Ribchester snail farm: Villagers angered at changes to controversial site
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Members of the public and the acting chairman of Ribchester Parish Council expressed their outrage about alterations to a stream on the site boundary, proposed changes to plans and colour schemes at the former green field site, renamed Boadicea Park, off Preston Road.
Residents also objected to building work sometimes starting earlier and finishing later than allowed and former objections being disregarded
They also spoke of their bemusement when Terry Burns, voluntary project manager for the development, said £60,000 of free playground equipment could be provided on the site if people wanted it.
He also said the development could in time include a cafe, a wildflower meadow, an opportunity for scouts to stay there and a local person could put livestock on the land if they cared for the animals.
But he also said the planned tourist, business and holiday lodge development would not make any money.
Terry, a former East Lancashire county councillor, said an extra 50 – 100 trees and shrubs could be planted and suggested creating a liaison committee between residents and the developers. He went on to suggest that people could book children’s parties at the site and hire it. He had asked to speak to the meeting following a series of complaints from the local parish council and residents about the project which had been the subject of a planning appeal and subsequent planning applications.
When challenged about work on a local stream he said boulders had been removed from and work done on Boyce’s brook, including cutting the embankment back “because we wanted to clean that area up”, two trees had been reshaped with dangerous branches removed , but there was “no intention of taking any trees out.”
Terry who runs a charity, Furniture for Education Worldwide (FEW), said he was not paid for his work for the site.
He revealed he had been told his charity could, subject to planning permission and appropriate screening, store its goods (old classroom equipment) on site in 22ft containers before they were transported to help young people overseas.
Concluding his talk he said site owner Terry Ball wanted “to do what’s best for the charity and what’s best for the village”.
Planning applications for the project were made by Longridge based L'Escargotierre (Ribble Valley) Ltd.
Both residents and the chair of the meeting pointing out the village already had a large and free playground and the existing granted planning permission for the site included a planting scheme. One resident declared: “You have done stuff which shouldn’t have been done.”
The volunteer project manager showed pictures of what current containers on site would look like as holiday lodges when covered with timber cladding.
Another member of the public declared the planned container buildings “were a disgrace” and “not habitable” but Terry said they had never been used and were “quite smart inside”.
He conceded another unit did look “a mess” but said all were being refurbished inside. He said: “Even though I agree with you they look a mess, unsightly, they are not going to look like that.”
He said the site would provide employment for one handyperson/snail farm operator and soakaways on site had transformed it from a bog.
Terry Burns had opened his talk by saying the decision to change the external colour of the cladding on the main building on site from green to (dove) grey was because he and the site owner thought it looked better than green after spotting a similar agricultural building on a Lancashire lane – despite already having permission for green.
Ribble Valley Council’s planning department has refused the change, but the grey cladding had already been cut and he said they could not afford to lose £50,000 on the project and might have to spray paint the cladding if they were not permitted to change the colour.
He said because concern had been shown he wanted to show what it would like and produced a large display board picture of the building clad in grey.
Terry said: "I just want to say you would be involved in what you want to be involved in. Let’s talk about it because we want to work with you. I would like to give you a further invitation to join some Boadicea Committee, not just councillors but people...The site itself is not going to make money...If there are people who would like to be genuinely involved in what’s happening on site I would like you to get invovled.”
The meeting was chaired by Parish Clerk Deb Groves who pointed out that the existing official planning application procedure already provides a platform for comment on any proposals.
She also pointed out that the developers had to date disregarded the objections of the parish council and residents and that the village already had a large playground which attracted visitors.
There was also anger about work continuing on site after stop notices had been issued by Ribble Valley Borough Council. But Terry Burns responded that work had continued only where there was planning permission.
Resident Dr Sheila Cromie said she urged the developers to abandon the idea of having children’s birthday parties at the site. She said : “There is no pavement, it’s dangerous”, noting there had recently been a car smash nearby and it would not be appropriate to “to have little ones walking in and out”.