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Planning Update Aug 2014

Planning Update August 2014Apologies to our readers and friends in Warton and Wesham, we've been far too long bringing some of these reports.

This is another update on planning changes (mostly in Fylde) since our last report at the start of July.

This article has:


Because Fylde's local plan painted a red 'development doughnut' for new homes all around Warton, developers continue threaten to park their JCB's in its green and pleasant countryside..

The H8 Area
Most recently (after the declaration of the Riversleigh and Blackthorn sites) is an application for up to 375 homes (App No. 14/0410) for 32 hectares of land east of Warton (and just west of Freckleton).

This application seemed to surprise everyone, and we got the impression that even Fylde's officers were not expecting it to be submitted.

Also unusual was the fact that no public consultation seems to have taken place (Developers are expected to jump through this hoop these days), so it looks to have been a case of we don't want to miss out on the feeding frenzy and have Fylde's housing numbers filled up by other folk, so we'd better get in quick.

However it might already be too late - as we will see.

Blackfield Green
Was submitted as an appeal in May because Fylde had exceeded its time to decide it.

If it is not withdrawn, the appeal will be determined by a Public Inquiry that's expected in October 2014.

Fylde's Development Control meeting of 2 July was asked to decide (at the end of a long, tiring meeting) what they would have decided if they had been asked to do so.

They returned a decision that they would probably have refused permission and therefore they were now 'minded to refuse' it.

This decision determined whether Fylde would fight the Appeal or not, and what areas they would contest.

We attended the meeting which, sadly, didn't seem to have a video made for a webcast. Cllr Kevin Eastham was in the Chair.

In reality, the officers had already made all the decisions, because during the meeting, it became clear that they had already prepared their 'Statement of Case' for the appeal hearing, and it had to be "furnished by 4th July" (and the DMC meeting was on the 2nd July)

What the officer's report to the Committee did provide, was a summary of the case, and what the officers planned to cite as grounds for refusal.

Members were not entirely happy with this because it didn't address as many reasons for refusal as they would have liked.

We were also surprised to find there had been no speakers from Warton in a 'public platform' when the meeting started.

We were told later that they had been refused permission to speak.

We can only assume that - as with other recent 'interpretations' of procedure, a literal interpretation of the words had been applied without applying any common sense or precedent.

Fylde's wording regarding public speaking at DMC is "Whether you support or object to a planning application, you can speak for up to three minutes when the Development Management Committee considers planning applications. A leaflet 'Public Speaking at the Development Management Committee' has been prepared to explain in more detail how you can participate. The leaflet can be downloaded from the link on the right hand side of the page. A person must register his intention to speak, in writing, by no later than 12 noon, the Monday before the meeting."

That wording can be read as being specific to 'planning applications' and may, of course, be interpreted not to include comment on what the planning application decision would have been in response to a future planning appeal (as opposed to a live planning application)

This 'you can speak / you can't speak' arrangement seems to be a distinction that's made whichever way Fylde thinks is most appropriate, because there are precedents in allowing speakers - not least the exact same situation with the Queensway Non-Determination Appeal in August 2009 where the public were allowed to speak as Fylde considered whether or not it would have approved the application.

As we said in 'HUBble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble....'

"The Gazette reported a lot of people at the meeting were in favour of the Queensway scheme - well, ten or so (including a QED representative) spoke against it and ten or so spoke for it, and the builder types made a lot of noise so maybe that was interpreted as being in favour. "

So it seems to be that Fylde will allow public speaking at DMC when it suits them, and not when it doesn't.

We thought that didn't augur well for the Blackfield Green appeal.

We find it difficult to agree that Fylde actually believes in the benefits of its 'Public Platform'. We suspect for the most part they tolerate it, rather than embracing it as a 'good thing' to help them come to broadly-based decisions.

With there having been no public speakers, Cllr Fabian Craig-Wilson proposed refusal as per the officers recommendation.

Cllr Duffy seconded the refusal, but said he was not happy with the reasons.

He said they hadn't had a presentation of all the details of the application [as they have with all planning applications] that they would usually have had to allow them to make up their minds.

All they had was the officer's summary of why they should refuse it.

He argued if that was the right way to do it, then all the normal planning applications shouldn't have any detail with them either, just the officer's recommendation and his reasons.

