Huge housing development near town centre gets the go-ahead

The development land behind Morrison's Petrol Station, Leyland
The development land behind Morrison's Petrol Station, Leyland

More than 230 houses are set to be built on a run-down site near Leyland town centre - but only 20 of those will be affordable homes.

South Ribble Council’s planning committee last week voted through by a majority, plans by the landowner Ainscough Brothers LLP and developer Taylor Wimpey to create a housing development at the former Farington Business Park behind Morrisons.

It is planned to be developed in two phases of around 230 homes each, but questions have been raised of the council’s planning officers about their recommendation to allow phase one of the scheme through without ensuring that atleast 30 per cent of the homes are affordable - which is the normal policy for developments of this size.

Leyland councillor Fred Heyworth, who sits on the planning committee, said at last week’s meeting: “I find it disappointing we are not looking to achieve the 30 per cent; if we can’t achieve that in the first phase of development, what guarantees the commitment to achieve it in the second phase?”

Bamber Bridge councillor and planning committee member Stephen Bennett added: “I think it is pitiful only 20 of these houses will be affordable housing – with the same amount suggested for phase two as well.

“We have a serious issue in South Ribble with affordable housing and to think we could only end up with 40 affordable homes out of this big development is a poor do.”

Council planning manager Helen Hockenhull argued: “This is a difficult issue, and we always try to achieve policy appliance, because there is a need for affordable housing in South Ribble.

“The difficulty with a brownfield site is that viability for development is much reduced when compared to a greenfield site.

“The starting point is always the policy position, but we have to be pragmatic and look at how we can make a development happen.

“If we’re strict with the 30 per cent policy, then because of viability and costs associated with those sites, landowners and developers wouldn’t pursue them at all.

“The question then is, do we hold on for that 30 per cent, or do we try to get the site developed and achieve some affordable housing?

“The government suggests we take that approach, to see what we can achieve.”

She added: “Phase two may not happen for another four, five or six years yet, and it would require a further viability review at that time.

“It depends how the market has changed, but the developer has said if the market stays static, they can at least achieve the same amount of affordable housing as in phase one.”

Agent Sebastian Tibenham of the Pegasus Group, speaking on behalf of the applicants at the meeting, said: “The site has remained vacant for a prolonged period and has been a victim of the last, long-standing recession.

“Times are better but clearly still tough. In particular, this site has to compete with more profitable and attractive greenfield sites elsewhere in the borough. The developers also need to overcome significant on-site remediation costs.

“The proposed development will make efficient use of a previously developed brownfield site which is highly accessible.

“Its prominent, central location also means it significantly detracts from the quality of the area and the town.

“The development itself will deliver much needed family housing and 20 affordable dwellings in phase one.

“Additional affordable homes can be delivered in phase two.”

He added that the scheme “will be delivered promptly” and that work on phase one will start “as soon as possible”.

The development includes three areas of on-site open space with play facilities, and the applicant will provide £1.3m to fund highways improvements including a cycle link, a public realm and town centre enhancement works.