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Wesham (Again!)

Wesham (Again)To Wesham again. Always a pleasure, (and rapidly becoming our 'second home') - but, as the introduction to the Public Meeting held on Wednesday evening proclaimed "I want to welcome you all this evening, but I don't feel very happy about us all having to be here again."

The cause of the displeasure is a salami-slice application by Metacre - who don't seen to understand how to take NO for an answer. They applied for planning permission here before and Fylde said NO, the appeal inspector said NO, the Rt Hon St Eric Pickles said NO, and when Metacre challenged HIS decision in a Judicial Review, the Courts said NO.

You'd have thought they would have got the message by now, wouldn't you?

But like the 'Mummy Returns' - they're back.

Metacre Wesham old application

This time it's a smaller scheme which looks remarkably like it will eventually become 'Phase 1' of what they have already been turned down for.

Metacre Wesham new application

We were made to feel very welcome by the 75 or so good people of Wesham who were attending the meeting. We saw quite a few local faces we knew, together with some from further afield. As you'd expect, we saw local several Town and Borough Councillors representing Wesham. There was a Gazette reporter we've known for many years; former work colleagues of ours,  local farmers and, of course, Peter Ball who is the first councillor in the UK to represent the 'Integrity' party, and one of its leading lights.

We were also very pleased to see Heyhouses Ward, St Annes Councillor Nigel Goodrich, who'd taken the trouble to come across to Wesham to see what the meeting was all about, and to listen to the concerns of local people.

We were impressed.

For the most part, it's not that easy to prize the coastal members away from the salt air, but Cllr Goodrich - a member of the Development Management Committee - looks to be a man who wants to understand what he's asked to make decisions about. We saw him at the Queensway Inquiry as well. That augurs well for both his, and our, future.

The introduction to the meeting itself, (from Cllr Alan Clayton), said that because it is a 'new' application the decision rests with Fylde's Development Control Committee, so the need is to convince Fylde's Development Management that it should be refused, and he explained the process an gave the address of the website wesham.org.uk which has details of community news and activities.

Then, Wesham's heroine of the last inquiry, Andrea Galbraith, who chairs the Wesham Action Group, set out the details.

She outlined the history of the previous application, and said WAG had re-formed to oppose this application. They'd done a lot of work on the previous one and FBC had refused that, partly she thought by the large number of people who turned up to object at Committee.

In many ways she thought the arguments this time were the same

  • The loss of Best and Most Versatile agricultural land
  • The flood risk
  • Highway safety
  • Local infrastructure
  • The need to deal with previously developed (Brownfield) land first

She asked people who opposed the new scheme to sign a petition at the door, and warned that, like Kensington and Queensway at St Annes, we could see the developer's employees collecting signatures in support in the town centre or wherever.

She thought (because it was a new application) it would be heard by Fylde's Development Management Committee on 14th march 2012, and this time it probably won't be a separate, stand-alone meeting like last time.

She said it was still outside the settlement boundary, and it was still in the countryside. That meant it was contrary to planning policy to approve it.

The last application represented a 16% increase in the population of Wesham and this was out of scale.

She said scale remains an argument, and the loss of Best and Most Versatile agricultural land still applies unless there is nowhere else it could be built.

Apart from anything else, this was the best bit of land, and the most concentrated Grade 2 agricultural land in the area.

And she concluded that it was premature to consider this application until Fylde had completed it's local plan.

The Town Council had met the previous night to consider the matter and were of the same frame of mind as before. A small subcommittee had been formed to prepare the details of Wesham TC's objection.

Andrea urged those present to write letters in their own style to object to the plans, to come to the WAG's meetings at the Wesham Community Centre on Thursdays (upstairs room, Church Road - parking available) - meetings start at 7:30pm - very informal. Or contact them via their website at weshamactiongroup.co.uk and to be prepared to turn up at Committee and have a brief say about why they don't agree with the plans.

At this point the meeting was opened to the floor for questions and comments.

First off was 'John' (who, despite having greying hair, had previously shown himself to be a very keen cycling enthusiast and as fit as a butchers dog, by cycling from Wesham to St Annes and back each day for the last enquiry). He wanted to know why it wasn't going to be heard by FBC as a special meeting this time. The answer was that it was a smaller application, and similar to last time so it can be part of an ordinary planning meeting.

A lady said she'd seen in the 'Great British Property Scandal' that there were already 1,747 empty houses in Fylde and should she mention that? Answer was that although the position was complicated by things like estates being dealt with after bereavement and people in the process of moving house, you could mention whatever you wanted in your objection.

One chap asked if it was worth mentioning the previous letter he sent. The answer was yes, but this should be a separate one because it was a different area and the objection should be tailored to this application. He also wanted to know if this was the best agricultural land, and was told that most of it was Grade 2 (which is the best in Fylde), and it was the area with the most consistent Grade 2 land on the whole of the former site.

Meeting at WeshamA lady wanted to know if they should contact John Craven and Countryfile, because he had said farming land was important. She also expressed concerns about her local knowledge of the drainage arrangement.

Andrea Galbraith said the drainage was a concern and reminded people that if they had  specific points of objection such as the way the land drained, and they wanted the planning officers at Fylde to take those concerns into account, then they should send their letters in before the end of January, otherwise they would simply count toward the number of objections received, and the content would not be evaluated.

A lady wanted to know if the Town Councillors would go along and speak. Cllr Clayton said he expected to do so, as would other colleagues on the Town Council.

Local farmer David Pickervance asked about former Barrister Roger Lancaster saying that land under a certain size didn't count, and was told that the appeal and the court had shown that it did.

Libby Pickervance - the future generation of our farmers spoke - as she always does - with plain common sense and passion. She said Fylde's Development Management Committee had noted and spoken about the passion that had been shown by local people to protect the area, and whilst some would make technical arguments about planning policy, she said it was just as important for people to get up and speak what is in their hearts. Her evident passion for the land shines through whenever she speaks and the good people of Wesham responded to her contribution with spontaneous applause.

And there the meeting closed. We were happy to chat to folk we knew after it and we wish them well in their struggle to resist the application.

We'll bring readers more as it unfolds.

Dated:   13 January 2012


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