Highbrook Homes Lancaster
Highbrook Homes' application was described as "finely balanced" by planning officers

PLANNING | Departure from local plan on Lancaster agenda

Charlie Schouten

Council officers have recommended a “finely balanced” decision when approving proposals for homes on a greenfield site, in a departure from the city’s development framework.

Lancaster City Council’s planning committee is due to meet next week, to discuss an agenda which includes three contentious residential planning applications.

The largest of these is an outline application for 77 homes for the Homes & Communities Agency on an eight-acre site off Pathfinders Drive, south of the city centre.

The land, currently used as grazing pasture, will be redeveloped for 71 new-build homes, while the grade two-star listed Derby Home building on the site will be converted into six apartments.

The site also backs on to NHS offices, known as The Orchards.

Two local councillors have objected to the project, alongside 36 letters of objection from local residents. Cllr Abi Mills argued the scheme would cause an increase in car journeys and congestion, while Cllr Gina Dowding said there was a lack of local amenity and argued the visual impact of the scheme would affect existing homes on Ashton Road.

However, planning officers recommended the proposals for approval, subject to a Section 106 agreement. This includes a £77,000 contribution to off-site highway improvement works, and a provision for 40% of the homes to be classed as affordable.

Planning officers said: “The visual impacts would not significantly or demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the proposal.

“The impact is localised and due to the proximity of the site to the existing built form, it will be in keeping with its immediate environs”.

Nexus acted as planner for the project while the design and masterplan has been provided by Broadway Maylan.

Also on the planning committee’s agenda is an outline application for 55 homes outside the village of Over Kellet. IDPartnership is the project architect and planner for the scheme, which is for a private landowner. Around 40% of the homes will be classed as affordable.

Over Kellet Parish Council has objected to the proposals based on flood risk and sustainability, and argued the development is “too large” with “no community benefit”.

The size of the development has been reduced following pre-application discussions with the council; initial proposals for 70 homes were scaled back to 55 houses as a compromise on planning officers’ suggestion of 40 homes on the site.

Planners have recommended the project for approval subject to a Section 106 agreement, which includes £21,400 towards local education provision, and a 40% affordable housing provision.

The planning committee will also consider an application for 25 homes on greenfield land off Bowerham Lane, next to the M6, which has been described by planning officers as “clearly a departure” from the council’s development plan.

Developer Highbrook Homes has submitted a detailed planning application for houses on the site, which has outline approval for 20 homes.

There will be a mix of four one-bedroom apartments; four two-bedroom houses; six three-bedroom houses, and 11 four-bedroom houses.

The land is classed as Key Urban Landscape under the council’s development plan, meaning that it would ordinarily not be used for housing development. Planning officers said there was “harm [to the landscape] which weighs significantly against the scheme”.

Planning officers have recommended the project for approval but warned the planning committee “will be tasked with a hard decision to make” and said the recommendation to approve was “finely balanced”.

The planners’ report said: “Given the inability of the local authority to demonstrate a deliverable five-year housing land supply, together with the lack of any technical objection from any statuary consultees, that on balance, the material considerations weigh in support of the scheme to allow officers to make a positive recommendation for this development.”

Lancaster City Council’s planning committee will meet on 11 December.

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