Residents fight to save 'garden of Colne' from threat of hundreds of new homes

Concerned residents are fighting to save an area of wooded green land dubbed 'the garden of Colne' from the threat of house building.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 12:17 pm

The land in question, known locally as The Lenches, could be the site of 212 new homes, despite the area only being listed on Pendle Borough Council's Local Plan as a "reasonable alternative".

After discovering workers digging up the field and drilling holes, alarmed local residents turned up in force on Thursday evening to call for action at the remote meeting of Pendle Council’s Colne and District Area Committee.

Resident of Lenches, local businesswoman Emma Hartley held Up a paper showing a map of new houses on the site and told councillors that Gleeson Homes already had a masterplan in place to build a development of 212 houses.

Trees at the Lenches
Trees at the Lenches

She explained how she discovered that the land in question was listed under "reasonable alternatives" on the Local Plan, which should mean it can only be developed when other options are exhausted.

Emma, who has lived in the area for 33 years, said: “This area of land is well used by walkers and dog walkers alike. It is located in the Waterside area of Colne where there are lots of terraced houses with no outside space so this really is like a garden for many local people.

"I have been told, however, that there are plans to build 212 homes on this land, despite its listing on the Local Plan. I'm horrified as I believe this is developers trying to be sneaky and get houses built before the Local Plan is fully completed or debated.

"This is open countryside, out of the settlement area, highly visible for every single person that uses Colne town centre. It’s full of wildlife, buzzards nesting, barn owls and kestrels.

“It is the wrong place for a suburban housing estate, a rural area in the middle of nowhere.”

She said the main immediate concern was for the line of trees. “If they come and clear the site, all would be lost.”

Resident Adam Lee said one day he woke up to find a small digger and borehole drill on the site. “The field is left in a mess with very deep holes after they dragged a generator like a plough across the field.”

A third resident Caroline Palmer said that the field acts as a sponge and protects Colne’s South Valley from flooding. She called for it to be registered as a community asset and local green space.

Pendle planning officer Neil Watson said that the council had not received a planning application as yet, but he had asked the council’s tree officer to go and look at the field earlier that day.

Liberal Democrat Waterside councillor Tony Greaves proposed that planning staff should urgently “pursue the question of Tree Preservation Orders on appropriate trees on the site (preferably all of them)”. He added: “We don’t want to come back in June when it might be too late.”

He was supported by the other Waterside ward councillors.

Coun. Dorothy Lord said “to be fore-warned is to be forearmed” and Coun. Alice Mann said she would like to see the land designed as a protected space in the Colne Neighbourhood Plan.

Pendle Council issued a group TPO the following day, which provides immediate protection for 28 days, after which it can be confirmed.

Pendle Council has confirmed that land in Lenches, Colne, is not being proposed for development as part of Pendle’s Local Plan Part 2.

Neil Watson, Planning, Economic Development and Regulatory Services Manager, said: “The site is included in our Reasonable Alternatives documents.

“These are sites which have been considered by us but we’ve chosen not to include them in the Local Plan Part 2 for further consideration.

“We have not received a planning application for the site.”