Almost 200 new homes are set to be built in Bamber Bridge after a planning inspector overturned a decision to refuse permission for the development.
Bellway Homes challenged South Ribble Borough Council’s attempt to block its plan for a new estate off Brindle Road in the town.
A 4-day public inquiry was held last month and the developer has now been given the go-ahead to start work on land currently occupied by the derelict Grey Gables Farm.
However, planning inspector Martin Whitehead concluded that the council’s cross-party planning committee had acted reasonably in refusing the application - and so did not order the borough to foot the bill for Bellway’s costs.
The inquiry had heard objections to various aspects of the proposed development of 193 homes - but the inspector rejected them all.
Noise and air pollution were amongst the most contentious issues debated during the hearing. The gardens of eight of the new properties will be exposed to noise levels from the nearby M61 motorway which exceed the 55 decibels deemed acceptable under World Health Organisation guidelines.
Mr. Whitehead noted that the additional volume amounted to “the smallest change in noise level that can be detected by normal human hearing” and also that British Standards regulations allowed for the recommended maximum level to be breached in “urban areas adjoining the transport network”.
Having already concluded in his decision that the site was part of a designated urban location - in spite of its rural characteristics - the inspector allowed an “exception” to be made and found that there would be no adverse impact on the health and quality of life of those living in the affected properties.
Concerns about air quality were also dismissed, after South Ribble’s legal team at the inquiry questioned the accuracy of predicted levels of nitrogen dioxide which were submitted by Bellway as part of their application.
There had been no monitoring of air pollution on the site itself, but Mr. Whitehead found “standard procedure” had been followed in assessing levels in the wider area and that there would be “no material risk to the health and wellbeing of future residents”.
Elsewhere, objections to the number of houses and the layout of the estate failed to convince the inspector - a chartered civil engineer - that the proposal fell foul of local planning policies.
The inquiry had heard testimony from witnesses called on behalf of the council that the development was out of character with the surrounding area and would be “cramped”.
But the inspector concluded that the density of housing on the estate - 35 homes per hectare - was in-keeping with an already diverse local mix of house types.
Mr. Whitehead acknowledged that some of the open space to be included within the development had “limited surveillance”, after one town planner told the inquiry that parts of the site could facilitate crime or anti-social behaviour. However, he said that any potential risk could be eradicated by imposing planning conditions relating to fencing and lighting.
The roads in the area were found to have “a relatively good accident record” and the inspector dismissed claims that they - and a nearby level crossing - would be unable to cope with the expected increase in traffic.
The Brindle Road Action Group (BRAG) - which opposes the development and whose members addressed the inquiry - said residents were “extremely disappointed” with the decision.
BRAG member Elliott Stiling added: “It shouldn’t come down to lawyers and consultants point-scoring and trying to discredit each other, with the inevitable bending and stretching of statistics.
“It’s clear to everyone that this site is heavily blighted by noise and pollution from the M61 motorway, yet the way that these facts were attempted to be brushed aside makes you question the validity of the appeal process.
“The government claims to treat the health and wellbeing of residents, and children in particular, as a priority - but this appeal has cut right through the heart of that.
“Nor should the impact on existing residents be ignored. Despite ridiculous assertions by some parties to present this as an urban location, it is not - it is a semi-rural location that is about to be inundated with extra houses.
It’s inappropriate and disrespectful, and local residents deserved much better than this,” Mr. Stiling said.
Meanwhile, an application for a further 261 homes on a separate part of the same site is due to go before another planning inquiry in December.
Persimmon Homes was refused permission for the development last year and it, too, has appealed against the decision.
If successful, the total number of houses to be built on the site would be almost double the 250 earmarked for the land in South Ribble’s local plan.
In the Bellway appeal, the planning inspector ruled that the figure was “indicative” and should not be interpreted as a limit.
The inquiry into the Persimmon Homes proposal is expected to begin on 18th December.
Bellway Homes and South Ribble Borough Council have been approached for comment.
WHAT THE BUILDERS HAVE TO DO
As part of an agreement between Bellway Homes and South Ribble Borough Council in the event that the appeal were successful, the developer will have to:
***Contribute towards the cost of an improved bus service between the estate, Bamber Bridge town centre and Preston - creating a half-hourly daytime timetable and hourly evening service from Monday to Saturday.
***Ensure 43 of the houses are made available for affordable rent (22.5 percent of the total).
***Provide cycle lockers at Bamber Bridge station.
***Fund improvements to Withy Grove Park and maintain the open spaces on the estate itself.
***Introduce devices on Brindle Road advising drivers of their speed.