He said "We don't know all the details and we're being asked to agree to refuse it, and I don't quite follow the logic of that.

How can we agree that we would have refused it, and that these are all the reasons for that refusal, when we haven't been given the details that we would normally have been given?"

Officers seemed to think it was common practice that the elected councillors should have the opportunity to comment on what the officers were saying before it was sent.

The underlying logic here is that officers know best, you should just leave it to us.


Regular readers will know how we fundamentally disagree with this.

It is for Members to decide.

That's why we elect them.

It's for officers to prepare both sides of the argument for members to consider, and then to carry out the decision that members make.

As we have said many times, Fylde has ceded far too many decisions and too much latitude to officers.

Cllr Brickles said the recommendations were not robust enough at all, and she suggested various changes. Cllr Nulty supported Cllr Duffy saying they had had much more detail on previous appeals.

Queen Elisabeth agreed with Cllr Duffy. She didn't understand how a full presentation that day could have held up the submission of the information.

We can see why it might.

If officers have already crafted the Statement of Case it could well have 'escape clauses' built into it where - at the last minute, Fylde could throw in the towel as they had done before at Wesham, and decline to proceed with the appeal on some last minute pretext.

If that was the plan (and we're not saying it was, only that it could have been), you can see why they would want to keep members as far as possible from the detail of the content.

She also wanted more reasons for refusal adding into the decision, saying that she thought the ones in the officers report were weak, and could easily be overcome by the applicant. [presumably resulting in the towel-throwing for which Fylde is gaining an unwelcome reputation]

Even Cllr Fiddler agreed and said the present reasons didn't give a substantial reason for refusal.

He was particularly concerned about the LCC's highway advice. LCC had also said the site ,was not sustainable and he thought that was the primary reason it should be refused, and that should also be in the reasons for refusal.

The Chairman reminded him that it was in the officers report, but Cllr Fiddler persisted that Yes, it was buried in the wording of the report, but it was not explicit nor highlighted as a reason for refusal, and it should be.

There were other concerns as well.

Officers attempted to show that these issues were addressed in their report (which was the case - but they were not the reasons that the Committee wanted in the decision it was making).

The legal officer attempted to produce a 'compromise' proposition and there was the usual confusion about what should be in and what should be out.

There were small changes made, but we got the impression that not much was different, and the officers' version of the Statement of Case (which members had not even been shown) was more or less going to be used.

The point that was missed for the future is that members should have insisted on seeing - and amending if necessary - the draft 'Statement of Case' for future appeals if they believe (as we do) that members should decide the grounds that justify *their* decision for refusal.

So when it finished, we were left with the uncomfortable feeling that there were still 'escape clauses' that Fylde could use to drop their participation in the case if they chose to do so closer to the appeal.

On the same evening as Fylde's Development Management Committee considered its view of the Blackfield Green appeal, Warton Parish Council held a Parish Meeting - that's a meeting open to everyone in Warton to attend and speak (unlike a Parish *Council* Meeting where the matters are discussed only by parish councillors)

Richard Taylor (who also chairs Bryning with Warton Parish Council) took the chair in a room that was packed.

At five to seven, we counted roughly 150 people with standing room almost full and people still streaming to come in. In the end event the porch was full as well as the room.

Warton Neighbourhood Plan Meeting

He said the meeting had been requested by the Warton Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee. They comprised local residents, businesspeople, landowners, parish councillors who have been working hard to produce a draft neighbourhood plan which they hoped would become the strategy for the future of the village. They had also engaged planning consultants to give them the planning expertise and support.

The draft neighbourhood plan had been approved by the Parish Council the previous night, and the Steering Group presented a PowerPoint of the main issues.

Local chap Mike Wright from the Steering Group took those present through the information.

He said the bad news was that there are already 416 new homes approved for Warton, and a further 784 were in the pipeline, having been submitted and registered with FBC. He said they also believed another application for 280 homes was imminent.

He said at that moment, they were looking at a potential of 1,480 new homes around Warton. It represented a 90% increase in households, and an 83% increase in population. He said they knew of no other village in the UK that was facing such an increase, and showed maps etc of the locations.

