A controversial proposal to build 165 homes in Thornton which hundreds of people objected to has been given the go ahead.
A government inspector has today given Wain Homes outline planning permission to build the properties off Lambs Road, following the developer’s appeal against Wyre Council’s decision to refuse it.
The news is a bitter blow to campaigners who have fought hard to stop the project going ahead, and was partially blamed on the council’s lack of housing plan.
Inspector Louise Gibbons ruled the development would impact on the character and look of the area, but said the council had been unable to show it had a five-year supply of housing land, as required by the government.
She said: “I consider that the council’s position in respect of the five-year supply of housing is fairly assessed and concur that they are unable to demonstrate a five-year supply.
“I attach significant weight to the lack of five-year housing land in the borough.”
More than 885 neighbours responded to Wain Home’s original plans, with the vast majority objecting to them.
Residents were concerned about roads already being at ‘breaking point’, the impact on local services, including the NHS, and the local landscape. Worries were also voiced about wildlife on the site.
Ms Gibbons said: “I have concluded that the proposed development would cause harm to the character and appearance of the area. However, the proposal would not cause harm to highway safety and I have also concluded that the council are unable to demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land, and that there are no adverse impacts which significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.”
Several conditions have been imposed, including the need for adequate drainage, and must be met before building work can start.
The 5.8 hectare site, a derelict pig farm, currently houses nine buildings and a farmyard and is identified in Wyre Council’s Local Plan as ‘countryside’.
The application sought only outline planning permission for the development of up to 165 homes, with access from Lambs Road and Raikes Road, but documents submitted along with it showed a feasibility sketch layout to ‘provide an example of how the site may be developed’.
Wyre Council has come under fire over the past two years for not having a blueprint plan to guide development. The lack of a such a plan has been blamed for developers’ success in pushing through controversial large-scale housing estates, such as those south of Kepple Lane, Garstang.
The leader of Wyre Council, Peter Gibson, said he was ‘furious’ at the inspector’s decision, and said an assessment that the borough needs an extra 475 homes a year is incorrect.
He said the council’s five-year housing plan is set to be rubber stamped next year, and expects it to show far fewer new homes are required.
“I find this decision absolutely ridiculous and I don’t know how the inspector has come to this conclusion,” he said.
“What happened to localism? When a decision is made locally by a planning committee, which is supported by hundreds of residents, and an inspector from Bristol comes along and overrules it, it does not sound like localism to me.
“Realistically, we build an average of 206 new homes a year. Can anybody tell me where the difference between 206 and 475 is? The last census showed a very small population growth.”
Barry Hart, chairman of the Save Our Stanah and Little Thornton group, said members were ‘absolutely devastated’ by the decision.
He said: “The local community responded in record numbers, fully supported by our Wyre and county councillors and MP, to object to this development.
“We provided evidence to the appeal to show the impacts that the development will have on the countryside and on what everyone already recognises to be severe traffic issues in the area.
“It is highly disappointing that the views of the local community have been ignored opening the door to significantly more development in the Thornton area.”
Local councillor Kerry Jones, who paid tribute to the fighting spirit of campaigners, added: “I’m disgusted with this decision. The five-year housing supply is irrelevant for me, it’s a safety issue.
“The pavement at the Illawalla [in Skippool Road which leads on to Lambs Road] is only 18 inches wide. It’s not even wide enough for a pushchair or pram, so how can the inspector say it’s alright?”
Nobody at Wain Homes was immediately available for a comment.