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Warton Planning Update

Warton Planning UpdateEveryone knows that 'Planning' in the UK is in a mess.

Wherever you go in the UK countryside you can see placards in people's gardens opposing one or other development.

The cause of this lies squarely with Chancellor George Osborne whose decision it was to create a debt-based housing bubble to generate growth and thus supposedly, to reduce indebtedness.

This, together with an assault on thrift and savings, was supposed to get us out of the financial disaster that had itself been caused by the previous government; the profligacy of other countries; and the avarice of American mortgage swindlers who caused the 2008 financial collapse across the world.

Chancellor Osborne is never one to shy away from stamping all over St Eric's Communities and Local Government Department (DCLG) to get what he wants, and almost single handedly, he has destroyed Planning in the UK in doing so.

He removed one of the more able Ministers that St Eric had ( Rt Hon Greg Clarke MP) and made him Financial Secretary to the Treasury. He then compounded the insult, and, in effect, appointed the famously Anti-Planning Minister Nick Boles MP to be in charge of Planning in DCLG.

Boles has almost completely removed the responsibility for planning from local authorities because he does not believe in the concept or principle of town planning.

In his own words, "chaos is a good thing".

'Planning' went from planning (having councils plan where things should be built) to 'Development Control' (having councils 'control' what developers proposed) to what we have now, which is 'Development Management' where Councils have had to cede control of development to developers, and must now only try to 'manage' developments that developers undertake.

His laissez faire attitude to Planning was always a mask to allow developers to run rampant over easy-to-build-on green fields, partly because Osborne believes in the principle of an unfettered market, and partly because he chose development to drive the UK back into 'Growth'

To most, it appears that he has succeeded. The UK has probably had the most effective 'growth' of any western nation in recent times.

But this growth is an illusion. It isn't sustainable, and it won't solve the problem. It only hides it. He claims to have conquered the financial problem by having printed money - for which there was no underlying manufacturing productivity, and that sloshing around in the economy has allowed the debt bubble to grow ever greater.

His 'solution' has a direct parallel with that of a drug addict and the belief that you can cure his addiction by giving him methadone.

Except you can't

All you do is hide the addiction under official dosages, and you mostly avoid frightening the population by keeping the addicts drugged-up and tame.

Osborne is doing exactly the same with credit. His 'growth' in the UK is based on illusory credit which itself is funded by money that was magicked out of thin air. It's keeping the credit junkies quiet and making people think it's all OK again.

But as with all medications, this one also has side-effects.

And nowhere are the side-effects of his cure more clear than in Warton, where

  • the development of an Enterprise Zone is supposed to lead to a bonanza of new jobs (which it isn't),
  • designation as an economically deprived area is supposed to bring even more jobs and infrastructure (which it won't), and
  • his plan has led to Fylde council treating Warton as a 'sacrifice field' by designing-in more than 1,200 new houses (which has released the development genie out of the bottle).

The term 'sacrifice field' will be known to our farming readers. Farmers sometimes give up (sacrifice) the cropping of one field for a time in order to use it to dispose of semi liquid animal waste. They spray slurry all over it - in just the same way that FBC has sprayed its - housing slurry - all over Warton

And they both stink.

At the end of 'Not Fit For Purpose' we asked if our readers had any ideas for a new name for Fylde since the 'green and pleasant land' was soon to be concreted over.

We had a few suggestions. One was to rename the council itself after a legendary Irish a female wailing spirit - 'Banshee Council', but the one we liked best was a bit more convoluted and tongue in cheek.

It was from a CROW (concerned resident of Warton) and the suggestion was this:

"We should re-name Fylde to: 'Urban Metropolis' and at the same time perhaps Warton could also be renamed to "Service Centre"

"The next logical step would be that the post code for Warton would be changed to 'SCUM 1' pronounced scummy (Service Centre Urban Metropolis One)."

Our correspondent said in their view, this was the regard in which the Portfolio Holder and Officers held the village.

Warming to their theme, they also suggest that "perhaps Kirkham and Wesham should be referred to as scum too ie 'SCUM 2'"

You'll see how angry people in Warton are a bit later in this article, but first, we're going to have a look a what's happening there at the present time.

We reported this matter in 'Status Storm' when we said the Government had invited comment on proposals for a new round of Assisted Area proposals. We reported that three organisations from Fylde had responded.

