A RESIDENT has hit out at the council and Government over the ‘broken planning system’, calling on them to act before countryside close to where she lives is lost forever.

The resident, who lives in Clitheroe, said people fight against proposed housing developments but due to the complexity of the system, never stand a chance of winning.

The resident, who lives on Hawthorne Place where permission for a residential housing development has been granted, said: “We fought hard against this development but it was a battle we never had a chance of winning and one which will double the size of our street.

“We enjoy a peaceful, harmonious neighbourhood with an abundance of community spirit, but it is all about to change.”

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen:

In a letter to Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and a number of local MPs and councillors, the resident pleaded with those in power to try and fully understand the impact over-development has on people’s lives.

She wrote: “There is a broken planning system operating in our country, with central Government dictating to local Government on their housing requirements by use of a blanket policy and formula.”

She said while this is fine for areas that needed extra housing, in small towns like Clitheroe the effects are devastating, destroying communities and eating up surrounding countryside.

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen:

The letter stated: “I understand if housing was genuinely needed then these sacrifices would be justified, but this is certainly not the case here, yet all those in a position to question this continue, blindly allowing and even facilitating this destruction.

“These policies and formulas do not allow for any common sense and real situation reporting, which leads to developers gaining a strong hold as unless the numbers dictated by central Government are reached, land that is not even within residential boundaries and our countryside, can be ‘up for grabs’ by developers.”

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen:

She said local planning departments could not stop this from happening, and what resulted was overcrowding with no consideration made for actual need, adding: “Most people object, and raise real issues - highway safety, risk of flooding, loss of residential amenity - but none of these issues matter, and public consultation feels like merely a tick box process.

“We then pin our hopes on Highways and the Local Lead Flood Authority (LLFA) as well as our councillors to look at the proposals, see that our concerns are justified and do their best to oppose, but that is not how it works in practice.

“Then at a committee meeting the residents objecting are allowed one speaker and a paltry three minutes in which to make their plea.

“The councillors, many of whom are trying to do their utmost best for the people within their wards, then vote.

“If a councillor voices concerns and suggests that the application be refused, the planning officers say the council cannot afford an appeal, so there is absolutely nothing we can do with the system as it is at present.”

The resident went on to explain that in order for Highways, for example, to advise a planning application be refused, the impact of development on the road networks would have to reach the ‘severe’ level.

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen:

She added: “There is no definition of the term ‘severe’ and to get to a level of scrutiny the council would have to appeal, but they are told this is too costly, yet the developers prey on that and exploit it, and even where there is solid grounds for refusing a planning proposal, the costs would come from the public purse.

“I have found that residents get little to no assistance from the LPA’s and other relevant authorities to navigate this complex and often confusing system, and are actually made to feel they are making a nuisance of themselves for asking for advice.

“How the system currently operates is totally and utterly unfair, unjust and not fit for purpose and if allowed to continue, which we all know it will, our green spaces, piece by piece will be gone and once it’s gone it is gone.”

Clitheroe residents brand council 'absolute disgrace' after 57 new homes approved despite objections

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Littlemoor Ward, Cllr Sue Knox said: “Sadly, administrations at Westminster, County Hall and Ribble Valley Council have failed to provide a joined up pragmatic approach to highways and potential flood issues caused by new housing developments.

“I have lost count of the number of times those representatives have visited the sites, told concerned residents “it’s awful” and made no attempt to change legislation and policy.

“The most galling of these platitudes was a letter sent by Nigel Evan’s MP to all members of the planning committee in 2018, saying that “Clitheroe is now under breaking point” and asking us to “think critically” about another new development.

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen:

“We can think critically, but we need legislation to support decision making, and while there has been plenty of opportunity to address the public concerns, nothing has been done.”

'Act now to save our town' – anger at 58 homes plan

Chair of the Ribble Valley Council planning committee, Cllr Alison Brown, said the problem they face is that the Government has said around 300 thousand new homes need to be built nationwide to address the chronic housing shortage in the country, and local governments are under pressure to deliver this.

She said: “It’s supply and demand and the only way we can stop new houses being built is if the Government say we don’t need any.

“There’s a standard methodology for calculating how many houses need to be built, but we can’t just turn around and say we don’t want to build any in the Ribble Valley, it is most frustrating.”

Cllr Brown explained that while she understood residents’ concerns, the council’s hands were effectively tied, however, some of the candidates in the upcoming elections were pushing the idea that Clitheroe should have a neighbourhood plan, which would provide proper consultation for residents, allowing them more of a say in exactly where these new developments would be built.

She added: “All we can do is try and structure the developments so they go into sensible places, while also protecting the environment, but at the end of the day the demand is high and we have to put roofs over people’s heads.”