Marton Moss Forum launched to protect Blackpool's semi-rural fringes

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A new group made up of residents is drawing up a future vision for part of Blackpool which has been at the centre of recent planning controversies.

The Marton Moss Neighbourhood Forum will write a plan for the area which it hopes will balance protecting green space with the need for investment.

Ian Jackson, Stephen Woodhouse and Phil Shevloff of the Marton Moss Forum

Ian Jackson, Stephen Woodhouse and Phil Shevloff of the Marton Moss Forum

The council has now formally approved its formation , which opens up the opportunity to apply for up to £10,000 of government funding.

House-builder Kensington Developments has recently completed Magnolia Point on Midgeland Road on the Moss, and is currently building 422 houses on land between Moss House Road and Progress Way.

But in response to fears the area was in danger of becoming over-developed, Blackpool Council called a halt to more large-scale building being approved and policies were introduced to prevent further mass housing development on remaining parts of the Moss.

Now, in a first for the town, powers have been handed to local people to draw up a future blueprint for the area after residents voted in favour of producing their own neighbourhood plan.

The area included in the Marton Moss Neighbourhood Area

The area included in the Marton Moss Neighbourhood Area

The Marton Moss Neighbourhood Forum has been set up to write a document which will eventually become part of the council's Local Plan.

It means residents can have a real say in the future development of an area which has always stood slightly apart from the rest of the borough.

The forum will not be a barrier to development, but members hope it will be able to steer investment in the right direction.

Chairman Stephen Woodhouse is a retired businessman who has taken over the reins of the group.

A view of Marton Moss

A view of Marton Moss

He said: "Everyone agrees that round here is different from the rest of Blackpool. It's a green space, it's got trees which Blackpool is short of, and there are people living here who come down the generations.

"There has to be some development because a lot of these plots are falling into disrepair.

"We have elderly residents who can't look after their properties and for whom a solution might be to be able build a bungalow on their spare land and then sell the bigger house.

"But currently there is a ban on any building like this."

Stephen says many residents are also frustrated that while they struggle to secure planning permission, travellers and show people have been granted approval to move caravans onto land.

It is claimed this is because the council is currently obliged to provide a maximum of two additional traveller pitches and five additional plots for travelling showpeople in Blackpool.

Stephen added: "It's a perceived injustice which many residents are unhappy about. So people have to be able to apply for planning permission and have the same chance of getting it approved.

"At the moment the rules are not an even balance."

But the forum also hopes to look at a wide range of other issues and has already held meetings to discuss what the priorities should be.

Stephen said: "There's a lot of history in this area. For example we have visited the site of Midgeland Farm with heritage people from the council and the Blackpool Civic Trust.

"It's one of the last Fylde longhouses and is fairly intact but has no roof. We're looking at ways to preserve it, such as putting a steel framework round it and possibly using it as a visitor centre and then opening up that land to walkers."

Retired police officer Ian Jackson, of Midgeland Road, who is a member of the forum, said he hoped it would help people have more pride in the Moss.

He said: "It is important to preserve the history and pass that onto people coming into the area.

"We want future generations to have responsibility about where they live. I want people to have a stake in the area and pride in it."

Phil Shevloff, of Chapel Road, added: "I feel positive about what we can achieve from this, especially as so many people are joining the forum, although we could still use more.

"It's common sense for the residents to be involved in the planning process in this way, and we are very hopeful about what we can do."

To find out more go to the Marton Moss Neighbourhood Forum Facebook page.

How does the forum operate?

There are about 135 members of the forum which covers the Moss between Division Lane, Common Edge Road, Progress Way and fields off Midgeland Road and Chapel Road.

The area has a population of around 2,500 people.

Only people who living in the designated area can vote on issues, but other residents with an interest in the Moss can also join.

The chairman and a small number of members will write the plan which is expected to take three to five years to complete, and they will receive some training to achieve this.

Set-up funding of £2,500 from the government will be used to employ experts to advise the forum how to write the neighbourhood plan.

The forum can then apply for more funds to get further surveys done.

What are the aims of the forum?

While achieving the right balance for development is the priority, the forum will also look at other issues.

Problems already identified include weight restrictions not being adhered to by heavy traffic and ongoing concerns about the parking situation during pupil drop-off and pick-up times at St Nicholas's School on School Road.

Residents are also frustrated by drivers using Chapel Road as a cut through and people fly-tipping, while there are also calls for dykes to be restored to help improve drainage.

Other rules - such as controls around the burning of debris - need putting on an official footing.

Parts of the Moss have also recently been designated as a conservation area, and it is hoped this will help preserve some of the area's heritage.

This includes the old Midgeland Farm near the junction with School Road which is on land previously used as a landfill tip by Lancashire County Council.