It seems we may have been incorrect regarding one of them.

This came about because the Government's Stage 2 Consultation listed those who had responded to Stage 1.

That list included

  • BAe Systems Integrated System Technologies Ltd
  • Blackpool Fylde & Wyre Economic Development Company Limited
  • Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership

We made an assumption that the BAe Systems response was from BAe Systems in Warton.

However, according to a Freedom of Information request response, whilst the Government agreed that it held the information as above, they also clarified that the response from BAE Systems came from an individual site elsewhere and did not relate to the Fylde area. (Maybe it was Samlesbury - which is also in the Warton / Samlesbury Enterprise Zone or perhaps it was somewhere even further afield). In any event, we need to, and do, apologise for inadvertently misleading readers into believing that one response came from BAe Warton when it is now clear it did not.

The Government also confirmed there were no further responses to the first stage of the consultation from the Fylde area.

So that means the responses (and the proposals or expressions of support) for Assisted Area Status in the Stage 1 consultation must have come only from Blackpool Fylde & Wyre Economic Development Company Limited (whose Directors includes or included Allan Oldfield (2011) and Paul Walker (2012)) and / or the Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership.

Sadly, the Government was not willing to divulge further information on this matter because - they said - they regarded it as 'Exempt' under S35 of the Freedom of Information Act which covers 'Formation of Government Policy'

They applied the Public Interest test, but concluded that because they were considering the responses to the first and second stages of consultation, "releasing information without the benefit of analysis and response has the potential to mislead the public, and negatively impact the effectiveness of the policy and its implementation. This would create the burden of additional and unnecessary administration, and more importantly, mismanagement of the flow of information"

In other words, if people knew about what was going on, they might ask questions and argue, (because some people might not like, or might misunderstand what they were planning) and the Government don't want to have to spend time justifying what they are deciding or explaining themselves.

We regard this as an unsatisfactory response, and we expect our readers will do so as well.

But in the Great Scheme of Things there are bigger things to be dissatisfied about.

The Government's response to the Stage 2 Consultation noted "The only responses that purely sought the removal of a ward from the Draft Map came from some residents in Warton and Westby Ward in Fylde, Lancashire. A smaller number of residents wrote in support of including the ward. Lancashire LEP, Fylde Council, and Fylde Economic Development Company all support the inclusion of this ward to encourage the continuing economic development of the Fylde Coast."

So the Government went ahead.

We're not even sure whether they saw the strong formal objections written to FBC by both Warton and Westby Parish Councils. Certainly the Government hasn't mentioned any of Fylde's Parish Councils, only 'a small number of residents' as respondents.

It may be that the Parishes sent objections to Fylde expecting them to be forwarded on with Fylde's own submission, and Fylde thought they'd been made direct to Government as well.

So, where this does leave us?

We think it leaves us holding the view that the people to blame for what looks like Assisted Area Status being imposed unwillingly on parts of Fylde were either Blackpool Fylde & Wyre Economic Development Company Limited and / or the Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership and perhaps latterly Fylde Council itself.

Whether we can get any nearer than that, we're not sure at the present. Perhaps we will be able to do so in the future.

There's a proportionately huge area of land around Warton now threatened with development.

We're grateful to colleagues in Warton for an updated map showing the latest situation and readers can follow this link to see it in JPG format.

Fylde provisionally allocated something like 1,200 houses which was madness for a place the size of Warton. It can probably cope with up to 500 or 600 over the life of the plan, but 1,200 is absurd. As we said in the introduction Fylde is dumping most of what it (mistakenly in our view) believes its housing need to be, in Warton.

And the developers have swooped.

We understand there are now applications for something like 1,600 dwellings in the pipeline for Warton, and none of the developers were prepared to co-ordinate their plans with others.

The main ones are

1). Riversleigh Farm - Consent Granted: See next item

2). Blackfield Green - An appeal has been lodged on the basis that FBC did not determine the application quickly enough. A Public Inquiry is due to be held in October. But on Wednesday, FBC's Development Management Committee will consider what it would have decided if the applicant had not appealed. The officers recommendation is "Minded to refuse" based chiefly on property density and highways issues. Mind you, even if they vote this way, they're not beyond pulling out of an Inquiry at the last minute - as the last Wesham Public Inquiry demonstrated.

