Councillors must take more care over future housing plans

FLAGS EYE VIEW: View of Clitheroe from the top of Clitheroe Castle.'Photo Ben Parsons
FLAGS EYE VIEW: View of Clitheroe from the top of Clitheroe Castle.'Photo Ben Parsons

I welcome Ken Hind’s comments last week in which he acknowledged overdevelopment was the key issue in the recent Littlemoor by-election result.

However, it’s not just Littlemoor residents who have shown how they feel about this issue with their votes.

The Lancashire County Council election for the Clitheroe seat was a very close-run thing between me and the Tory candidate, the housing issue being the main topic again. If 23 people had voted Independent instead of Conservative, the town would not have a Tory county councillor.

It would be interesting to see the result if there was a by-election in St Mary’s Ward, Clitheroe, which incorporates the site of the Waddow View application, or in Whalley and Barrow.

This is by no means a short-term protest. As increased housing numbers affect more people’s lives, those to blame will continue to suffer.

With the Core Strategy back in Ribble Valley Borough Council’s possession now is a good time to act.

Increasing the number of houses from 4,000 to 5,000 is not a good start. After all, it is not the fault of residents that the first Core Strategy was rejected. Dispensing with the preferred option of 1,040 houses at Standen Estates would also go a long way to appeasing the people.

The failure to submit a viable Core Strategy at the first attempt has cost certain communities very dear.

With a sound housing plan in place we would have been able to fight the Waddow View and Lawsonsteads plans with a near certain chance of success. But, without one, 605 houses seem certain to be dumped where they are neither needed nor wanted.

Some weeks ago Duncan Smith (Clitheroe Advertiser and Times news editor) wrote that most of the blame for this predicament lies with the Government because of the way the National Planning Policy Framework has been constructed in favour of the developer, and this is very true.

However, our own council must take the blame for its inability to produce a Core Strategy that could pass an inspector’s scrutiny. To fail by providing out of date supporting information is little short of shambolic.

Without a Core Strategy developers have free reign, localism disappears and the developer’s charter rules.

When finalising the second Core Strategy would councillors please take more care this time around. Instead of just nodding the Core Strategy through because it does not affect the villages many of them represent, they should digest the content, ask questions and make sure it is the right plan for the Ribble Valley.

We must hope there is no repeat of previous inept decision making or in 2014 we will be talking about a plan containing 6,250 houses – not to mention the wasted money!