A major retail, housing and employment development in Chorley has been given the green light by councillors.
The plan - for an area of land close to Botany Bay - was approved by the authority’s cross-party development control committee, although the government has the final say on the scheme.
The site could eventually be filled with over 280 homes, an outlet-style shopping village, hotel and industrial units.
Concerns over the resultant impact on traffic dominated discussion at the meeting where the decision was made.
Elaine Jefferson, from Greater Knowley Residents’ Association, told councillors of the current “nightmare” endured by those living in the area.
She claimed traffic modelling showed residents of nearby Guildford Avenue could wait up to half an hour to get out of their own homes at the busiest times of the day. “I don’t believe that’s acceptable,” Ms. Jefferson said.
Wheelton parish councillor Terry Dickenson apologised for being late to the meeting. “I was stuck at junction 8 of the M61”, he said - a pointed reference to the nearest motorway junction to the planned site.
Cllr Dickenson went on to outline his own concerns about the modelling which had been used to demonstrate that the road network could cope with the development.
Planning committee member, Alistair Moorwood, described it as “crystal-ball gazing with the use of technology”.
But Neil Stevenson, a highways officer with Lancashire County Council, said that he had full confidence in the process and added that plans for the roads had been “refined” since they were first put forward.
The meeting heard that more than a dozen highway improvements worth over £2m had been pledged as part of the project - and would be funded by the developers.
They include upgrades to the Hartwood roundabout and the junction of Euxton Lane with the A6, as well as traffic calming measures along Blackburn Road.
Neil Stevenson advised members that the improvements would come before the scheme was built - and would be delivered even if parts of the development did not come to fruition.
Marion Lowe - Chorley councillor for the ward where the site stands - told the meeting that the project could have a negative impact on the town centre and might lead to the extended Market Walk shopping centre not being filled.
Richard Woodford from HOW Planning consultants - speaking on behalf of the applicant - said any trade diverted from the centre of Chorley was likely to be “minimal”.
“There is lots of research which shows town centres with outlet villages nearby perform very well,” he added.
A bus service is also to be provided between the town centre and the new development, in attempt to encourage trade across both sites.
But Cllr Lowe had other concerns - not least the number of new homes planned for the area.
The local plan for the borough - which determines areas suitable for development - had earmarked the Botany Bay site for 200 homes. A revised masterplan later increased that to 250 - but the maximum has now been raised to 288.
Adele Hayes, planning services manager at Chorley Council, explained that the local plan did not impose a limit on the numbers which could be built on the site.
She also advised members that the number of new homes which the government expects Chorley to build each year was likely to increase from 417 to 634.
“In short, yes, we do need these houses,” Ms. Hayes said.
Committee member Paul Walmsley warned that a failure to support development on a site earmarked for the purpose could leave the council vulnerable to planning requests in “areas we have no control over”.
Members unanimously supported the employment space scheme and voted by a majority in favour of the retail development and housing proposals.
The Secretary of State has 21 days to decide whether to approve the plan.