Fight to stop home being built on Nelson-Colne countryside border gathers support

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THE fight to stop homes being built on Gib Hill – open countryside between Nelson and Colne – is getting support from Pendle Council’s Nelson Committee.

There is a campaign to get the area turned into a country park rather than a housing site, but the land is officially classed as potential space for new homes.

Issues were raised by members of the Friends of Gib Hill at Monday’s meeting.

The land is owned by the council, dating back to the 1950s, 60s and 70s when farmland was bought.

In a report by Pendle planning chief Neil Watson, he says: “All of the land was acquired by either the estates or housing committees and this would have been for development purposes.”

He pointed out the land was allocated for housing under the Pendle Local Plan 2006.

He said it could therefore not be altered from being a housing site, despite bids to make it a Local Nature Reserve.

He agreed some fields had been assessed as potential Biological Heritage Sites.

He added: “Parts of the land have ecological value that would qualify it for designation as a site of Local Natural Importance.

“This was considered by the Executive in July, 2007. It was decided that, as there was no threat of development on the site, such a designation would not be pursued.”

The land is considered suitable for 216 homes, and the Government suggests there needs to be housing development to sustain the economy.

His conclusion was: “The land at Gib Hill was originally acquired for development purposes. It is allocated via a statutory process for housing. It forms part of the five-year supply of housing land that the council is required to maintain.

“It has some ecological value but that would not prevent the site from being developed.”

Dr John Plackett, of the Friends, said: “Why are we not getting answers to the questions we asked?”

The potential country park was a key issue he said – and he wanted to know why action was not being taken to protect three identified nature sites.

Mr Watson replied: “The full council wanted this land designated for housing. It is part of the housing space we need. That was agreed by the Executive last September.”

Friends supporter Mr Azhar Ali replied: “We believe parts of Gib Hill have significant natural value.”

Labour group leader Coun. Mohammed Iqbal said: “In March, the Labour Group made it clear it would not support housing development on this land. I am keen to look for the support of colleagues from other parties.”

Conservative Coun. Tommy Cooney then said: “I just declare my party won’t support development on that site.”

And Liberal Democrat Coun. Nadeem Ahmed added: “I am against any development on that site.”

Coun. Iqbal said: “This is a clear message to the Executive – we want them to look at de-allocating Gib Hill from housing.”

But Mr Watson said: “I don’t think it’s an issue. The Executive would have to recommend it to the full council.”

Labour councillor Richard Smith said: “How can we allocate this land for extra housing when we have empty houses? We can’t keep building on greenfield land.”

It was decided a meeting will take place and the issue is brought back to Nelson Committee in two months.