Travellers’ site is passed to Local Plan inspector

Cowling Farm, off Cowling Road, Chorley
Cowling Farm, off Cowling Road, Chorley
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Chorley Council’s plans to allocate a gypsy and traveller site in the borough are on track following a special meeting of the authority.

The proposed location – Cowling Farm – will now be put forward to the Planning
Inspectorate.

The council has been told by a Government-appointed Local Plan inspector that it has to provide a site for a minimum of five permanent traveller pitches.

The authority identified nine potential sites – with Cowling Farm, Chorley, the preferred option.

A submission will now go the inspector ahead of a reopened Local Plan examination hearing in Chorley Town Hall on September 23 and 24.

The voting at last Thursday evening’s meeting went 29 for, 13 against, one abstention.

Members of the public, unhappy with the findings, put questions to Coun lor Alistair Bradley, leader of Chorley Council.

Among them was Steve Allen, of Moorland Gate Business Park, close to Cowling Farm, who disagreed with the site selection process and said he thought it had been rushed through.

He said: “As the owners of Moorland Gate Business Park, we are concerned the planned development will impact on our ability to retain and attract new tenants to the park.

“We have already been informed by a number of tenants that they will not renew their leases in the event that a gypsy or traveller site is
established.”

Gareth Howell, of Cowling Action Group, said: “The impact of the allocation at Cowling will have the effect of sterilising the wider site allocation – potentially over 150 dwellings and the revenue this would bring, lost to the borough.

“Why have more suitable sites with a much lesser impact been rejected for somewhat spurious reasons?”

Coun Kevin Joyce, whose Conservative group did not support the recommendations, said: “You have to be sure you have the support of the settled community before we jump to the next hurdle. It’s no good saying give your views to the Planning Inspectorate, we are the elected members.”

Coun Julia Berry questioned whether there was an argument for keeping the current travellers’ green belt site at Hut lane, Heath Charnock, which sparked the whole process.

Coun Bradley said: “No, the Government said we cannot allocate a site in the green belt. We had to undertake a fresh assessment of the gypsy and traveller site provision in Chorley after being told to do so by the Government and that study showed there is a need.

“As a result we now have to move forward as directed by the Inspector or risk legal challenges to our as yet unadopted Local Plan, which may result in unwanted speculative planning applications on green field sites/safeguarded land in and around our towns and villages, as we have previously experienced.

“The council has scrutinised the findings of the Gypsy and Traveller and Travelling Showpeople study and lobbied MPs and Central Government officials to challenge the Local Plan Inspectors direction, but we are bound by this in order to progress the Chorley Local Plan to adoption.

“The consultation exercise provided further detailed information on all the sites assessed and this has allowed a further comparative exercise to be undertaken.”

It is thought a final decision to allocate the site will be taken by the council in February.