4). Land To The North of Freckleton Bypass - The Site known only as 'H10' at present has now been submitted as Application Number 14/0410, (Outline Application For Erection Of Up To 375 Dwellings with access from existing roundabout)

To see more about the smaller sites, you can use the Pegasus Group's own Sustainability Appraisal for Blackfield Green where they compare the 'sustainability' (as they see it) of a range of current sites in Warton. We've shortened it to a two page document here, or you can download the full one from the FBC website. Just highlight 'Appellant Sust Apprai' and click the 'view' button at the right hand side in the middle of the page.

This was an application for 83 dwellings. The site is located to the west of the main development of Warton at present. Map in JPG format.

The officer gave a quick outline of the application, (it was in a countryside area, and identified by FBC as a strategic location for development, and so on).

Then the Chairman called the first of ten or more speakers. (we didn't have access to the list so names where we could hear them are reproduced phonetically. We apologise for any that are incorrectly spelt) The first speaker which was:

Graham Dewhirst
He said he used to live in a city but moved to Warton because he wanted to live in a village, saying that "Developments like this will rip our community apart" and argued that it needed a masterplan for the village before any development of this scale should proceed, because without a masterplan there would be no benefits from the development, nor public realm improvements, nor highways. He also questioned whether FBC had undertaken a viability study that would ensure that 'planning gain' money would be paid.

Spoke about drainage problems and showed before and after photos of heavy rainfall which flooded the area. She said that United Utilities and the Environment Agency could not object or refuse applications, but they had to work with the developer to make it work. She said this made them powerless to object, even when there were problems. She noted that United Utilities had agreed there were significant drainage problems in the network which was at capacity, but she said that no detailed plans have yet been submitted to United Utilities or the Environment Agency to deal with drainage issues.

Myra Hill
Concerned about the impact on wildlife. She said there has not been adequate consideration given to protection of wildlife .

Spoke from the heart and said this committee's decisions were too political - she said "You should be representing people like herself and protecting the character of all Fylde villages" She overlooks Meadow View where Taylor Wimpey are offering big incentives to people to buy the houses, and there were rumours that they would change the style of housing to lower priced, more affordable units. She said there was not the demand for the houses in this application, and concluded that FBC have a duty of care and should protect Warton from inappropriate development.

Philip Gardener
Said he was long time resident, BAe only concerned about things that impact on its business, but its employees did have concerns. He had done surveys of people exiting BAe which show they are concerned about congestion already and their journeys took longer than they used to. He said his was a one of seven houses that had to be set back from the main road so that traffic from the seven houses didn't exit directly onto Lytham Road. The Riversleigh site would exit straight onto Lytham Road, and it had previously been rejected for development twice in six years by FBC. He wanted the application rejected again.

Mike Wright
Said there were 27 conditions proposed for this application and a previous DM committee had suggested that 14 conditions was too high (the argument here being that more then 14 or more conditions being imposed with a permission showed that the site was so complicated that permission should not be given). He wanted to know how many unresolved condition it would take before officers did not recommend approval.

He argued that the 27 conditions would not be met, and he asked for a clear commitment from the developer that they could and would meet all the conditions in full, and that the site would remain viable.

(What he was arguing here was that he worried that if all the conditions proposed by FBC in order to recommend the granting of permission were actually met by the developer, it might mean that the developer could no longer afford to develop the site. When this happens, that nice Anti-Planning Minister Mr Boles has said developers can apply to have conditions removed so the site becomes 'viable' again).

So when a permission imposes a lot of expensive conditions, if a developer takes steps to show that the site has become unviable because of the conditions imposed, and he can get the conditions removed. There are now firms that specialise in offering services to show how non-viability calculations can be prepared.

He went on to say that "the Development Management Committee often said that LCC and United Utilities consultation responses are not worth the paper they are written on [the implication being that they never say an application should be refused], but on page 15 of the Officers report for this application was as clear a statement as you could wish for, LCC say that without a comprehensive masterplan for Warton further development will not meet the NPPF, therefore it is not sustainable. LCC have since said that without a masterplan they could not support any further development in Warton because the existing network is at capacity."

