Tag: Local Plan

We lost the fight to defend our villages against massive over-development – Deliberate misunderstanding?

At the Planning Committee meeting on 5th October, we lost our 4 ½ year fight against the over-development of the villages of Hesketh Bank & Tarleton.

We always knew it would be tough as the combination of the determination of the developer to build 212 dwellings and the apparent inability of the Planning officers to adhere to plan policies from the outset meant that the policies of the recently adopted Local Plan were open to reinterpretation and disregard.

Alty’s old Brickworks in Hesketh Bank and adjacent Greenfield site in Tarleton were allocated as a Rural Development Opportunity (RDO) in the Local Plan 2012-2027.
Policy EC3 states:

‘The development of some brownfield sites within more rural parts of the Borough for mixed uses will be permitted in order to stimulate the rural economy and provide much needed housing.’

The policy goes on to state:

‘In the interest of the rural economy, employment generating uses will be required to form part of any proposal’

The Policy comes from the section in the Local Plan concerned with ‘Facilitating Economic Growth’. The emphasis is on stimulating the rural economy.

 

In December 2016, Persimmon’s application to build 212 dwellings on the Altys site was refused by the members of the Planning Committee. This was not on the grounds that their proposal failed to meet the requirements of Policy EC3 by failing to deliver any employment uses, but rather the two reasons for refusal of the application were:

  1. The proposed scheme shows significant encroachment of residential development into the Coastal Zone and is therefore contrary to Policy EN2 of the West Lancashire Replacement Local Plan 2012-2027 Development Plan Document.
  2. The proposed scheme fails to provide an acceptable amount, type and distribution of affordable housing and therefore fails to comply with Policy RS2 of the West Lancashire Replacement Local Plan 2012 -2027 Development Plan Document.

The Policy of Coastal Zone (EN2.5) is defined in the Local Plan as:

‘Development within the Borough’s Coastal Zones, as defined on the Policies Map, will be limited to that which is essential in meeting the needs of coastal navigation, amenity and informal recreation, tourism and leisure, flood protection, fisheries, nature conservation and /or agriculture. Development will not be allowed which would allow the loss of secondary sea embankments.’

The connection of this policy to flood risk is that it permits development that is essential in meeting the needs of flood protection. Persimmon’s proposal to build 49 residential dwellings in the Coastal Zone was clearly against Local Plan Policy and was correctly refused on those grounds last December. The applicant re-submitted an application, increasing the offer of affordable housing to 20%, but crucially the number of dwellings in the Coastal Zone, and indeed for the application as a whole, remained unchanged. This application was put before the Planning Committee at the meeting held on 5th October 2017. Initially the application was again correctly recommended and seconded for refusal on the grounds that it contravened Policy EN2 (Coastal Zone) by Councillors for wards outside of Hesketh-with Becconsall & Tarleton.

 

However, Ward Councillor for Hesketh-with- Becconsall, Iain Ashcroft, supported the application by putting forward the argument that, according to local knowledge, the river has never flooded along this site and were it to do so, because of the topology of the area ,would only flood on the river bank on the opposite side of the river to this development.

He also postulated that the evidence of ‘flooding’ seen and discussed during the previous application was the result of a broken land drain, rather than the river.

Despite there being several local residents in the chamber, who overlook the river on a daily basis, they were not asked to verify whether this claim is accurate.

In reality, the discussion in the chamber regarding a potential flooding risk was irrelevant to the crucial issue regarding whether the revised application had addressed one of the previous reasons for refusal ie, the significant encroachment of residential development into Coastal Zone. Surely, by failing to reduce the number of dwellings by even one, this had clearly not been addressed.

The Planning department stated at the planning committee meeting that it is not sufficient for a planning application to be shown to be contrary to planning policy, but Councillors must demonstrate the harm that would be done by not upholding the policy. Is this a change in planning rules?

 

The outcome, we are sorry to say for local residents, is that the application was approved (13 members to 2).

