£1.5m plan to save ‘green lungs’

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Pendle Council will prioritise the development of brown field sites in the borough and has set aside £1.5 million in its capital programme for regeneration works in 2015/16.

That was the innovative surprise announced by council leader Coun. Joe Cooney in his speech at the annual budget meeting on Thursday night.

It is thought that Pendle is the only council in England to have developed a scheme tackling this issue, which has been called for by numerous campaign groups nationally, such as the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.

There has been much concern all over Pendle in recent years about proposals for large scale housing developments on various “green lung” sites such as Skipton Old Road in Colne and Gib Hill in Nelson.

And Coun. Cooney is keen that developers look at brown field land as an alternative.

He said: “I am keen to ensure that we do as much as we can to help bring forward brown field sites for development, for employment or for housing.

“That’s why our capital programme for 2015/16 will include £1.5 million for a brown field regeneration fund.

“The money has been raised from the sale of refurbished homes in the Whitefield area of Nelson.

“This will be made available for brown field sites so that they can be primed for development, making them attractive and viable for prospective developers.

“We want to identify sites across the borough and discuss with the owners as to how we can take things forward.”

Coun. Cooney has been working with landowners of brown field sites and tasked council officers to draw up a prioritised list of sites a few weeks ago prior to creating a workable and sustainable scheme.

““The impetus for the new scheme came from many directions: members of the public, our MP, Andrew Stephenson, who has raised the issue in the House of Commons, groups like Lidgett and Beyond and just a feeling I get as I travel round Pendle that these sites are an eyesore and could instead be turned into a source of economic growth at the same time as preventing environmental blight in many neighbourhoods,” he said.

The announcement mirrors a policy priority for local authority public health teams following recent research from Durham University that discovered that people living near brown field sites are significantly more likely to suffer from poor health than those living in areas with little or no brown field land.

Researchers found local communities with large amounts of brown field land in England had poorer health, including limiting long-term illness.

Regardless of contamination, researchers suggest brown field could have wider negative impacts on the general health of communities.

Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson said: “I am delighted Joe has worked with the Conservative Group on Pendle Council to create this innovative scheme.

“Numerous constituents have written to me on this issue and the topic has often been raised at my surgeries too.

“This means we can grow Pendle’s housing land supply, improve our towns and villages and protect the rural landscape that makes Pendle so special.

“The scheme even has a built-in deadline that will encourage speedy site resolution, making this plan a real boost for Pendle economically, while simultaneously improving health across the borough.”