A PACKED public gallery witnessed councillors debating controversial plans for new housing proposed in the Ribble Valley over the next 17 years.
More than 100 Ribble Valley residents turned out in force to last night’s special Planning and Development Committee meeting to air their concerns about the consequences of new housing in the picturesque borough, however, councillors gave the go-ahead to proposals for 3,000 new homes to be built between now and 2028. The original proposal was for 3,400 homes and this figure excludes around 1,000 new homes already built or granted planning permission since 2008. The plans are all part of the Ribble Valley Borough Council’s Core Strategy, which runs until 2028.
During the meeting, which was held at the borough council’s chamber, residents from Clitheroe, Sabden, Whalley said they feared the proposed new developments would not only ruin the landscape of the borough, but would “suffocate Clitheroe”. They also argued that if Prime Minister David Cameron is always voicing his support to preserve the countryside, why is the Government setting ambitious targets to spoil the greenbelt land with mass housing developments?
Clitheroe Town Councillor Simon O’Rourke was among those who spoke. He said: “For the past 38 years I have lived in Clitheroe. I was brought up in the Low Moor area of the town, but I am sad to say it is now unrecognisable.
“There have been a number of large-scale developments in the area in the past, which have resulted in traffic congestion and more cars on our roads.
“We already have a problem with oversubscribed secondary schools in the town. How are the existing overcrowded schools expected to accommodate more pupils? The Ribble Valley is regarded as the safest area to live in Lancashire, but this can all change due to an influx of population into the town. The balance of new housing developments should be spread equally around the Ribble Valley and Longridge, not just Clitheroe.”
Residents also claimed they were unaware of the Core Strategy’s plans, however, Mr Michael Ranson, leader of the council, said consultations with the public began a long time ago and it was in the local residents’ interest to get the Core Strategy in place as soon as possible.
He explained: “We have been consulting on the Core Strategy for at least 18 months. We have organised public meetings and drop in sessions, which have been attended by a lot of people.
“Ribble Valley Borough Council does not decide the figures for new housing, this is decided by the Government Inspectorate. We take this matter very seriously. We, as a council, are not trying to flood housing in the Ribble Valley, but if we do not do this properly, then the matter will be out of our hands and the Inspectorate will have to decide. The Core Strategy figures are absolutely vital otherwise we will be swamped by housing.”
A similar opinion was expressed by Coun. Stuart Hirst, who said: “If we do not get this figure of housing over the next 17 years right, the Inspectorate will send us back to square one and that will open up the floodgates for larger developments in our borough.”
• See next week’s Clitheroe Advertiser and Times for full report.