A row has erupted over plans to build 14 luxury houses in Farington Moss.
Wainhomes submitted an application to build the detached four- and five-bedroom properties on land next to Murray Avenue, which South Ribble Council’s planning officers recommended for approval.
But, in an unexpected move, the council’s own planning committee, made up of local councillors, questioned the ‘common sense’ in allowing the scheme to go ahead.
At a meeting at the Civic Centre last Wednesday, the committee raised concerns over how the development, described by officers as a ‘stand-alone’ site, will impact on the wider site between Heatherleigh and Croston Road.
The council has earmarked the land in its Local Development Framework (LDF) as having room for up to 650 homes, and a separate planning application has also been put forward by another developer for 350 houses, which is yet to be decided on.
But the council itself said in the LDF that it wanted to see a masterplan for the site as whole, rather than a number of smaller housing developments filling the space.
Coun Phil Smith, who does not sit on the planning committee, described the threat of ‘creeping developments’ taking over the borough, and pointed out that a developer only needs to provide affordable housing in schemes comprising 15 homes or more.
He said: “Again we are down to just 14 houses with no affordable housing proposed, and while it is difficult to argue against this scheme based on that, I would request that no access to a further greater site is allowed through this estate.
“This being a stand-alone site is absolutely crucial.”
Coun John Rainsbury, who is also a non-committee member, added: “As the ward councillor for the growing metropolis of Farington, I would like to point out that this is just a small piece of the big picture.
“We don’t know whether this will adjoin the big development or become a rat-run for those accessing the main site.”
Sitting on the planning committee, Coun Caroline Moon said: “We can all play around with words about this being a ‘stand-alone’ site, and I accept that you won’t be able to access the bigger site from this estate, but I do not accept that you won’t be able to access this smaller development from the wider site.
“It is not, in my mind, a stand-alone site. And if we as a council say we want a masterplan, then that’s what we want.
“We are not against the scheme, but I feel we should hold out for the masterplan.”
Coun Paul Foster added: “I always try to support the officers in their recommendations, but on this occasion I can’t.
“I agree that this site desperately requires a masterplan.
“Why are we looking to allow a one-off development when a masterplan would include affordable housing and community amenities?
“We have been criticised as a council for not allowing enough affordable housing to be built in the borough, yet we are looking to release this land for luxury housing?
“There is a potential for one small development to ruin a larger development, and I feel passionately about this; we need to do the right thing, and this is not the right thing.”
Coun Graham Walton, who also sits on the committee and represents the residents of Farington, added that the Wainhomes scheme would be a ‘thorn in the side of the masterplan’ and said he was ‘wholeheartedly’ against it going ahead.
Planning officer Helen Hockenhull argued the committee needed to consider what ‘harm’ this scheme would cause to the overall development of the site, and said her team were confident that the 14-homes plan would not ‘offend’ the masterplan.
She added: “Officers view this as a stand-alone site, and while I appreciate the concerns about affordable housing, the overall development will have a requirement for that.”
Officer David Whelan said: “If the committee is minded to refuse this, on what grounds can it argue the case?
“It would put us in a difficult situation if Wainhomes appealed.
“I think we would be facing an uphill battle to win this on appeal.”
Coun Barrie Yates responded: “I always listen to what our officers have to say, but this application shouldn’t even have come to this committee.
“It should be withdrawn; we shouldn’t be voting on this matter at all.”
Coun Moon added: “What you are asking of us is crazy; to ask what harm this will cause.
“We are not saying we don’t want any houses there, but we have a plan and a view for the overall site.
“Wainhomes should grant us the common decency to work with us on our plan.
“The harm is that this is harming our opportunity to develop the wider site, and it’s not giving us the opportunity to see what impact this could have on the area.
“You’re putting something in the middle of our masterplan. This is defying common sense.”
It was concluded, by a vote of seven to five, that the decision should be deferred until Wainhomes can demonstrate how the 14-homes scheme fits into the masterplan.
Coun Moon said: “I think that is the responsible and sensible thing to do.
“I would really appeal to Wainhomes to listen to us; that’s a better starting point than a flat-out refusal.
“We don’t want to fight.”