Residents living near a small park in Leyland say they have been left “confused and disappointed” after being given conflicting messages about its future.
Several locals attending a South Ribble Council event about the borough’s open spaces claim they were told that the option of building on Balcarres Green had been abandoned - because the authority had “totally misread the feeling of the public”.
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But the council later advised the Lancashire Post simply that “no decision has been taken to build” on the land - and added that its representatives reiterated that position at the drop-in session at Leyland leisure centre earlier this week.
One resident described that account of the event as “rubbish” and said there was no possibility that he and his wife and misinterpreted the subtlety of what was said.
“We were invited to write our thoughts on notes and stick them to the wall - and someone from the planning department asked why we had written that they shouldn’t build on the green,” Brian Rawcliffe explained.
“He said that the idea had been shelved and that we should have had a letter about it last month. Then he went and had a chinwag with one of his colleagues and came back and repeated that they weren’t going to build on the land.”
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Residents in the vicinity of five open spaces across the borough received letters from the council in December telling them that options were being considered for their future use. A second letter in January promised further consultation and said no decisions had been made to allow building on the sites, after the authority was criticised for authorising “investigations for development” at a private cabinet meeting last September.
Brian, whose house backs onto Balcarres Green, said the council’s latest clarification had left him “disgusted”.
“I don’t know where they’re going with this, but I’ve not got a lot of confidence in them,” he said.
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Martin Stringfellow, who lives just over half a mile away from the enclave, said that he was also told that the green would remain.
“It was said in front of people and then to me individually. The council officer said they would definitely not allow building and that they had totally misread the feeling of the public - and a friend of mine was told the same.
“The meeting was actually handled very well and people got to put down what they feel about green spaces, which was very helpful.
“But now I’m confused, disappointed and concerned. It brightens the area up - people walk through the green en route to the town centre, so it effects everybody in the vicinity.
“And it’s not just about the housing, but also the air pollution in the area,” Martin added.
Balcarres Green and Bent Lane - another one of the sites being consulted on - border air quality management areas, which have recorded higher than maximum levels of nitrogen dioxide.
“If the council allows building on both, they’ll be taking away two green lungs and there are schools in this area,” Brian said.
“Common sense would dictate that they’d leave it alone and plant a few more trees to absorb the pollution.
“It needs putting down on paper that they are not going to build here,” he added.
Petitions relating to Balcarres Green and Bent Lane have so far attracted 1,500 signatures.
WHAT THE COUNCIL SAYS
A spokesperson for South Ribble Borough Council said:
“The drop-in session we held at Leyland Leisure Centre was a lively, well-attended event with lots of important discussions taking place around green links, green parks, open spaces and leisure campuses.
“During these discussions, officers were asked about Balcarres Green - what is going to happen there? Is housing going to be built? Our answer to this was simply to say that no decision has been made to build on Balcarres Green, as outlined in the letter to residents from the leader of the council on 29 January. Therefore, it is this very consultation that will inform any next steps.
“The purpose of the Green Links consultation is to ask residents what they want for the future of open spaces and green links in South Ribble, with a view to optimising health and wellbeing outcomes for residents.
“We continue to encourage as much resident participation as possible because this is their chance to speak up and inform any next steps.
“We hope the above gives an important reiteration of our position and clarifies anything if it was unclear.”
12th September, 2018
Private session of South Ribble Council’s cabinet “approves the release of three sites to undertake immediate site investigations for residential development - Bridge Road/Todd Lane, Lostock Hall; Kingsfold Drive, Penwortham; Balcarres Green, Leyland” (souce: cabinet minutes).
Residents in the vicinity of five areas (the three listed above, plus Bent Lane, Leyland and the McKenzie Arms, Bamber Bridge) area sent a letter from the authority advising that it is “looking at sites which do not form part of the green links [plan to connect the borough’s parks].
“We will consider options including that of addressing the gap in the number of affordable homes available to our residents, as well as other considerations such as community-based services. At this stage, we have not formally agreed which of the sites could be brought forward or for what purpose, as we will be undertaking rigorous option appraisals to ensure that any future decisions reflect all the facts, opportunities and implications in each case.”
24th January, 2019
Cabinet meeting hears that the green links project does not depend on funding from the sale of small open spaces and member for regeneration and leisure, Cllr Phil Smith, condemns “scaremongering” over the issue.
Residents of the five areas are sent a second letter, stating that “no decisions have been taken to develop the sites currently the subject of this consultation”.
Several members of the public quiz cabinet members over plans for the five sites at a testy meeting of the full council. Leader Margaret Smith tells them: “We don’t wish you to feel that we’re not going to take regard of your comments - that’s why we are going to consult. Please be assured that I don’t take any of this lightly - it is something that has got to be worked through and I want to work through it with you as the residents.”
At a launch event of a public consultation into the green links plan, several residents claim to have been told by a council officer that the authority was no longer going to consider allowing building on Balcarres Green.
Council says no decision has been made to build on Balcarres Green.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
The consultation which launched on Monday is about all of South Ribble’s parks and green areas. It including the borough’s green links project to better connect open spaces and will also inform plans about the future of leisure facilities.
Paper copies of a survey are now available and an online link will go live on 4th March. The consultation runs until 1st April.
Drop-in roadshows will take place on the following dates as well as a series of longer workshop sessions over the course of the next five weeks. Details can be found at www.southribble.gov.uk/greenlinks