Residents' rage over garage forecourt facelift

Cars for sale in this corner of the site are now more visible to passers by
Cars for sale in this corner of the site are now more visible to passers by

A used car lot in Chorley has been given the green light to extend the area it uses for selling vehicles - more than 15 years after it first started doing so.

Deane Motors submitted a retrospective planning application after discovering that a part of its Southport Road site only had permission to function as a car park - not a sales forecourt.

The previous owners of the business are thought to have started using the area to sell - rather than just park - cars as far back as 2003.

The current operator, who took over five years ago, apologised to councillors for the delayed application, which was approved by Chorley Council’s development control committee.

Committee member Keith Iddon said it amounted to a decision about whether to allow “a price sign to be put in the windows” of cars which were already there.

But it was the removal of a boundary fence - which brought the planning discrepancy to light, but did not itself require permission - which put residents in a tailspin.

The wooden fence, which was covered in foliage, was taken down last September after becoming rotten. However, one resident dismissed that as “a cynical ploy” by the garage owners to display their stock to passing traffic.

“The removal of the hedge has allowed a 1.5m-high natural screen to be replaced, in effect, with a 30m long billboard advertising cars,” residents’ spokesperson John Henshaw told the committee.

“Had the [new] fence been kept to the height of the hedge, the vehicles would not be so obvious and would have lessened our objections,” he said.

Mr. Henshaw also claimed that high intensity floodlights had been installed, “making it seem like [permanent] daylight in the north-facing rooms of our houses”.

But Rachel Cole, from Deane Motors, said the firm “vehemently denies erecting any new flood lights - and it is very unfair of our neighbours to suggest otherwise”.

“All that has changed is that two lights have been repaired and the old bulbs replaced with energy saving ones, as per current guidance. The lights do not appear to be much brighter than the streetlights [also] visible from the neighbouring properties,” Ms. Cole said.

She added that the business had checked that the foliage which had been removed did not constitute a “hedgerow” which was subject to planning permission - and that two trees which were cut down were not protected and had been confirmed as “diseased” by a tree surgeon.

Several members of the committee expressed “sympathy” with the residents' views, including deputy chair Christopher France - but he added that he could not “see a reason to refuse [the application]”.