Pickles approves Chorley homes

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has approved plans for up to 300 new houses to be built on a 33-acre site to the east of Wigan Road in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, Lancashire.

Fox Land & Property, a subsidiary of the Congleton-based Gladman Group, submitted a planning application in May last year, which was rejected by Chorley Council.

A public inquiry into the plans was held in March this year after FLP said Chorley Council failed to make a decision on the proposals within the prescribed period.

Phil Dolan, land manager at FLP, said: "We're pleased to get the decision through. Our intension now is to dispose of the land to one of the select list of house builders working with us.

"We acquired the site a number of years ago and the scheme being proposed will provide 30% of affordable housing."

Following the advice of Elizabeth Ord, the planning inspector assigned to the public inquiry, Pickles decided to approve the scheme despite it breaching the local development plan currently in place.

Within the public inquiry decision letter, it stated Pickles was satisfied that considerations in favour of the proposal outweighed "the conflict with the now outdated development plan".

In July, the government announced a 12-week consultation into a draft National Planning Policy Framework that is due to end in October.

The national framework aims to streamline national planning policy documents from 1,000-plus pages to 52 pages and act as a basis for every local plan and decision.

Chorley Council, together with Preston City and South Ribble Councils, have been working together on a draft core strategy for central Lancashire that reflects the potential changes to the planning process.

The decision letter said: "With regard to the emerging CLPCS [central Lancashire publication core strategy], the Secretary of State notes that Clayton-le-Woods is identified as a "main place" within central Lancashire."

Last month the draft core strategy was judged to be unsound by the Government because of its non-compliance with Regional Spatial Strategy housing figures. Chorley Council, therefore, was using policies set out within its 2003 local plan to argue its case for the Clayton-le-Woods proposals.

The council has a five-year housing plan, covering 2009-2014, estimating that there is already enough land in Chorley to deliver 2,184 new houses.

The decision letter added: "…the determination of need involves a consideration of more than the five year supply, and should take account of wider issues, particularly the planned growth within the emerging CS [core strategy].

"…to meet planned growth there would need to be a steep increase in housing delivery from now onwards, and that the area of strategic land that includes the appeal site is realistically the only land available in Clayton-le-Woods for delivering this growth."

The decision by Pickles could be the shape of things to come in the planning process, according Michael Wellock, director of town planning and sustainable development consultants Kirkwells in Burnley. Wellock said: "This is an early indication of where we might be heading. It seems the Government is saying that if you've not got an up-to-date local plan the default answer will be 'yes'."

Fox Land & Property's plans also include an upgrade of the signal control technology at the A49 Wigan Road and B5256 Lancaster Lane junction, near to the Hayrick pub, and widening of the footway along the east side of Wigan Road between the site access junction and Moss Lane.

The decision letter concluded: "The appeal site is acceptable for residential development and waiting until the CLPCS is adopted would risk not meeting its growth target. The proposal would sit well with the recent Ministerial Statement on Planning for Growth. Although there would be some harm to the character of the area and visual amenity, this would significantly reduce with time. Furthermore, the development would bring with it a significant proportion of affordable housing and considerable improvements to the highway."

Cllr Alan Cullens, who is responsible for planning at Chorley Council, said: "We have received the report and we are extremely disappointed with this decision.

"The council had represented the views of local people who agreed that it is not right to develop this piece of greenfield land at the moment because there is already a five-year supply of housing for the borough.

"We will take time to go through the report before deciding whether to take any further action."

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