We have long argued the absurdity of FBC's recent vision and strategy for Warton (and indeed their growth projections for other areas based as we believe them to be, on unsound interpretations of the underlying data).

But Mr Wright did say something of great significance - he announced that FBC had agreed to drop the allocation in the Local Plan to propose growth of only 650 properties rather than the 1,200+ that they had originally proposed.

We were not altogether surprised by this.

We think Cllr Fiddler knew all along that 1,200 was an unsustainable figure, and we would not be surprised to find it was always his intention to start with a high figure so he could reduce it just before the 2015 election.

But what we don't think he and his colleagues had bargained for, was the scale of public anger in Warton at what they had proposed.

Because most people look at the technicalities of planning, they don't give things like the "Vision"  part pf the plan a second look.

But it is undoubtedly the Vision that is the underlying driving force of Fylde's local plan.

We believe it is the Fylde Conservative Group's 'vision for growth' that is the problem here. They appear to have decided that Fylde shall have economic growth and development a-plenty, and that will mean more houses.

Most residents would undoubtedly disagree with this philosophy, which is why Fylde's 'Vision' is being kept out of plain sight so far as is possible.

This focus on growth will become clear when Fylde's interpretation of its  Employment Land and Premises Study is taken apart at the Inquiry in Public, as it surely will be.

None of the growth that Cllr Fiddler proposed for Warton was in the 'Issues and Options' consultation version of the Local Plan.

That described development at Warton at worst as being "moderate", and which at Para 6.8 said "Wesham, Freckleton and Warton’s roles as Local Service Centres will be maintained through all the options." The overwhelming public support was for Option 5" (which would see development focused on the Whyndyke Farm area), but the 'Preferred Options' version this is cast aside and disregarded in favour of growth at Warton.

That situation didn't come about as a result of listening to what the electorate (and others) had said. We believe it came about as a direct result of party political support for a vision of 'Growth'  and it begs the question 'What is the point of consultation if, like Fylde, you take no notice of the result?'

So if you're Warton and are being crucified on the altar of growth,  the solution is not to rely on the party that is running the show at Fylde, but to take matters into your own hands as far as possible, as indeed, Warton has done, with it's own Neighbourhood Plan.

The launch evening for the draft plan concluded with questions and answers which all seemed well handled by the Chairman and well answered by the planning group.

So, the village has started consulting on its own future plan, which - we can say with no doubt at all - will deliver a much more meaningful and representative sample of views than Fylde knows how to do.

And we're certain that the views of the people of Bryning With Warton will be both welcomed and listened to by their parish council and the steering group.

But even as they launched their consultation, they had already succeeded in delivering a 50% reduction in what Fylde had proposed.

Than must deserve a 'Really Well Done'

On 10th July, St Eric Announced that his department was making a change to the way that Neighbourhood Plans would work.

For 12 months from that date, he has amended the criteria he uses to decide whether to 'recover' planning appeals, so that it includes 'proposals for residential development of over 10 units in areas where a qualifying body has submitted a neighbourhood plan proposal to the local planning authority: or where a neighbourhood plan has been made.'

He added "For the avoidance of doubt, planning 'recovery' should not be confused with 'call-in' - where the original application decision is taken away from the council and made by Ministers. Recovery involves Ministers making appeal decisions that would otherwise be made by the Planning Inspectorate."

The implications for Warton are very significant, and probably the reason that Fylde agreed to reducing the number of homes planned for Warton.

Fylde would almost certainly know this change was in DCLG's pipeline, and would realise that Warton's neighbourhood plan was soon to be completed and, as the amended criteria say, once Warton's plan has been 'submitted as a proposal to FBC' (and that process comes at the end of the present consultation period which itself ends on 20 August), from that date onward, the Secretary of State will decide any appeals using the Neighbourhood Plan as the basis.

Warton's plan will almost certainly have a housing number around the 600 mark, and Fylde now appears to have agreed a similar number.

What this does show is the incredibly good job done by Cllr Julie Brickles when she chaired the Parish Council that helped form the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group last year. What a brilliant job has been done by Jessica Ashworth and Mike and Sally Wright and their colleagues who have done all the hard work to involve the community in the plan, and how the new Parish Chairman, Richard Taylor is now taking this important matter forward and supporting it.