He went on to say that the stark reality was they there were already over 300 permissions granted for Warton with no additional or improved facilities or infrastructure, and there are a further 500 in the pipeline. He argued that at this rate, the local plan for Warton will be completely redundant by the time it is agreed. He said many people in Warton believe this was no accident and the Committee now had an opportunity to prove them wrong.

He argued the Committee should be consistent in its decisions, citing a number of decisions recently where applications had been rejected for the same or similar reasons, including Oaklands Caravan site; Kings Close Staining; and Mowbreck Lane only last month; where Cllr Pounder had said he was privy to refusal on the Staining application and was afraid I have to agree with refusal on Mowbreck as well.

He worried that by accepting the officers recommendation on this application Fylde could compromise its ability to refuse others that were looming around it.

He said he thought the appeal on the Blackfield Green application would determine the future for Warton, not the local plan and not the neighbourhood plan and not even the Development Management Committee, but he concluded by urging the committee to refuse the application.

We thought this was a first class presentation. This was not NIMBYism, this was using planning policy arguments that Cllr Fiddler often says members of the public are unable to marshal. There were ample arguments for refusal here if the Committee had been wanting to refuse the application.

Phil Robinson
Speaking *for* the application he said the application was by Prospect GP limited, part of the Riverside Housing Association. He said the most critical fact was that the Council cannot demonstrate a five year supply, therefore development in the countryside was needed to address this shortfall. He gave the benefits of the scheme, and said the scheme has been developed in conjunction with FBC officers and ATLAS (the Governments advisory service for large planning applications). He said "I just want to point out that we can comply with all the conditions suggested in the Committee report and the site will still be viable". He asked that members support their officers recommendation and approve the application.

Cllr Michael Gilbert (Bryning With Warton Parish Councillor)
Said it was outside development boundary. Fylde's Local Plan demands a refusal because none of the exceptions to SP2 listed there was met by this application. Other issues including drainage problems and that open space must be provided as a single central usable facility which it is not. He told the Committee they had enough reasons to refuse it, as they did with Staining and Oaklands Caravan Park.

Cllr Susan Ashton (FBC Cllr)
Said most of what she had wanted to say had already been covered, but she focussed on the congestion it would bring to Lytham Road. Asked for it to be refused.

Cllr Paul Rigby (LCC Cllr)
Spoke very well, probably better than we've heard him speak before. Perhaps that was because this was such a local issue for him, and he no longer has a vote on it at FBC (he's now a County Councillor), he was freed from the constraints of his political party and could speak his mind.

He said it was a small scale application offering no gain to the parish, and each small application like this required a new entrance onto the main road, all of which made the road more dangerous and the traffic worse.

He argued that although Fylde Borough might not, Bryning with Warton did have a five year supply. Warton's neighbourhood plan is nearly ready. The plan is to put a single entrance and exit for a much larger development not to have lots of separate entrances onto Lytham Road.

He said this site should only be considered as part of a much bigger scheme. He argued that there was too much focus on development in Warton, and other parts of Fylde were not taking their share. He said Warton's emerging neighbourhood plan shows that Bryning with Warton is scheduled to accept 17% of FBC's needs but has only 6% of the population, and he urged the Committee to support the Parish Council and to refuse the application.

That was the end of the public speakers. Officers gave their presentation and their justification for recommending approval.

Cllr Julie Brickles
Was the first Committee member to speak, and she wanted to know why they were looking at this application today before a meeting about Warton and the Local Plan tomorrow. Mr Evans said they couldn't hold up the decision on this for the local plan. Self evidently right, but given that a meeting about the Local plan the day afterwards might make a change, it wouldn't have been the first time that FBC's officers had found a reason to delay an application if they wanted to do so. But it seemed that on this one they didn't want to do that.

She than said two meetings ago, the Portfolio had said it was time they tested SP2 (which is about keeping developments within the settlement boundary, but on which emphasis has changed since the publication of the Government's practice guidance) She argued that a decision to support this application would jeopardise the appeal that was being tested on the appeal at Staining, Mr Evans gave the same bland stonewall reply. When pressed further he said officers only made recommendations. Decisions rested with the Committee, and as the Chief Planning officer he would strongly recommend against a refusal, but it was up to the Committee.

