Call to halt housing plans now

Members of the BCRG, who are pictured after winning their housing appeal against developers, are now fighting a revised 'Waddow View' outline planning application
Members of the BCRG, who are pictured after winning their housing appeal against developers, are now fighting a revised 'Waddow View' outline planning application

Plans for large scale housing developments in the Ribble Valley should be refused because of concerns over poor air quality, a Clitheroe councillor has argued.

Conservative Coun. Kevin Horkin, who is a town councillor and a Ribble Valley Borough Councillor for the St Mary’s Ward, said concerns over poor air quality standards are a sufficient reason to refuse or delay large scale housing development such as the controversial application to build 275 houses off Waddington Road in Clitheroe – known as the Waddow View development.

And Coun. Horkin has renewed calls for an investigation by the Environment Agency into the impact of toxic levels of CO2 and nitrous oxide in Clitheroe.

Members of the Back Commons Residents Group (BCRG), who are fighting a revised application for 275 houses off Waddington Road, claim the town already has the highest CO2 emissions in the country and an increase in traffic will adversely affect this.

The revised “outline” application, seeking permission in principle for the development, will be discussed by members of Ribble Valley Borough Council’s (RVBC) planning committee tonight (Thursday). It is a re-submission of an earlier application for housing plans on this land. This was refused by RVBC and subsequently, this decision, was upheld on appeal.

A spokeswoman for BCRG said: “We wholeheartedly support the action called for by Coun.Kevin Horkin. We did not have knowledge of the pollution levels until earlier this year, had we known about them last August we would have brought the matter before the Appeal Inspector. Who knows what he would have written in his report with the emissions figures in front of him!”

Speaking to The Clitheroe Advertiser this week, Coun. Horkin asked: “Do we want to return to the Victorian era when we used to cram large numbers of houses close together into a small space in areas with high levels of pollution resulting in long-term damage to the health of occupants?”

He added: “Clitheroe has one of the worst CO2 emissions levels per person in England at 18.4 tonnes. The figure for the Ribble Valley as a whole is 14 tonnes which is just under twice the average for the 12 local authorities that make up Lancashire County Council – 2.4 times the level for Blackburn.

“According to air pollution maps produced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), Clitheroe is the air pollution epicentre.”

Coun. Horkin said it is “especially concerning” that some of the highest concentrations of air pollution can be found in close proximity to Waddow View.

“The two biggest sources of air pollution, according to the DECC, are industrial and commercial manufacturing and transport. The compliance ratings of the main polluters in Clitheroe is rated, according to DECC’s own monitoring, as at best moderate, at worst poor.

“Building hundreds of new houses in one of the few remaining green lung areas in the centre of Clitheroe will further exacerbate the problem. More houses will still emit more CO2, no matter how energy efficient they are.

“The main problem, however, will be the huge increase in traffic on the narrow roads and on steep hills in and out of Clitheroe (roads that weren’t built to cope with such volumes of transport).

“The multiple car families of today certainly weren’t envisaged by town planners of yesteryear.

“Short bursts of acceleration and the revving of engines in traffic queues that move intermittently promote the release of increased levels of nitric oxides, particularly when lengthy jams form.

“That is why I am renewing my call for an investigation by the Environment Agency before Waddow View is considered for approval into why the existing levels of air pollution in Clitheroe remain so high and what the risks to public health are in the long and short term.”

He added: “I am concerned that we are accurately able to model the impact of increased levels of traffic and housing on air quality. If it is predicted to result in further deterioration injurious to public health then new housing developments shouldn’t be allowed to go ahead.

“If this is found to be the case with Waddow View the application should be halted now and not be allowed to go ahead in the future until air quality has improved and been proved to have improved.”

Coun. Horkin is also calling for air quality standards to be enshrined in the National Policy Planning (NPP) Framework and for it be obligatory to conduct comprehensive monitoring of pollution levels in areas where air quality standards are identified as poor.