The support given to Warton residents in this matter by Mark Menzies their MP, has also probably been a lot more significant than has been visible on the surface as well.

In the face of adversity thrust upon them by Cllr Fiddler and Fylde's officers, Bryning with Warton united, and is setting a fine example of community cohesion.

Their hard work has paid off, and we believe that if they can get their neighbourhood plan submitted to FBC before the Blackfield Green appeal is heard in the Autumn, it means that appeal will be decided by St Eric and not the planning inspectorate.

That has to be good news for Warton's residents.


Meanwhile, over in Wesham, they are on familiar ground.

Readers will recall that (as we set out in A Bad DMC Meeting) planning application No. 13/0754 (in which Fylde's officers recommended approval of 264 dwellings on land off Mowbreck Lane) was refused by Fylde's Development Management Committee on 7th May.

This is the umpteenth time an application like this has been refused.

We understand that De Pol and or Metacre lodged an appeal against the refusal and are proposing a Public Inquiry for 4 days with 3 witnesses.

We've seen developers do this sort of thing before - it threatens maximising the potential costs against Fylde the appeal is allowed.

We understand Fylde may be arguing the case for having this appeal dealt with by 'written representations' (an exchange of letters and documentary evidence) rather than an inquiry in public.

No doubt Fylde will say there are proper grounds for it to be 'written reps' but you can't help thinking that cash strapped Councils might be tempted to go for the cheaper option in order to reduce their eventual costs if things go 'wrong' for them.

Cases with written reps (where substantial local interest has been generated) are much lower profile affairs, and can disadvantage local people who may not be planning experts, or experienced report authors, but who can put forward a cogent argument, often based on local knowledge.

We suspect the decision ought to be based on the needs of each case, but it's an area which is very uncertain.

Readers will recall the situation at Wrea Green where four or five applications were amalgamated under the jurisdiction of a single Inspector who - having seen the sites - pronounced that they were too complex and interconnected to determine by written representations and he said it needed an inquiry in public. Some of the developers complained about the cost of this, and that Inspector was removed from the case and a new Inspector was installed by the Planning Inspectorate. The new one decided the appeals by written representations.

So it's not at all clear to us how deciding the format of the appeal process should work. As usual, in the 'old days' it was always pretty clear. Small, simple appeals were written reps, and anything bigger had an Inquiry. But as time - and more especially the change in land value that planning permission brings - have moved on, the definition of what is simple is in flux.

There's even another process called a 'Hearing' that could be used. It's a halfway stage between written reps and a full blown Inquiry in that there are no barristers involved, but the public are allowed to make comments.

The decision is actually down to the Planning Inspectorate who say "We will ensure that the most appropriate appeal procedure is selected, taking account of the criteria, the views of the appellant, the local planning authority and any appropriate expert involvement. We will determine which procedure will be followed within 7 working days of receiving a valid appeal."

So you'd think it would be decided by now, but the details of the case don't seem to be on the Planning Inspectorate's database yet which implies they may be taking their time in 'validating' the appeal (i.e. before they start the clock ticking on the 7 days).

We understand the Wesham Action Group - now probably the most seasoned planning campaigners in Fylde - are weighing up the possibilities of becoming a Rule 6 Party (also for the umpteenth time) to argue the community's case alongside the barristers and planners if it goes to an Inquiry.

Perhaps a Neighbourhood Plan for Wesham might be a good idea once this appeal (whichever way it goes) is over.

That nice Mr Clegg, (the one who doesn't worry too much about what he promises) has told the BBC that "Homeowners could be compensated if the value of their property falls when new garden cities are built." He told BBC's Countryfile the government could buy homes blighted by developments or offer owners council tax cuts while building takes place.

We're talking complete new towns here, with developments of around 15,000 houses.

The 'Garden Cities' epithet is almost certainly a con. We've seen some of these soulless new towns. Cwmbran in Wales was a classic. We were shown round by the development authority there years and years ago. We couldn't wait to get out to normality and away from the Orwellian cotton-wool-padded, polythene-shrink-wrapped-society that was being managed into existence at that time. Hopefully the place is better now.

Some Garden Towns were fine (St Annes was, until the Land and Building Company ceased its effective control of the architecture) and there are others, but we've no faith in what Mr Clegg has to offer.

