Burnley Borough Council has denied that the threat of legal action is behind the delay in the publication of its much-vaunted Local Plan – which aims to set out future development frameworks for the borough.
Plans and locations to build 2,700 new homes in Burnley were unveiled last year in the plan which identified 34 sites across the borough – a mix of brownfield and greenfield – to build the houses.
However, one of the sites – Hollins Cross Farm, off Glen View Road – has caused consternation among residents who have sought legal advice.
Mr Martyn Bell, one of the residents opposed to the plans, said: “The first draft of this Local Plan has been shown to be totally inaccurate by Burnley Conservation Forum.
“The council is trying to build 2,700 houses in Burnley when we already have 2,850 empty houses, and the population has been shrinking over the past 10 years on average of 250 people per year.
“The reason the council want to build these houses is that they hope to receive £10,000 per new house built from a government grant scheme that may soon be stopped to help ease Brexit costs.
“These new houses are not social housing that are affordable to young local couples starting out in the housing market but are Band D £250,000 to £350,000 houses that the council think ‘young Manchester money’ will come here for cheaper executive housing and then travel back into Manchester to work.
“The problem is, we don’t have the infrastructure, either transport or schools, to support this.”
Mr Bell accused the council of incompetence and said a residents group had been formed to oppose any potential Hollins Cross Farm development, which is on greenfield land.
He added: “As usual the planning officers and all involved with this Local Plan have shown their usual incompetence.
“Hollins Cross Farm is riddled with abandoned shallow coal mines and has been designated by the Coal Authority as High Risk and should not be developed.
“Disturbance of the site by piling for foundations, and excavation for drainage could release toxic mine water into the water table and local rivers that feed into the conservation area that borders the Hollins Cross Farm site. It could also cause subsidence of exiting properties, sink holes and land slips and could make local properties un-insurable.”
Wilkie Avenue resident Mr Pete Hatfield said he was worried about the risk of flooding from Crown Point Road.
He said: “We are already struggling to deal with the amount of water that comes down from Crown Point Road, one of the steepest hills in Burnley.
“If houses are built on Hollins Cross Farm there will be no absorption. We will have a torrent of water flowing into the Rosehill estate.”
Residents in the Glen View Road area now want to see an updated publication of the Local Plan before May’s local elections, a scenario they fear will not materialise.
Burnley Council denied the postponement of the publication of the Local Plan was anything to do with the Hollins Cross Farm challenge or any legal threats.
A council spokesman said: “The temporary postponement of the council meetings to discuss the next stage of the draft Local Plan has not been caused by the potential legal challenge raised by the Hollins Cross Farm group.
“There are technical issues that are not connected to Hollins Cross Farm that need to be resolved before those meetings can take place.
“As we’ve said before, our key concern is carrying out all the work we need to do in a professional and methodical manner, and ensuring that we get the best outcome for the whole borough.
“We will announce the dates of the decision making meetings as soon as they are set.”