‘Secrecy’ row erupts over Healey Wood homes plan

Martyn Hurt and Barbara Grime on land earmarked for housing at the back of Berry Street
Martyn Hurt and Barbara Grime on land earmarked for housing at the back of Berry Street
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Burnley Council has been accused of secretly making plans to build social housing on green land in a quiet area of Healey Wood.

Residents of Berry Street and Serpentine Road only discovered the plans when a surveyor was spotted examining land near their homes.

The issue was first discussed in private at a Burnley Council Executive Committee meeting in April, and will go back before the Executive in January.

Retired teacher Miss Barbara Grime, who has lived in the same house in Serepentine Road all her life, said none of the residents had been consulted by the council.

She said: “I am very disturbed by the secrecy of it all. I only discovered the plans when I asked Coun. Howard Baker, who confirmed it was proposed to build 24 ‘affordable social homes’ here.

“Six would be built between Clevelands Road, Berry Street and David Street, and a further 18 at the back of Serpentine Road and Berry Street.

“This is green land which is a haven for wildlife. We have deer, foxes, owls, badgers and bats on this land.

“I later wrote to Coun. Baker and our other two ward councillors, Tony Martin and Liz Monk, asking where they stood on the issue and why there had been no consultation. So far, I have not had the courtesy of a reply from any.”

Miss Grime (68) said she had also done her own survey of housing in the area and found there were 20 existing houses already to let, for sale or empty.

She added: “I don’t think these new homes are necessary, particularly on green land. I just feel it is a way for the council to make money.

“I also have some concerns that some of the land is potentially contaminated and it may have been used to dispose of hospital waste in the 1950s.”

Mr Martyn Hurt, who lives in Berry Street, said some residents on the street rented back gardens and garages from the council which would be lost if the homes were built.

A spokesman for Burnley Council said the proposal was still at an early stage but site surveys had started to assess the land.

The spokesman said: “If the surveys indicate the proposal could be progressed, they will be developing plans for a scheme, and there will be consultation with nearby residents on these.”

The proposals will be brought forward by a housing association.

Paul Gatrell, the council’s Head of Housing and Development Control, said: “We are taking a step-by-step approach to considering whether to develop this site, which belongs to the council.

“There is an expectation that a proposal will come forward to build new homes. Any building work would be funded through a grant from the government’s Homes and Communities Agency. Building new homes across the borough is important, because it helps us ensure people’s future housing needs are met.

“We understand residents have spoken to a person who was taking an initial look at the sites on behalf of a housing association. The council has now sent a letter to residents explaining the current situation. If definite proposals do come forward, these will be consulted on as part of the normal planning permission process.

“We are aware that some residents have leases for garden plots and garages on part of the site, and we will definitely be taking their views into account as part of the consultation.”