Thirdly she wanted him to explain in detail the Oaklands Appeal that was going on next door to this site, and in particular she wanted him to explain the policies on which FBC was fighting that appeal. He said it was basically the lack of 'comprehensive redevelopment' of the area, but he thought this site was closer to the edge of the settlement and that justified it being developed without a comprehensive plan (This despite the fact that the two sites are next door to each other). Cllr Brickles reminded him he had forgotten to mention another argument being used was that it was not a sustainable site. He agreed this was another reason.

She also asked how the open space on this site complied with policy TREC17 (which says it should be provided in a large central useable piece) because the plan was to fund improvements to the Bridges Playing Field which was a mile away from this site. The officer said "in this instance, because there is a woodland in this area it was considered preferable to locate the open space around the area of retained woodland"

Cllr Brickles then proposed refusal of the application but, amazingly to us, no one seconded her proposition, and the Chairman didn't ask for anyone to do so. We thought this was a really bad sign for those opposing the development. All he asked was whether Cllr Brickles had reasons for refusal ready to cite.  He then moved on to:

Cllr Heather Speak
Who asked about the highway concerns. She said LCC does not take account of future sites coming forward. So LCC's view is that they can only take account of future applications when they come forward. She also wanted to know whether the highway safety was a 'detrimental impact' and as such could be a reason for refusal. Mr Evans said LCC was concerned more about highway safety and less about congestion.

Cllr Maxine Chew
Said the tour [site visit] on Monday was most depressing. Fylde's farmland was disappearing in chunks. She feared the Planning Inspectorate would say go ahead and approve it. She also asked formally if there had been a viability assessment by our own consultants. Answer from Mr Evans was No, we only do that when an applicant says they're not sure whether it is viable or not. She argued that 4 and even 3 bedroom detached houses were not for first time buyers and local people would draw no benefit from the development.

Cllr Tim Armit
Cllr Armit speaks quickly and sometimes skips words - apparently in the hope that the listener will be able to infer what he meant to say. Sometimes he stops mid-sentence and changes the focus of his sentence. This doesn't make him easy to listen to. That said, we've done our best to quote him verbatim. He said

"Thank you Chairman. I don't think.... It's great to see people here today because they can sense our frustration that every month we sit here, and we can see some of the heads are down, but we know, erm that we (... inaudible...) from the countryside. I don't think any of us believe we need 350 houses a year. I think... I listened to the Radio 5 debate a couple of weeks ago on err, hearing people from Surrey to Aberdeen frustrated at what we're being forced to do.

But we are being forced to do this, and we know that, and we look at the way greenfield, look at the Mowbreck thing, look at all that sort of stuff, and we know the situation we find ourselves in.

Erm, a couple of things on here. I walked through Lytham today from Booths to get into an estate agent (?) Half a million pound houses.

Terraced houses in Lytham.

Half a million pounds in Freckleton now.

Erm, course they want big houses they'll make more money out of it.

Erm, I use to live on the docks in Preston. I worked at GRE, back in the 90s, I used to drive through here every day, erm, my partner worked at (indistinct) for 40 years. 2,000 jobs I think (gone??) at BAe now, 2,000 gone from the centre of Lytham. The traffic's (gonna be? never been?) less than it was in those days when it was very very busy.

Erm, I cycle through here and I run through here, erm every week. Soon (indistinct... Freckleton??)... half marathon and the Manchester to Blackpool bike ride (it? he?) comes through here.

People get done, my friends get done, for speeding through Warton all the time. They always have a camera (indistinct word) for speeding (cos they?) usually come through here at speed.

You can get done because the police wouldn't be there on a weekly basis if it wasn't too fast to drive through, which they're there for.

Erm, as was mentioned yesterday, we crossed the road during the rush hour, erm, group of us got across there, never saw more than eight cars coming back from the lights as we waited there for all that time, it was not busy when we were there yesterday, erm, and that's why it was good to go on a visit because we saw it wasn't that busy when we were there yesterday.

Erm, (to the? so the?) other side of this from the houses (indistinct we have? a?) caravan park, we've a car wash, we've a garage, sales. This is an infill as much as expansion. And we also know that the derelict house has been there 30 years or so (indistinct words... and there's parts?) and as Julie says, the font part has been crying out for development for a very very long time, and has been ready for it cos its been (indistinct word: derelict?) for that length of time.

Erm, and with all that in mind (indistinct words) I'd like to propose the officers recommendations.

