The public inquiries held in the battle over development of a beautiful slice of Colne countryside are now complete.
Six days of evidence have been heard at Nelson Town Hall regarding the land known locally as The Rough, just outside the eastern edge of Colne, where 90 or 270 houses have been proposed.
The hearing was overseen by Government Planning Inspector, Mike Robins, and he heard evidence from the appellant, Junction Properties Ltd, a Guernsey-based offshore trust believed to be owned by local property speculators who will sell it to developers to build.
He also heard from the defendants, the Lidgett and Beyond Charity and Pendle Council.
The original applications were unanimously rejected by the council’s Development Management and Colne Committees last spring.
At a public meeting in Colne Town Hall on Tuesday night, the Inspector heard 20 informed and impassioned speeches from older and younger people talking about life on and around The Rough.
Andrew Stephenson MP opened by praising the council’s efforts in getting planning permissions granted for nearly 2,000 homes, with a further 2,000 potential brownfield developments being the subject of initiatives to bring them forward.
He believed that this was clearly an example of developers landbanking sites and the general depressed state of the local housing market.
The audience of over 100, with standing room only, then heard anecdotes which brought the character and value of The Rough to life from Geoff Crambie, Barry Birtwistle, Elizabeth Lane, Kevin Hey, Jerry Stanford, Ella Rogers, Christopher Richards and others.
The Rough was affectionately described as a “Rough Diamond” and its value was highlighted in both educating local people in rural activities and life lessons and providing a much-needed recreational resource for hundreds of years.
The risks of the development, particularly in respect of dangers to children going to and from Park High School from increased traffic, were also highlighted.
Junction Property maintains there is an under-supply of housing sites in the borough and development of The Rough should be brought forward as harm to heritage and landscape were overstated.
Barristers for the Lidgett and Beyond Charity and Pendle Council countered by highlighting the comments made by the public and the overriding principle should be that it is only sustainable sites should come forward and that The Rough was certainly not one of them.
Chairman of Lidgett and Beyond’s Trustees, David Cockburn-Price said: “Local people have yet again lent terrific support to our campaign to save The Rough and the meeting in the Town Hall was a memorable night.
“Now the Inspector will probably take a couple of months to decide on the appeals, so Lidgett and Beyond’s supporters will all have their fingers crossed and we will continue with our fund-raising activities to help protect, enhance and improve access to this treasured area.”