MP calls for urgent rethink on new homes plans

Mr Evans during his summer surgeries.
Mr Evans during his summer surgeries.
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Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans says “enough is enough” following what he describes as a “colossal amount of house building” in the Clitheroe area.

Speaking to the Clitheroe Advertiser following his week-long tour around the towns and villages of the Ribble Valley, Mr Evans said: “One cannot escape the fact that Clitheroe and neighbouring Barrow are taking a huge amount of new houses which are all being built simultaneously. The area is looking like one huge building site.

“The Ribble Valley is a glorious area and that is one of the reasons so many people want to live here. The problem is that our attraction could be our undoing as the beauty is being strangled by the demand for greenfield development.”

As well as developments that have already been granted planning permission, this summer, Gladman Developments Ltd has submitted an outline application – seeking permission in principle – to Ribble Valley Borough Council to build 110 new homes off Henthorn Road, while Laurus Homes, a Manchester-based ethical builder, is planning to submit an application for full planning permission to build 184 homes off Clitheroe Road, Whalley.

The Henthorn Road plans have already caused concern with Ribble Valley Borough Coun. Allan Knox describing the application as “predatory”.

“This is a dreadful predatory application that does not benefit local residents in anyway at all,” said Coun. Knox. “We will see more houses at the end of the longest cul-de-sac in town and it only provides a miserly 30% of affordable housing for local young people who are being priced out of the housing market. It aims to build outwith the settlement boundary and it would seem the only winners are developers and landowners.”

Continuing development at this rate, according to Mr Evans, has left Clitheroe and surrounding villages with a “creaking” road system plus over stretched health services and education providers.

And he is so concerned about the situation after listening to his constituents that he has decided to write to each councillor on Ribble Valley Borough Council’s planning committee asking them to look at the impact of each development on the area.

“I know the local authority stresses that each planning application should be looked at in isolation, but that would be to ignore the overall impact of mass house building overall. Common sense demands we stand back from time to time and see the bigger picture,” said Mr Evans. “Clitheroe has taken more than its fair share. Unless we stand back and see the impact that these new houses are having in one part of the Valley, particularly as Barrow and Clitheroe are not far from being joined at the hip, then it will be too late.”

Mr Evans continued: “I know there is a raging debate as to what type of houses are needed when we have an ageing population. There is a further debate taking place that many living in our community cannot afford the prices being charged on the types of houses that are being built. So my plea is for our planners and those taking these difficult decisions to look again critically at any further building in just one part of the Valley.

“We are seriously in danger of damaging the beauty of our area. Let’s ensure that future generations get to appreciate what we love about the Ribble Valley and let’s act upon the growing concern of over development. It’s a cliche, but none the less appropriate to say, enough is enough!”

In response to Mr Evans’ plea, Ken Hind, leader of Ribble Valley Borough Council, said: “The ability to reduce the rate of house building in the Ribble Valley and in the country elsewhere is totally in the hands of Parliament, MPs and the Government, so I trust Nigel’s view will lead him to shout ‘enough is enough’ at Government ministers?

“Local authorities apply the planning law imposed on them by Parliament. The number of houses to be built are the result of successive governments’ policies, by government inspectors, deciding that development plans put forward by local authorities contain sufficient homes to be built. Inspectors reject development plans or Core Strategies if they consider the numbers of homes proposed to be built are inadequate.

“Beleaguered local councillors have to apply Parliament’s planning law and often reject applications to build houses only to find they are turned over by government inspectors on appeal. It is no good shouting at local borough councillors.”

Mr Hind continued: “My message to Nigel and his Westminster colleagues of all parties is to read the Local Government Association Report on Brexit, recognise that local authorities need greater powers to control and decide planning applications, free of outside interference from the Government. Let local councils lead on strategic planning rather than developers and landowners. Local councillors know best what is needed in their area and will act in good faith to meet housing need – in our case starter homes for young people, bungalows for the retired and small developments in the villages to keep them viable.”

A spokesman for Laurus Homes said that more than half of the homes it hopes to build in Whalley would be available for an affordable rent and shared ownership. He added that the range of one-bedroom apartments through to five-bedroom houses are designed to tackle the growing housing shortage in the region. A profit-for-purpose builder, Laurus Homes has promised to invest its profit from the new homes into community projects, including tackling poverty, homelessness, domestic violence and debt problems.

Regarding the Henthorn Road application, Gladman Developments Ltd said: “The development will create up to 110 dwellings with a range of housing to meet the needs of the area, whilst respecting and enhancing the site’s environmental assets.”

The developer is looking to build 78 market value homes on the site with another 32 dedicated to social housing.