We apologise to local residents that we were unable to stop what we believe to be a massive over development of this site, with inadequate infrastructure to support it, despite the application being contrary to important polices within the Local Plan.

Will Local Plan Policies be upheld?

It appears that Planning officers may have allowed the developer to believe that Local Plan Policies may be set aside in the pursuit of residential development.

This application emerged shortly after the Local Plan 2012–2027 was adopted in 2013, yet officers appear unable to defend Plan policies in the face of the developer’s demands. The developer seems to be under the impression that the policy on Coastal Zone is flexible and, so long as the Marine Management Organisation has no objection, residential development is permissible.

Development within land designated as Coastal Zone is prohibited unless it meets very limited criteria, which this application fails to do. In addition, by failing to secure employment use for the site the application fails to meet Local Plan Policy EC3.

Reasons for refusal of the Reserved Matters application on 13th January 2017 have still not been adequately addressed, neither have the serious concerns of LCC Highways. If a proper Masterplanning exercise had been undertaken, as mandated by the Local Plan, the Rural Development Opportunity at Hesketh Bank may well, by now, have been delivered bringing the required mix of Housing, Employment, Recreational use and Linear Park without the need to invade Coastal Zone against Plan Policy EN2.5 thereby achieving the aims of Policy EC3

Unless there are major changes to this application, prior to resubmission, it should again be refused. WLBC should then undertake the required Masterplanning exercise to deliver a plan that meets the requirements of the RDO within the limits of Plan Policies and respects the wishes of existing residents and other stakeholders.

Developer led plans inevitably focus on benefits for the developer. Masterplanning seeks to address a wider remit for the whole community.

A Council led Masterplan would ensure all elements were fairly addressed, not only the residential build.

The next Local Plan – have your say

Although the current Local Plan was adopted less than four years ago and aims to cover the period up to 2027, it is normal for councils to adopt a new Local Plan roughly half way through the term. Since they take at least three years to prepare, now is the time to start.

Please go here: Submit your comments to complete a survey of just 36 questions.
(all comments do need to be submitted by 28th April so please don’t delay)

Local Plans aim to maintain a good supply of deliverable sites for development over the period they cover.

The National Planning Policy Framework requires each local planning authority to produce a Local Plan (NPPF 153) and “Early and meaningful engagement and collaboration with neighbourhoods, local organisations and businesses is essential” (NPPF 155)

This is your opportunity to influence the way the next Local Plan develops.

The Council held a series of Consultation Workshops about the Local Plan Review. If you missed that, you can see a copy of their presentation here:

Presentation given at Consultation workshops

If you want more detail, please read the following:

Consultation: Issues and Options

Download the Spatial Portrait Paper
Download the Strategic Development Options Paper
Download the Economic Policy Options Paper
Download the Environmental Policy Options Paper
Download the Social Policy Options Paper

Comment on the above papers

Consultation: Scope of the Local Plan

View and comment on the scope of the Local Plan

Submit your comments

Consultation: Strategic Housing and Employment Land Availability Assessment

View and comment on the SHELAA

Comment, or submit information, on the SHELAA

reference:

Local Development Scheme (LDS)
(sets out the anticipated timetable for preparing the Plan)

Our view

The view of HBTAG is that large scale development in the Northern Parishes (Tarleton, Hesketh Bank & Banks) is unsustainable and is rapidly changing what was a rural community into a throttled commuter dormatory settlement. The area offers no additional employment opportunities, indeed some businesses are closing. The traffic problems on Hesketh Lane and other limitations on local infrastructure mean development should be limited to avoid further inconvenience and loss of amenity for local residents.

We feel development should be focussed where it is needed and of the type appropriate for that area.

Skelmersdale has excellent road access (M57 & M58) and offers a significant opportunity to boost the local economy as the Liverpool2 deep water terminal brings opportunities for new ‘spin off’ industries.

To access the Planning Department’s portal on the Local Plan Review, go here:

http://www.westlancs.gov.uk/localplan

(all comments do need to be submitted by 28th April so please don’t delay)