Given the heavily redacted house price report that has just been 'published' and appears to suggest that house prices will be badly affected by fracking (otherwise whey would they be redacted? They would be trumpeted from the rooftops), we figure he might want to extend that idea to properties blighted by fracking developments as well as housing developments.

But we're not holding our breath.

Apart from the fracking issues, there are two important points to note in his comments. Firstly we absolutely couldn't see anyone in Fylde welcoming a new town that is half as big as the whole population of Fylde already. And secondly, his statement all contain the word "could" as in "could be compensated" and "could buy homes blighted by developments"

So we won't waste any more time on Mr Clegg's ideas.

We worry more about what appear to be the direction that Labour is moving on New Towns, and we think they could be a more serious worry for the people of Fylde.

The veritable and trusted countryside campaigning group CPRE has a new idea.

We rather like it.

They say that the National Planning Policy Framework requires that where councils can't demonstrate a five year supply of housing land (using the seasonally adjusted, smoke and mirrors magic set you need to calculate them) their Local Plan has to be considered out-of-date

This triggers a presumption in favour of 'sustainable' development.

But the Court of Appeal has highlighted the difficulties of interpreting some paragraphs of the NPPF due to ambiguity in their drafting.

So CPRE are on a mission to make things more clear.

As a first and urgent priority, they want a change to 'Note 11' of paragraph 47 of the NPPF to make it read that a five year supply would unconditionally include all land with existing planning permissions for residential development.

In other words, they want to remove the 'seasonally adjusted smoke and mirror magic set'.

They say "This simple change would make the NPPF operate more fairly, would discourage land-banking, and would lead to more sound planning

We couldn't agree more and are happy to pass on their call to our readers.

The good burghers of Wrea Green - who have also been besieged by developers - tell us that they're still so busy it's difficult to find time to work on their own Neighbourhood plan. That seems a pity in views of the benefit Warton's getting from theirs.

Readers might remember that CAPOW sent a long list of questions to the Planning Inspectorate who said they were asking for too much information, but  they could go and see it in the Planning Inspectorate's offices in Bristol, if they wanted to. (Maybe the Inspectorate ought to digitise their documents so they can be emailed if they're going to get involved in so many decisions on planning applications)

CAPOW have said they still intend to “get to the bottom” of the errors and omissions they found in the Inspectors report and have asked Mark Menzies to look into the matter with the Planning Minister. He's just changed recently so there is likely to be a bit of a delay we suspect.

Of particular interest to us was the meeting between CAPOW and a Mr Hortin of the Environment Agency.

He only has responsibility for comments on planning applications, and, as with United Utilities, the issues in Wrea Green cover a wider spectrum like regulation, multiple application risk accumulation, combined pipework and so on.

But he did agree to look at the capacity of the pipe for Wrea Brook under Station Road and to raise the issue of capacity of the Brooklands Pumping Station, and whether that capacity can sustain the additional houses already planned and approved.

We're surprised this wasn't a hotter topic with them at the moment, but it might be progress for Wrea Green.

CAPOW were also told that the Environment Agency rely on local residents to report sewage overflows. The contact number for the Incident Hotline is 0800 80 70 60 and we're happy to make that available to our readers

It seems the proposal to make Lancashire County Council the Lead Local Flood Authority (see Water Water Everywhere) for our area has been put back until April 2015. At present they only cover water courses that are not considered to be 'main watercourses'

However this area of LCC does not appear to be one of the Statutory Consultees to planning applications (unlike Highways and Education) which we find as strange as our friends at CAPOW do.

Please See Update at end of article
The other bit of shocking news is that it was confirmed that it is the responsibility of the Local Council (FBC or their appointed expert) to ensure that the run off rate from new developments meets the prescribed litres per second, and the Environment Agency isn't involved in this aspect of any development.

We're less than excited at that as a prospect.

Fylde can't even do proper consultations, let alone measure litres per second

We're also shocked that it is not the Environment Agency's responsibility to do this now.

They tell fracking companies what's required but don't monitor compliance (except what the operator tells them), and it seems they apply that to run-off rates as well.

