5,600 new homes for the Ribble Valley?

FLAGS EYE VIEW: View of Clitheroe from the top of Clitheroe Castle.'Photo Ben Parsons
FLAGS EYE VIEW: View of Clitheroe from the top of Clitheroe Castle.'Photo Ben Parsons

Planning permission for up to 5,600 new homes – 1,600 more than residents and local councillors feared – could be given in the Ribble Valley before 2028, it has been revealed.

And campaigners have warned “the urbanisation of Valley is upon us” after plans for houses next to Whalley’s historic viaduct were approved by the Planning Inspectorate.

The Core Strategy, which sets out the borough council’s long-term policy on planning, will guide development in the borough until 2028, including how many new homes are needed and where they might be built.

The strategy covers the 20-year period from 2008 to 2028, so its figures for new housing include developments given permission or built in the past five years and those which might come in the next 15.

But as large scale housing applications continue to be submitted, and with the council sticking to its Core Strategy “preferred option” for a new development of more than 1,000 new homes at Standen, between the edge of town and the A59 bypass, the total figure for the 20-year period is set to rise.

Even when applications are turned down by the local council, developers have the right to appeal against refusal to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate, and in several cases those appeals have been allowed.

Last week we reported the council has decided not to contest a developer’s appeal for 345 new homes at Waddow View, having previously refused permission. It took the difficult decision acting on the advice of its legal experts, who said it had no realistic chance of winning.

Initially the new housing element of the Core Strategy was based on a figure of around 200 new homes for each year of the 20-year period, giving a total of around 4,000.

Now, with the number of large scale plans already approved and those still coming in, that figure could rise to around 280 homes per year – a total around 5,600.

Council officers believe the Core Strategy will safeguard the number of planning applications and prevent over-development, but it has suffered a series of delays and setbacks in being implemented.

Without a strategy in place, campaigners against large scale development believe the council has been left with its “shields down”, giving a green light to developers and prompting a “Wild West-style land grab” in the Ribble Valley, seen as a prime area for house building.

Now many residents fear the developments will transform the leafy borough into a concrete jungle.

Last year Ribble Valley Borough Council submitted its Core Strategy strategy to the Government, but Whitehall officials found “fundamental concerns” in the proposals and felt some of the data submitted was “out-of-date” or did not adequately quantify the need for affordable housing. Now, after six months of work, the council is almost ready to re-submit its Core Strategy.

Mr Colin Hirst, head of regeneration and housing for the council, said: “At the moment we are still using the figure of 200 new houses per year for decision making purposes, but we need to undertake a small amount of additional work to consult and confirm the final figures be

fore re-submitting the Core Strategy.”

Perplexed by the number of new developments planned for Clitheroe, Liberal-Democrat councillor Susan Knox said: “I am very disappointed in the Core Strategy.

“I think the Conservative-run council missed the opportunity to fairly spread the new developments across the Ribble Valley and not dump such a large number on Clitheroe and, by setting the level at a very low 30%, also missed the opportunity to make developers pay for more affordable housing.

“The strategic site on Standen, the size of five Highmoor Parks, is ridiculously big and unsustainable.

“I have been telling the council and ruling party this for the past two years and have consistently voted against it, as have my other Lib-Dem colleagues.”

The Planning Inspectorate recently approved an appeal by David Wilson Homes (Barratts) to build 137 properties off Mitton Road in Whalley after the application was initially refused by Ribble Valley Borough Council.

Nick Walker, chairman of the Save Whalley Village Action Group, said residents were frustrated, disillusioned and angered by the decision.

“Everything is stacked in favour of the developer. Despite the best efforts of Ribble Valley Borough Council, local people and the Save Whalley Village campaign, all views and arguments have been ignored,” he said.

“The inspector is carrying out her duty as required by the Inspectorate in applying Government policy, which gives developers carte blanche to build where they like, take the money and leave the local community picking up the pieces.

“Why should we have to accommodate the results of over development so that developers can make millions of pounds?

“Of all decisions this is one of the worst.

“The Government’s mantra of build, build, build is being accommodated by this process. “