Is Whalley a village or a town?

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The public inquiry conducted by planning inspector Simon Berkeley on behalf of the Government to judge Ribble Valley Borough Council’s Local Plan (Core Strategy) will be well under way as this item appears.

Members of the Save Whalley Village and other campaign groups will be hoping this inspector takes heed of the submissions of local residents and doesn’t simply pander to the wishes of landowners and developers, as have his colleagues in every other inquiry which has been held in the Ribble Valley over the past three years.

The insidious use of the word “town” to describe Whalley instead of “village” is typical of the methods planners and developers use to try to alter people’s perceptions in order to more readily achieve an acceptance of ever more housing estates.

It’s similar to the way we are told we are all now “customers” of our GP surgeries rather than patients.

We have challenged consultants to name another place with a population of just over 3,000, which is considered to be a town. None has yet been able to do so.

Nathaniel Lichfield, the consultants employed by RVBC, were asked to explain its use of the designation of town for Whalley, but has refused to do so.

The people of Hawkhurst, near Tunbridge Wells, will recognise the problem. They fought to keep their village from being named as a town, as it would affect planning policies and encourage more development. The village won.

It is this sort of underhand tactic which has angered people. Telling residents = their views are sought as part of a consultation, only to find the seeking of views ticks a box in a process but doesn’t require any action to be taken on those views bound to irritate. This is exactly what has happened with the Core Strategy process.

In the wider field we have been told we must have more houses because of the need for affordable homes, yet developers can now apply to ditch any requirement to build them.

The Prime Minister has said we shouldn’t have developments of more than 30 houses plonked (his word) next to a village. Now he says that in objecting, local people are denying others the chance of buying a house.

Nathaniel Lichfield has changed the criteria it used to calculate the number of houses to be built from the last Core Strategy draft to the current one. It has done this because by using the same criteria it found we would actually require less, not more, houses than was proposed. Another example of manipulation, but done under the guise of professional conclusions.

Having read the issues inspector Berkeley wants to examine, I am faintly encouraged, as they seem to be issues about which residents are concerned.

Will he be the inspector to stamp “approved” on a lower figure than the borough council has been advised to accept and ensure thereby that Whalley stays as a village and doesn’t end up as a town? It’s in his hands.