Perhaps it will all come good when LCC become the Lead Local Flood Authority next April and they will take over the monitoring.
Please see update at end of article

It also came out that 'Attenuated/hydrobraked flow rates' (the way of holding back water from roofs and hard surfaces so it only exits a development slowly) are currently usually achieved using large underground pipes which narrowing to a much smaller pipe. But in the future it is intended that these should be dealt with using above-ground Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems such as ponds and open watercourses.

We've yet to come to terms with either of these concepts. The first, it seems to our uncultured brain, must follow the laws of physics in that if you have a lot of water going into a smaller pipe, all that happens is that the flow rate increases in the small pipe as the increasing pressure is applied from water backing up in the big pipe (perhaps until Water Cannon pressure is reached?)   We wonder if that's why they're changing it.

The second reservation we have is that in areas close to housing the presence of water attracts all sorts of undesirable additions, from supermarket trolleys, and floating bottles for stone throwing target practice, through to small children who don't understand the need to keep away from large areas of water, and lesser beings like mosquitoes who may be lesser but can still bite - especially when the windows are open in summer.

So we're not yet sure we have the right solution to this problem of slowing down the drainage water, but at least we are trying.

Finally for the Weary Greeners, yet another development has been heralded. A potential development of 71 houses in fields to the north of Upper Mill Lane and west of Brooklands/Beverley Close is on the cards we hear.

As all 'Trekkies' will know, this is the salute of Vulcan Mr Spock in Star Trek.

Seems to us that given his spaceship (which is called the USS Enterprise), it could also become the strapline for the marketing of the BAe Warton Enterprise Zone.

It looks as though that will need a dose of marketing from what we can see (Unless of course the Blackpool and Fylde College decides to base its proposed centre for fracking skills training there).

We've reported previously that of the first 18 Enterprise Zone expressions of interest, 15 were for Samlesbury and just 3 were for Warton.

Now, Parliament's Public Accounts Committee has released a highly critical report on the Government's local job creation initiatives, focusing on Local Enterprise Partnerships, City Deals, Enterprise Zones, the Growing Places Fund and the Regional Growth Fund.

Many of these feature 'simplified' planning zones, funding for infrastructure, and giving weight to economic considerations in the planning system.

The Committee found, amongst other things, that Enterprise Zones have so far created less than 10% of the jobs the Government claimed they would deliver by 2015.

It doesn't break down Enterprise Zones, e.g.. to the Samlesbury / Warton, level, but it does say: "The government announced the new Enterprise Zones in March 2011. They were operational from April 2012. The Department for Communities and Local Government reported that only 3,080 jobs were created in 2012-13.

Seventy-five per cent of these jobs were from seven of the twenty -four zones, while six zones produced ten jobs or fewer."

So maybe 'Live Long and Prosper' might be a useful enterprising marketing slogan.

Dated:  12 Aug 2014

You never know where counterbalance reaches and who's reading it.

We had a kind note from Mr Hortin of the Environment Agency who explained that there had been a lot of discussion at the meeting with CAPOW and he wanted to make sure people had the right information.    He told us:

"The Environment Agency are still responsible for ensuring the surface water discharge rates from proposed developments meet the required standard, not the local planning authority. Lancashire County Council will become responsible for this when they pick up the role of SUDS Approval Bodies (SAB), which may be in April 2015. LCC are the Lead Local Flood Authority at this time and have responsibility for non-main rivers."

There has been more contact between CAPOW and Mr Hortin and his advice on 15 August has been changed again. Mr Hortin now advises.....

"The answer to this is quite straightforward: the actual run-off rates are currently not checked.

If and when LCC become the responsible body for this then they would have the responsibility. There are a number of checks in place in the current system, however.

Firstly, the developers have to submit detailed calculations of drainage rates to us and the Local Planning Authority (LPA). These are done using industry standard software. The developer then has to demonstrate how the rates will be achieved, either through hard (storage pipes, hydrobrakes etc) or soft (infiltration, swales, ponds etc) engineering etc. This will all form part of the planning application and be secured by conditions.

Secondly, the LPA will be responsible for ensuring the conditions are met. This will involve Building Control Inspectors checking the site to ensure that the systems constructed are those as specified in the planning application.

In this way the greenfield rates should be met, but there is no check that they actually are."

We find that answer even more shocking than the first one.


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