although recommending the proposal for refusal, council officers did conclude that a pledge to retain open fields to the south of the Grade II-listed buidings of Bushells Hospital - now Bushell House care home - and St. Mary’s Church would preserve the “rural character” of the two heritage assets.
However, a local resident identified only as Mr. Hargreaves said that the plans would have a “traumatic impact on the community”.
“Bushells Farm is situated in beautiful countryside, capable of producing crops and inhabiting wildlife – we should protect our natural environments,” he said.
The application was rejected by an eight-to-one majority.
Two other previously-rejected applications – for land at Goosnargh Cottage and south of Chingle Hall Cottage, Whittingham Lane (65 homes) and land south of Whittingham Lane (80 homes) were not resubmitted for fresh consideration by the committee and will go straight to April’s appeal hearing.
Another approved-then-rejected application in the area – for 145 homes on land north of Whittingham Lane – was also put back before the committee.
However, the applicant has not appealed the revised decision and so it will not form part of April’s public inquiry.
Chris Lee, speaking on behalf of the applicant, Gladman Developments, told members that the developer wanted to “give the committee the opportunity to consider the proposal again on its own merits”.
He added that the firm was not attempting to argue against the reason for the refusal last year – that the council could now demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land – but rather that ”the benefits of the proposal outweigh the conflict with [the council’s] development plan”.
“The council still has an obligation under the City Deal to provide considerably more houses than required under the standard method [currently used to calculate its housebuilding target] – and this proposal would assist in meeting that requirement,” Mr. Lee said.
He told councillors that provision of 51 affordable homes on the estate – 35 percent of the total – would allow young people in Goosnargh “the opportunity to remain in the village when otherwise they might be priced out.
Mr. Lee also argued against the “cumulative impact” justification now being used to refuse the Gladman application and those of the proposals which are going to appeal.
“At the moment, there is no other development for this application to [be] considered in combination with. The other applications have been appealed – this [one] must be considered on its own merits,” he said.
However, Bernard Ingham, a resident objecting to the plans, said that the permission granted for 900 homes on the former Whittingham Hospital site made Goosnargh and Whittingham “unique” – in that they should not be obliged to take any additional housing should the council ever find itself back in the position of not being able to show a five-year housing land supply.
He warned that the population of the two villages could rise from 1,500 a decade ago to 7,500 “if all recent [housing] completions and existing permissions are added to” by the Gladman proposal and the five sites going to appeal.
“This would be not far short of the population of Longridge in 2011 – a town with a large number of shops and full range of facilities befitting a town of thay size.
“[Preston] did not plan for a new small town at Goosnargh and Whittingham, so it would simply become an amorphous mass of housing, with everyone travelling four miles to Longridge or seven miles to Preston for virtually all their needs,” Mr. Ingham said.
Committee member David Borrow rejected the charge that the city council was jeopardising its City Deal commitments by rejecting applications like those around Goosnargh and Whittingham.
“The development proposed here is one of several which, in an unplanned way, would completely transform the [two] villages.
“Our job is not to do things in an unplanned way, but a planned way,” Cllr Borrow said.
The application was unanimously rejected.