A packed public gallery and television cameras greeted councillors attending Thursday evening’s planning committee, during which controversial plans to build 260 new homes in Whalley were given the go-ahead.
Following last Tuesday night’s angry housing protest staged outside Ribble Valley Borough Council Chamber, ITV interviewed the leader of Ribble Valley Borough Council, Coun. Stuart Hirst, before filming the debate surrounding one of three housing plans on that meeting’s agenda.
By far the biggest of the three was the Whalley proposal for 260 new homes and a primary school at the Lawsonsteads site . Councillors were asked to delegate authority to approve the outline application (seeking permission in principle for the development) to their director of community services, subject to a number of conditions being met by the applicant.
Despite strong objections against the plans on the grounds that it was “both opportunistic and an attempt to pre-empt the Core Strategy” from both Whalley and Wiswell Parish Councillors, members of the council’s planning committee followed their officer’s recommendations and deferred the application for approval.
Nick Walker, of Save Whalley Village Action Group, said the village’s residents are “upset, frustrated and horrified with the result”.
He added that Ribble Valley Borough Council’s planning committee had voted in favour of the development saying that there were no valid planning reasons for refusal and that it was the most sustainable application the village had seen.
“The cumulative effect of all the other applications wasn’t considered as the chairman ruled that each application must be considered in isolation and on the merits of its proposals. Councillors, under pressure to avoid appeals, voted the application through having previously turned one of similar size down. It is clear to all that the councillors have capitulated and bowed to the will of central government and developers,” said Mr Walker. “This beautiful site will be lost to the village for ever on the back of the current Government’s wish to use house building as the means of getting the economy moving. It matters not where the houses are built, just as long as they are built.”
He added that new objections received from Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans, CPRE and some 26 other objectors on top of the existing 150 original objections made no difference to the outcome.
“The result of this approval means that Whalley has permissions for some 660 houses to be built (the Core Strategy allocates 375 for Whalley). Now there’s nothing in the way of more coming along.”
He thanked everyone who has supported the action group and the councillors who spoke and voted against the application.
“The landowner can count his hoard, the developers count their millions, but the villagers will count the cost,” Mr Walker added.
Meanwhile, an application to build 25 affordable homes on land off Petre Wood Close, Langho, was also approved, while councillors agreed to defer their approval for plans to build 30 new homes off Greenfield Avenue, Low Moor. Approval will only be given subject to work delegated to the director of community services being completed satisfactorily.