Priest says plans put pupils’ lives in danger

Sandra Wood, front centre, with other local residents are against the proposed planning application to build luxury apartments in a nearby car park.
Sandra Wood, front centre, with other local residents are against the proposed planning application to build luxury apartments in a nearby car park.

A parish priest has warned that school children’s lives could be endangered if plans to build apartments in the centre of Clitheroe are approved.

Father John Corcoran, who is parish priest at St Michael and St John’s RC Church on Lowergate in Clitheroe, has slammed plans to build 10 flats on land at Wilkin Square which is right next door to St Michael and St John’s RC Primary School.

“Our primary concern is the safety and well being of our children,” said Father Corcoran, whose church is situated next door to the school.

“It’s a great worry when they are coming to and leaving school now as cars are backing up and doing all sorts of manoeuvres.”

Such is the level of traffic congestion around the site that, recently, a road ambulance could not access the North West Air Ambulance which utilises the school field as a landing pad.

“We already have a problem with the school car park with staff and people visiting the school on official business not able to park as other people are parking on there,” said Father Corcoran. “We are now having to lock the car park gates every evening at 6pm.”

The site earmarked for development is land which acts as the car park for the town’s mosque. It previously had terraced housing which was built during the second half of the 19th century. This was demolished and replaced in the 20th century by a sewing factory, but this was demolished some years ago after production moved out of town.

The plans were submitted to Ribble Valley Borough Council’s planning and development committee just before the primary school finished for the Easter holidays. Father Corcoran therefore took it upon himself to inform as many of his parishioners as possible, with one subsequently taking it upon himself to leaflet residents who live near the site.

One resident, Beryl Buxbaum, (67), of Highfield Road, said: “We have a traffic problem now around the school in the mornings and the evenings.

“They are not providing enough car parking spaces - for the 10 flats they are allocating just 11 spaces which is not going to be adequate. If they are built it will only leave the mosque with 15 spaces. During prayer time on a Friday lunchtime there can be as many as 30 to 40 cars on the car park so where will all these go?”

She added that Highfield Road is already congested with traffic from the Holmes Mill development.

“Something should be done with the site as it’s an eyesore at the moment, but a three storey development will look ridiculous,” said Beryl, who added that only a couple of months back a vehicle, parked on the car park, was set on fire.

“I’ve lived here for more than 20 years and it’s like a little oasis, so I’m very disappointed with these plans.

“I’m also upset about the plans to cut the trees down at the site. There are hundreds of birds in the trees lining the car park. The site is also in a conservation area.”

Seventy-one-year-old Sandra Wood, who has lived on Highfield Road for more than 44 years, is also concerned about the extra traffic that such a development could create.

Sandra, who grew up in a house on Wilkin Square when she was a child, said the area is already highly congested with traffic.

Les Briggs, who also lives on Highfield Road, said the area has reached saturation point and is surrounded by businesses such as Homebase, Sainsbury’s, The Emporium, and the mosque. He said a typical day in the area around Wilkin Square included HGVs squeezing past parked cars along Highfield Road and parked cars blocking access to back streets and footpaths.

Clitheroe Town Council has also raised objections to the plans. Councillors are concerned about access to the site and the impact the development will have on parking arrangements at the mosque and access to St Michael and St John’s RC Church.

The applicant, Mr R. Quick, of Lappet Manufacturing Company Ltd, Garstang, wants to build five one-bedroom flats and five two-bedroom flats, with on site parking.

Stanton Andrews Architects acting on behalf of the applicant told planners: “The car parking to the mosque has been replanned and the 15 spaces remain unchanged. Each flat has its own on site parking bay and a visitor bay has been provided. It should be noted that the site is highly accessible, within the town centre and that none of the surrounding dwellings has off street parking.”

Meanwhile, a heritage statement prepared by C.J.O’Flaherty MRICS, MSc, concluded that the current site asserts a negative impact upon the Conservation Area and represents an opportunity for enhancement.

“The proposals have been well designed, responding to the extant qualities of the place and the need to inject some visual interest and aesthetic appeal,” he said.