Local Plan is hit by new delay

A masterplan for future development in Chorley has hit a stumbling block because of the need for a new report on travellers and gypsies in the area.

Chorley Council had expected a planning inspector to approve the Local Plan, which is a document outlining where new homes should be built, after a two-week public examination at the town hall.

However, leaders at the Market Street authority have been frustrated by a delay as the planning inspector felt a new Gypsy and Traveller Assessment needed to be undertaken, despite the current one being valid until 2016.

She also asked for more flexibility in the number of new homes for the borough over the lifetime of the plan and queried the need for the phasing of land, in effect allowing any site to come forward immediately.

Coun Dennis Edgerley, who oversees planning at Chorley Council said: “We have had two inspectors presiding over public enquiries, and a High Court judgment, both in relation to an illegal Gypsy and Traveller site, which have all agreed that there is no demonstrated need for a traveller site in the borough.

“And more importantly, the inspector who approved the core strategy only last year was also of the same view that there was no need.

“Our current Gypsy and Traveller Assessment is valid until 2016 and we have given a commitment to the inspector to progress a new needs assessment which will be ready well ahead of the 2016 date but this isn’t deemed good enough.

“We are also extremely disappointed with the inspector questioning the phasing of land for development throughout the plan – we feel this is essential to ensure development takes place in a controlled way and brownfield sites are built on first, thereby protecting our precious green fields.

“A lot of time and effort has been put in by local people to create this plan so in the spirit of localism we will be doing all we can to stand up to the inspector and ask that the plan is approved so we can take back control of developments in our borough.”

The Gypsy Traveller Accommodation Assessment looks into whether there is any need in an area or how many encampments there have been over a period as well as requests for potential sites.

It means the authority has been tasked with commissioning a report with South Ribble and Preston councils to do the assessment in June.

However, leaders at Chorley Council are set to write to the Government demanding a meeting to discuss the inspector’s decision that could leave the borough wide open to developers building on greenfield land.

Leaders of all political groups have agreed to send a letter off demanding a meeting with senior ministers to get the local plan approved before more greenfield land is lost to housing developments.

Coun Edgerley added: “We need some answers from the Government because this decision means we once again risk seeing the development of our borough being taken out of local people’s hands.

“We are extremely puzzled by the inspector’s decision as it is completely at odds with other decisions we’ve been getting from the planning inspectorate.

“Every councillor is unanimous in support of the action we are taking so it shows just how an important issue it is for us.

“By acting swiftly we hope we can get this resolved before we see yet another housing development approved on appeal, ironically by a different central government planning inspector.”