Planners reject Pendle new homes bid

Pendle councillors have refused a major planning application for 67 homes on agricultural land at Barnoldswick but said the decision may come back to ‘haunt’ them.

They claim delays or weaknesses with approving a local plan combined with central government planning policies are leaving the borough council and local communities vulnerable to unsuitable applications by developers.

Councillors claimed the UK’s current planning system is "broken", with the odds weighed in favour of housing developers rather than communities. But they also heard that local plan votes taken when Pendle changed to Conservative political control a few years ago have since hampered its ability to plan properly.

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Lancashire-based McDermott Homes wanted to build 67 new homes on fields west of Foster Road, near Gisburn Road in Barnoldswick. It sought planning permission from Pendle Borough Council for housing, car parking and landscape work.

The application sparked numerous objections from Barnoldswick residents and councillors

But the application sparked numerous objections from Barnoldswick residents and councillors.

They fear the town’s attractive appearance, local footpaths and open space, road safety and drainage would be impacted badly and the housing scheme would be outside the formal ‘settlement boundaries’ of Barnoldswick.

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At its latest meeting (August 19th), Pendle Council’s Policy & Resources Committee was told the fields near Foster Road were first earmarked as ‘reserved’ land for potential development in Pendle’s local plan back in 2014.

The borough council is required to maintain a five-year supply of development sites and McDermott Homes was entitled to apply for planning permission to develop the land.

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However, a series of councillors and residents spoke against the planning application at the meeting.

Conservative Coun. Jenny Purcell, who is not on the committee, said: “I am a resident in the Gisburn Road area and see all the dangers there. There have been a series of accidents and we are waiting for a serious accident to happen. Someone will be killed before long.

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“It is a single carriageway on both sides. Vision is poor from the exits and there are agricultural vehicles, cars, horses, cyclists and pedestrians all using the area. Last week, I saw a horse rearing up at a speeding car.

“The fields proposed for new homes are agricultural land. Once we loose that land for agriculture we will never get it back. We would be taking it away from our children and grandchildren.

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“We cannot take any more houses. We don’t have the infrastructure or services such as extra doctors, new clinics and school places.”

Objector Neil Stephenson said existing levels of traffic and parked vehicles were already a problems. He said: “Ambulances and fire engines already have very great difficulty in the area. Nobody in this new development would take a bus or bike to visit Aldi to shop.”

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Others spoke about the land being a hilly drumlin geological feature which deserved protection and that other land, such as a brownfield former mill site in Barnoldswick, should be redeveloped .

Resident Stephen Morrissey, of Foster Road, said nature had to be defended along with open spaces for people. He said: “We have seen deer, foxes, birds of prey, owls and hedgehogs in the fields. People also use the path for daily walks and it has lovely views."

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Conservative Coun David Cockburn-Price said McDermott Homes had not created artist impression images showing how the Foster Road development might look. This, he claimed, was different from McDermott’s usual procedures with planning submissions.

He said: “That’s an important thing which is missing from this application. That’s because it (the development) would not look right on top of a hill. Visualisations are very important because they give a feel of what it would look like.”

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However he said drainage or flooding issues elsewhere in Barnoldswick were not the responsibility of McDermott Homes. He added: “Locals need to get onto United Utilities and Lancashire County Council to sort that out.

He also claimed McDermott Homes had an ‘appetite’ for planning appeals if applications are rejected by councils, adding: “They like green fields but we need a proper local plan too.”

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Ann Daniels, representing the Pegasus Group planning consultancy and McDermott Homes, spoke in favour of the application.

She said: “We believe the application demonstrates social, economic and environmental benefits. It would include affordable housing, new open space, improve connections and have enhancements for biodiversity.

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“The development would not impact on the townscape or rural landscape. It’s a sustainable development for land listed in the local plan.”

It would also be a multi-million pound investment over two years, supporting local jobs and bringing more long-term spending from new households in the local economy.

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She added: “Some local families have supported the plan, including younger families looking for new homes. Local authorities would gain extra council tax income too.”

Planning officer Catherine Hughes gave guidance on planning considerations. She said the borough was required to constantly update information on land availability and both brownfield and greenfield sites were considered. While drumlin hills were characteristic, they were not specially protected.

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Lib Dem Coun. David Whipp said: “I’m grateful that councillors have visited this site. But I regret that back in 2014, in this council chamber, a majority of councillors voted to put this land into the local plan as a potential site. I voted to take this land out of the plan but that was rejected by some councillors who are here tonight.

“This application will inevitably go to an appeal. The green light for this was given seven years ago. Our decisions are coming back to haunt us. Why would the developer not think this is a site to be developed? We need to put forward the best arguments against rampant development.”

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Labour Coun. Mohammed Iqbal poked fun at what he saw as weak congestion and highways safety proposals such as double-yellow lines and tactile paving around the junction. But he also made more serious criticism of the UK planning system.

He said: “Lancashire County Council is in cloud-cuckoo land with these road marking and paving suggestions. But I also think the planning system is favoured towards developers. I think the planning system should favour residents.

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“Regarding the applicant, I would welcome McDermott Homes to Pendle but not this site. I would happily support an application for the brownfield site.

“The planning system is broken. It may suit some in the south of England or locations such as Chorley. But it is tax payers who have to pick up the bill if a council loses a planning appeal. Councillors need to lobby the Government for change.”

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Conservative Coun Sarah Cockburn-Price said: “I was one of the councillors who voted for this land to go in the plan in 2014. However, I did not just vote for this site. I voted for a number of sites.

“The reason this application has come forward is because we don’t have a proper approved local plan. If we had an approved plan it would be easier to attend to applications. Politically, it’s lovely to object but it has unforeseen consequences.”

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Coun. Whipp added: “McDermott Homes has said it has looked at the mill (brownfield) site too but noise from the concrete works would be a problem. Developers want the best locations.

“Our assessment of this application for Barnoldswick has been balanced, with the benefits and dis-benefits. I think we have solid grounds for refusal which can be defended on appeal.”

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But he added: “In 2018, the Conservatives had a majority and at the very first council meeting they kicked the local plan into the long grass. I think we can blame Conservative colleagues for council plan not being developed as it should be.

The planning application was refused in a vote by the committee. A minority on the committee abstained.