Council exec backs local plan

Residents on the steps of with Coun. Jeff Sumner, and Coun. Gordon Birtwistle
Residents on the steps of with Coun. Jeff Sumner, and Coun. Gordon Birtwistle

Leading councillors have given their approval to Burnley’s contentious Local Plan, which sets out where thousands of new homes could be built in the coming years.

Despite the objections of residents, who addressed Burnley Borough Council’s Executive Committee regarding their concerns over the inclusion of three particular sites in the plan, members moved ahead with the approval and the plan will now be debated by the full council next week.

Three members of the public spoke on the potential threat of flooding at the controversial Hollins Cross Farm site, which has been earmarked for 184 new homes.

Residents living near the site had previously threatened legal action against the council if future house-building causes flooding to their properties.

Another speaker raised concerns about nearby Rossendale Road where 188 houses have been indicated, and a separate member of the public raised concerns about a site at the bottom of Ridge Avenue, off Queen's Park Road, which has been earmarked for 29 homes.

But council leader, Coun. Mark Townsend, said that any future developers would have to provide assurances that any risks would be mitigated.

He said: “All the speakers made excellent points. We listened to what they had to say but on balance I believe the Local Plan was now ready to go to full council to be discussed further.

“Regarding the Hollins Cross Farm site, no reasons were given from any recognised authority that backs up the claims from residents that this area is not suitable. The Executive has no evidence to support these claims.”

Coun. Townsend said that recent photographs of the site, published in the Burnley Express showing waterlogged fields, constituted “surface water”.

He added: “The Local Plan is a very early stage in any development. Any potential future developer would have to assure our Development Control Committee that mitigations to prevent flooding are in place.”

Mr Martyn Bell, who spoke against the Hollins Cross Farm site, said: “The Executive meeting was a complete farce. The deal (to build new houses) has already been done.

“The council was merely paying lip service by inviting residents to air their views. The councillors listened a little but we may as well have been talking about baking cakes.”

Mr Bell, who posed with other residents on the steps of Burnley Town Hall before the meeting, said the council’s hiring of security guards was over the top.

He added: “This was a meeting with members of the public, not a night out down the pub. As for Coun. Towsend’s point that there is only surface water at Hollins Cross Farm, that would soon become flood water when top soil is removed to build houses and streams and other water courses are diverted.

“The public simply don’t have a say.”

Mr Bell said he and fellow residents would continue to fight the Local Plan and plan to air their concerns with the Independent Inspector at the next stage.

The Plan, which will be discussed by the full council next Thursday, highlights sites to build 2,483 new homes.