The Chairman Cllr Ben Aitken was quick to second him.

To be honest, we couldn't make a lot of sense of Cllr Armit's arguments.

Chiefly he seemed to be saying that even though LCC higways had recommended against approving the application on highway grounds, his personal experience of Warton's roads, - coupled with that of his friends who were regularly prosecuted for speeding offences on those same roads - seemed to be that the LCC's officers were wrong, and there was less traffic now than there used to be.

We found this approach strange from someone who is usually very quick to extol the virtues of professional consultees whose arguments he readily and publicly defers to when they support the decision he wants. Several times we've heard him say in effect, 'these are the professionals, and we should listen to, and place great store on, what they say'.

Furthermore, although Cllr Armit is such a quick thinker and speaker, he seemed to us to be making the usual mistake of assuming everyone else had a brain as fast as his own. For example, he expected everyone to be able to take in and process information about crossing the road ably as he could, and that they were as fit and agile as he was.

This, of course, is yet another reason not to have decisions that affect us all made by individuals or small groups.

They are simply not representative of the whole population (which in Fylde - as the demographic profile shows - is very *unlike* Cllr Armit)

To be honest, we thought his arguments so poor that we wondered if he was the one who had picked the short straw from the Conservative Group, and had been required to advance arguments that would support a proposal to approve an application that clearly should not have been approved in Fylde's planning policy terms, but about which a decision had already been made by the majority group on the Council.

Cllr Kevin Eastham
Said development in Warton and on this site had been talked about for many years. It was on a previous local plan and they had a similar discussion when they were looking at the Nine Acre Nursery site.

He said "I feel that, until recently, the people of Warton had almost encouraged development, certainly that was the situation around the nurseries. The Parish Council was in favour of it and so was everybody else". He argued that a linear village based on just two roads was unsatisfactory. It needed some depth and development, it needed a town centre, it needed a school.

He said "Now OK, you know, for whatever reason, many of the people have changed their minds, but this site has been shown in previous local plans. The expansion of Warton to make it a village rather than just a linear settlement on a T shape, I believe many people would, still, appreciate."

He then turned to the issue of the 'Old Warton by-pass' and whether that would be justified. He thought that on balance he believed that greater infrastructure would be welcomed, so he couldn't see any good reasons for refusing the application.

We're beginning to wonder if the 'Old Warton bypass' is really what this whole Warton thing is all about.

It's almost as though the majority group has seen that a new by-pass would create the growth and the development their civic testosterone craves.

We've heard Cllr Trevor Fiddler bang on about this before, most notably it at the big Parish Meeting in Warton - implying that he thought he could use all the planned housing to justify the by-pass being built.

Now here was the Vice Chairman of the Planning Committee raising the same sort of spectre.

We expect - despite what Cllr Eastham said - most of the residents don't want the by-pass if it involves having the housing. That's exactly the same as the Queensway development in St Annes - where local people didn't want the new road if it meant they had to have the houses to fund it.

God preserve us from being governed by those whose gluttonous civic ambition overwhelms their sense of human contentment.

Cllr Peter Collins
Said that Warton only became a Strategic Centre because of the Preston Western Distributor Road, but that wouldn't be built until at least 2021.

He spoke about congestion that was being caused, both locally and elsewhere - with other sites adding significantly to the congestion at Junction 3 of the M55. He said the housing figure they are using is 6 months out of date. He concluded by saying he had intended to second Cllr Brickles move for refusal but now it's been moved for approval so he was unable to do so.

Cllr Alan Clayton
Argued that Policy SP2 and highway concerns were justification to refuse and said he would be supporting refusal

Cllr Trevor Fiddler
Said the Committee's frustration was compounded by anger. He noted the first public speaker had been 'furious' and said he agreed with the sentiment of those speakers. He said "The application *does* pre-empt, *does* prejudice the emerging Local Plan and, obviously it prejudices and pre-empts the Local Neighbourhood plan. It contravenes Policy SP2 which has been the policy of Fylde Council since re-organisation in 1974."

He said when the localism act was published it said this Planning Committee has the authority to turn down applications like Riversleigh. But the Localism Act only lasted seven months before the National Planning Policy Framework came in "and overnight, the true draconian policies which I've often referred to - the five year supply ..... made Policy SP2 redundant"

He argued that they could not use SP2 to defend such applications whilst they cannot demonstrate a five year supply.

