Pendle Council is to consider selling off six areas of land across the borough for residential development.
The sale of the sites, which measure over 57 acres in total, will be considered by the council’s Executive on Thursday night and its recommendations will go before the full council the following Thursday.
By far the biggest site – and the most controversial – is on the Nelson-Colne boundary at Gib Hill and Bott House and accounts for roughly half the total land sale.
Residents in Nelson’s Marsden Ward have battled for years to get the land preserved as a country park and kept as a “green lung” between Nelson and Colne.
And the report to the Executive next week says that only half of the site would be made available for housing use. The other sites are in Clitheroe Road, Brierfield, where terraced housing has already been demolished; Great House Farm, Red Lane, Colne, between the farm and Sacred Heart Primary School; Aspen Grove, Earby, expanding a site developed in the 1990s; Further Clough Head, Nelson, adjacent to the former James Nelson’s sports ground; and Trent Road, Nelson.
Council leader Coun. Joe Cooney said: “In this challenging financial climate, the amount of money coming into Pendle through government funding has reduced significantly.
“We have no option but to look at other ways of generating capital. By disposing of these sites that have real development potential, we can continue with our priority of regenerating the borough and encouraging economic growth.”
Disposing of these sites as housing land would generate an income for the council that can be reinvested in the borough as well as increasing the council tax base and potentially increasing the share of New Homes Bonus payable to the council by the Government.
Deputy Chief Executive Philip Mousdale said: “The council must have a five-year supply of housing land available and these sites have been identified as most suitable.
“With such a supply, the council will be in a far better position to fend off planning applications on other land treasured by residents.
“None of the sites are going to be developed overnight, but we need to start now on the preparation work including the planning applications which will go through the proper processes including consultation with local people.
“In some cases, we need to determine precisely the area which will be disposed of. For example at Gib Hill, not all the site would be developed and councillors are keen, as are local residents, to see an open space – perhaps a country park – in the area.”
Nelson’s Labour county councillor Azhar Ali, who has actively campaigned to keep the Gib Hill/Bott House site free from development for more than 10 years, called on Coun. Cooney and his brother, Tommy – a Pendle councillor for Marsden ward – to resign their seats over the matter.
He said: “The land at Gib Hill is made up of shale and clay and if developed, rain water would run off into gardens in Oxford Road.
“This is just another con by Pendle Council to meet Government targets on land availability. Coun. Cooney and his brother are on record as saying Gib Hill would not be built on in their lifetimes. They have told blatant lies and should resign.”