Access has been granted to the Trough Laithe site by Pendle Council where up to 500 homes could be built.
In an often tetchy three hour meeting of Pendle Council’s Development Management Committee which saw councillors verbally clash with campaigners on several occasions, councillors voted in favour of Peel’s outline application seeking access to the site off Barrowford Road but reserving matters in terms of scale and design.
Coun. Dorothy Lord said she had felt intimidated by messages sent to her on social media ahead of the meeting and Leader of Pendle Council, Coun. Mohammed Iqbal, said he had also received four to six weeks of written and telephone abuse following the council’s decision to adopt Trough Laithe as part of the Core Strategy in December.
The application, which attracted 207 objections, had been rejected at the Barrowford and Western Parishes Committee earlier in the month and approximately 60 campaigners against the development attended the meeting on Monday night which meant standing room only in Nelson Town Hall.
Ten speakers spoke against the application with some urging the council to defer making a decision and to go back to Peel to renegotiate a more appropriate scheme, while others wanted it refused outright.
Objectors pleaded with committee members to look again at the flood risk in light of the winter storms, as well as the percentage of affordable housing, considering alternative brownfield sites, traffic issues, school places, medical and policing services, air pollution, riverbank erosion, threat to wildlife and loss of green space.
The borough’s annual target of building homes was widely criticised by campaigners who said there was no demand in Pendle, the number of children (164) suggested which may live in 500 homes and need school places was derided and water discharge figures were scrutinised.
Ken Turner, spoke on the latter, saying Peel’s consultants RPS had calculated discharge from sink tanks to be put on the site of 12.4 litres per second per hectare, when his calculation showed it was 7.1 litres per second per hectare. He said the proposed attenuation ponds to hold water are “wonderful” in flash floods but not in protracted rainfalls like that in December.
John Endersby, from the Save Trough Laithe campaign, said: “I think that 500 houses of senior to executive level is going to mean family houses and the national average for families in this country is 2.4 children.
“Most of those houses will be sold to relatively young families. People of my sort of age don’t go out looking for four bedroom houses because you’ve got nobody to put in them.”
He said in his opinion an important error was that the process was more likely a 15 year plan rather than a five year plan in the planning report.
Mr Endersby added: “Where is the demand or the need? The population in this borough has been stable for the last 14 years and actually dropped in 2014.
“Where is the basis for the Lancashire County Council report that we need 298 homes each year for the next 15 or more years?
“This suggests an annual population increase of 1.5% or 1,300 people each year. The figures are so far wrong it’s unbelievable. The actual is 0.7% in 14 years cumulatively.
“The borough’s property prices are in the bottom 1% in the country and reason is because there is no demand. “There is no justification for spoiling one of the jewels in our local crown just for the sake of some company’s profit margins.
“Put aside local politics, rise above the old ‘it’s somewhere else mentality’ and reject this pernicious application. The cost (of approval) will far outweigh the cost of rejecting it.”
Rod Marsden, Chairman of Governors at St Thomas’s Primary School in Barrowford, described school as “very oversubscribed” and that although the school had been referred to in planning documentation as the school to take on new children, it not even been contacted by Peel about the situation.
The meeting heard that governors would have the final decision on whether to expand the school or not and that all pupils at the school come to school from within a 0.42km radius.
Robert Oliver, Chairman of Barrowford Parish Council, presented a 400 signature petition and stated the overwhelming flavour of comments was of “anger and betrayal”.
He said: “Barrowford Parish Council didn’t say it was against development in the village, the village should take its fair share. But 500 houses?”
However, with the site being the only strategic housing location in part one of Pendle Council’s Core Strategy, adopted in December, Andrew Bickerdike, representing Peel, said a 1,500 page document had been produced looking at the issues, which had been reviewed both internal and externally.
He said: “Pendle Council recently adopted a new Core Strategy that requires provision for nearly 300 units per annum.
“Clearly delivering that level of growth requires some difficult decisions including the development of some greenfield land within the borough across the planned period.
“This committee is not being asked to determine whether the principle of 500 residential units at this site is acceptable.
“This has been resolved with the adoption of the Core Strategy, a plan which was subject to a rigorous and independent public examination before its adoption by the council.
“The Core Strategy is now adopted and Pendle Council must take the positive decisions to deliver the ambitions of this plan and the objectives it sets out.”
The meeting was told that Peel was paying for an upgrade of pavements and cycle lanes around the Barrowford Road roundabout and up towards Junction 13 of the M65 as well as putting forward £1.3m. for additional school places.
Councillors also heard that an upgrade of Junction 13 was to begin on February 8th, with funding provided by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, to carry out similar work to that at Junction 10 at Burnley.
Pendle Council’s Planning Manager Neil Watson said the flood attenuation had been designed based on the latest Environment Agency figures, and while these are under review in light of widespread flooding this winter, they may be changed in a fortnight, in two years time, or not at all.
Mr Watson said the council had pushed for inclusion of a set percentage of affordable homes in the Core Strategy, and it was turned down, while government policy was that brownfield sites are not a priority.
Coun. Linda Crossley and Coun. Christian Wakeford moved to reject the plan, on grounds of the risk of flooding, the levels of traffic, the strain on school places and medical services, the protection of heritage, open space and urbanisation of rural areas.
Coun. Wakeford said: “Unfortunately the representative from Peel made the fatal error of referring to Barrowford as a town. Barrowford is not a town, it is a village, and it should stay as a village.
“We are going to make the village a nightmare to live in, to drive through, to visit, or anything else and that is not what we are here to do.”
But Coun. Iqbal moved an amendment to approve the application.
He said the then Conservative leader “pulled a rabbit out of the hat” when deciding to include Trough Laithe “out of the blue” as the only strategic housing site in 2014, a move which the Labour group abstained from voting on as they were unhappy with the amount of consultation with Barrowford residents.
Now as Leader of Pendle Council, Coun. Iqbal said he was not prepared to land the Pendle taxpayer with a £250,000 legal bill which refusing it would lead to at appeal, only to see the decision reversed by an Inspector anyway.
And at the vote, the application was approved 7-4.