He concluded on the information before them that day, he could do nothing other than support the application.

Chairman said he would go to a recorded vote after Cllr Duffy

We thought that was pretty clever that the Chairman was saying they would have a recorded vote when no one had asked for it. Perhaps he had rehearsed that aspect with his conservative colleagues before the meeting and knew that there would be the required five votes to support such a move.

Cllr Charlie Duffy
Wanted to know why they were using a five year supply figure that is six months out of date and he didn't understand why the Council hadn't updated it before now.

Mr Evans said he was recalculating it 'now' because there was a change in the way the calculation should be done that had been set out in the National Planning *Practice* Guidance. That has required them to go back and look more comprehensively at some of the issues there.

He also said a change in the 'backlog' calculations wrought by the NPPF meant that they were not calculating the numbers in accordance with "current thinking" but he said despite the changes that had taken place, Fylde was not in any better position based ion the provisional figures he had seen. They hadn't completed the work because it takes "a considerable" amount of officer time.

Cllr Duffy said "Chairman, I wasn't giving Mark chance to make his representation on it, it was just a simple question about how long does it take to produce a...."

The Chairman interrupted and said "Can I just say to you Cllr Duffy- clearly the five year housing supply figure is paramount in our minds, and on Monday when we asked this question we said: 'If you went to a public appeal, what figure would you give and can you really back this up? And the answer was very much the same, 4.5 years, which is obviously under the bar of the five years and whether we like it or not, we haven't reached the figure."

Still his question had not been answered.

Once again, the intrepid Cllr Duffy kept his composure (In his place, we'd have been spitting feathers by now) said "So, again - and I did think when I was asking a quite simple question, what I was asking was how long does it take to produce a revised figure - because the point I'm getting at is that I'm not happy with using a figure that is six months out of date, and I would like to know whether, in future, we could have a more frequently revised figure - so the question is how much officer time does it take to revise the figure."

Jeremy Paxman eat your heart out. Our campaign to have Charlie Duffy present Newsnight in future starts here.

Unwilling to become the new Michael Howard, Mark Evans said "The figure we're looking at at the moment is a 31st March figure and that still hasn't been completed so, err, ummm, approximately three months."

Cllr Duffy spoke and was interrupted by the Chairman who said "We could go on forever...." before Cllr Duffy said "it's another point" at which the Chairman shut up and said OK go ahead. Cllr Duffy said he was sure they would have further discussions on the time it took because if it took one officer three months to do it, he was spending half his total time on that one job.

He also wanted to know the difference between condition 20 and condition 21.

There was a lot of conferring on the top table before a red faced Chairman said "I think you're quite right, it's been repeated" adding quietly "I'm sure that can be sorted out"

Cllr Brickles spoke again saying she wanted Cllr Fiddler to stop blaming the Parish Council for the decision on the Nine Acres site, it was FBC's Development Management Committee that made that decision. She also said that Cllr Fiddler had said they couldn't use SP2 to refuse this application but they had used exactly SP2 to refuse one at Staining, and this Committee had decided that.

The Chairman asked for four other hands for a recorded vote and got them.

The vote on approving the application was:
Cllr Aitken (Conservative) For
Cllr Eastham (Fylde Ratepayers) For
Clr Armit (Conservative) For
Cllr Chew (Independent) Against
Cllr Collins (Independent) Against
Clr Craig-Wilson (Conservative) For
Cllr Duddy (Independent) Against
Cllr Fiddler (Conservative) For
Cllr Hardy (Independent) Against
Clr Brickles (Independent) Against
Cll B Nash (Conservative) For
Cllr Clayton (Independent) Against
Cll Pounder (Conservative) For
Cllr Redcliffe (Conservative) For
Cllr Speak (Independent) Against
Cllr Akeroyd (Conservative) For

Giving 9 for approval and 7 against. All the Conservatives voted for approval, and all Independents voted against. The Ratepayer councillor voted for approval, but his vote would have made no difference anyway. Had he voted the other way it would have made it 8-8 and the Chairman's casting vote would almost certainly have gone to approval - as he had done in the ordinary vote.

And with that, the fight for Riversleigh was lost.

The anger in Warton has intensified, and, sadly, the precedent set is a disaster for the future of Warton if you oppose the developments that are in the pipeline.

