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"Say NO" - Protest at Lowther

Say No to Lytham Quays at LowtherToday, Fylde Councillors saw something they have not seen for many years, a full scale revolt against plans by the Council to approve a series of planning applications by Kensington Developments on sites around Fylde. The meeting was scheduled for 9.30, but by 9.00 when the picture was taken the hall was already half-full. By 9.30am, there were about 400 in the hall and another 250 to 300 outside who were unable to get in to hear the proceedings.

Speakers in the hall struggled to make themselves heard - even with microphones - over the hubbub of noise coming from outside the closed doors of the hall.

Several members of the public had registered to speak, including Civic Society Chairman Marion Coupe who summed up the mood of protestors when she said "There is an overwhelming sense of injustice and powerlessness amongst the population"  Leading light of the "Say NO" protest movement, David Haythornthwaite said "Kensington's landbank gives them a stranglehold on this Borough".

The Council is in a dilemma. Central Government says it wants to focus house building in deprived inner city areas, so wealthy areas like Fylde have had a building moratorium imposed, and they are not allowed to approve new housing schemes.

However, another set of Government guidelines say that Fylde apparently needs huge numbers of  'affordable' (social rented) housing to meet an identified need for people on low incomes.

This conflict resulted in Fylde Council approving a series of routes through the moratorium for certain classes of housing, and these have recently been re-enforced by an external Planning Inspector.

The crucial issue is whether the Council is properly interpreting its planning policy when it says that provided the developer provides 60% of his development as 'affordable' or social rented housing, he can build at densities that many regard as being unacceptable.

Developers are doing what developers do, which is to find ways of maximising the profit they can take from a given area, and get it built.

Residents, on the other hand are concerned about the nature and character of the area in which building is planned, and the effect on the social and physical infrastructure of the area.

In the first of their applications, the sites of the former Cooksons Bakery and Saddlers Engineering works, Kensington - who had already had a refusal for residential use of these industrial areas by Fylde Council overturned on appeal by Government - sought to increase the number of dwellings from the 280 they already have permission for,  to 586.

The Council's planning officers recommended approval of the increase, (and this was just the first of five large scale applications by Kensington on the same agenda). 

Speaking for the Defend Lytham group, planning consultant Anthony Padfield suggested that the planning officers were quoting their own planning policy selectively and the effect of this was to benefit the applicant.

To thunderous applause, Councillor John Bennett spoke first and proposed a deferment because he had asked for, but not received a breakdown of the need that justified the increased density, and without that, he said they could not even begin to properly assess the application.

Later, Councillor Kevin Eastham proposed deferment indefinitely, but the final trick went to Lytham's respected Councillor Bill Thompson who proposed refusal of the application because it was contrary to their plan,  it caused traffic problems and would further aggravate social and physical infrastructure problems. Seconded by Councillor Barbara Pagett refusal was approved by almost the whole committee, to the obvious and audible delight of the 400 or so people wearing the "Say No" badges and protesting against the development.

Opposition to these plans has unified and galvanised Lytham folk to take notice of what Fylde Council is doing, and this has spawned a huge popular protest that elected councillors simply could not ignore.

Dated: 19 October 2005


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