A short time after the Planning meeting we were sent a copy of an email from a reader in Warton. It had originally been sent by one of the public speakers at the meeting and was addressed to The Planning Officer, Cllr Fiddler and others. We reproduce it below.

The heading was "Fw: Stitch up of Warton - congratulations guys!"

It began

"I have got to congratulate you both. You had us all going there for a short while, making residents think that by ....

  • taking onboard the ATLAS ideas
  • putting hours and hours of our time into a Neighbourhood Plan and masterplan and,
  • putting hours of effort into coming up with an alternative housing number of 638 (which you both kept requesting)

the democratic process would kick in and the people of Warton would be listened to.

Oh, how I laugh now at how naive we have all been when, all the while, you're own "masterplan" for Warton has been nicely simmering in the background and all the pieces slowly fitting into place:

  • first Nine Acres (and yes, let's give the PC a good kicking for that one like we always do at every opportunity)
  • then Riversleigh (and yes, let's not bother with facts (thanks Cnlr Armit) or consistency (with Oaklands and Staining) because this one is the magic key that opens the door for further applications on this side of the village)
  • then Blackfield (let's not make a decision until we have to and, when we're backed into a corner, we save the ratepayers the cost of an appeal by approving in July)
  • then, without telling anyone, throw Clifton House Farm into the mix that means that there will be 50% more houses (548) on H8 (LP=planned 360). Oh, and how about throwing in some retail and community services because Cnlr Eastham is always telling us how ugly Warton is and that we should be dumping all the houses here. Oh, and he's always telling us we need a new village centre because Warton only consists of a crossroads. 'Village ?' - now that's ironic given that the attached document shows 1455 houses now in the pipeline for Warton, including a planning application for H10 which has apparently been lodged today with you with no advance warning to us. I can just imagine the laughs you've had at pre-application meetings with developers - why stop at 20%, 30%, 40% increase in the size of Warton, why not go for 100% plus!

Oh, and let's not forget ensuring that Warton gains Assisted Area Status so that Pegasus can use (and have) the Deprived Area status to bump up their marks in the attached Sustainability Appraisal (and thank you Cnlrs Ashton, Cunningham, Pitman for reassuring us in your Spring 2014 Intouch that "contrary to recent scare stories, this is NOT linked with housing development nor will it designate Warton as being a deprived area").

Oh yes, and lets make sure we blame central government at every opportunity so it masks the fact that we have this cunning masterplan for Warton.

Yes, we listened to Nick Boles when he told us the Local and Neighbourhood Plans were key to getting the desired outcomes for our community.

Yes, we listened to you Mark (and Trevor) when you said the masterplan for Warton would be our Neighbourhood Plan.

Yes, we (wanted to) believe that we would be listened to when we gave you the oft-requested housing figure for Warton last week and it was accepted by the LPSG for the next version of the LP.

But, as I told DMC last month, if you approve Riversleigh the Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plan might as well be torn up, much good they are to the community of Warton (and indeed the rest of Fylde).

All this of course, so that Warton can be the lamb to slaughter - to fulfil your 5 year housing supply figure and prop up the council budget with the New Homes bonus windfall from Warton. Then you can get back to 'business as usual'.

This might of course have just been a very bad dream but this is what many in Warton believe is happening.

You might just redeem yourselves at DMC in July - but how likely is that?

We understand that the Neighbourhood Plan being prepared by residents in conjunction with the Parish Council is coming together.

But because of all the controversy about development in Warton, and most unusually, a second Parish Meeting has been called for Warton Residents tomorrow evening.

A Parish Meeting is not a meeting of the Parish Council (although if the Parish Council Chairman attends, s/he chairs the meeting), it is a meeting where every resident of the village is eligible to attend and speak. It comes from the days before local councils where residents of the village would get together to make important decisions that affected all or most of them.

It is expected that this Parish Meeting will allow those undertaking the Neighbourhood Plan to inform local people about the latest position with the developments, to let local people have their say, and to encourage them to lobby if they are opposed to this level of development.

The meeting is tomorrow (2 July)  at Warton Village Hall at the main crossroads near the traffic lights opposite the BAe sign, and it starts at 7:00pm.

We hope to be there to report proceedings for our readers.

Dated:  1 July 2014


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