Over 200 homes coming to Chorley as developer told to pay for school places

More than 200 homes will be built in Chorley after a developer backed down over an attempt to reduce the number of affordable properties that it was prepared to provide.

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 9:54 am

Taylor Wimpey was last year refused permission for a development on Lower Burgh Way in the Eaves Green area of Coppull after it claimed that the scheme would not be viable if the firm were forced to include the 35 dwellings categorised as "affordable" that it agreed to supply when its proposal for the site was initially approved by Chorley Council back in 2016.

The housebuilder sought to slash the requirement for shared ownership and social rented homes on the estate so that they occupied just 16 out of the 201 proposed plots. But the authority’s planning committee refused the request, with one member accusing the company of “insulting our intelligence” over its assertion that the development would be rendered unviable if it had to build any more affordable homes.

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Permission for more than 200 homes off Lower Burgh Way was first granted in 2016...(image: Chorley Council)

However, prior to the start of a planning inquiry into the issue - which would have seen Taylor Wimpey challenge the borough council's refusal of permission - it agreed to build almost double the number of affordable units that it had initially accepted.

A total of 60 such properties will now be included on the site - 42 social rented and 18 shared ownership homes - thereby meeting the 30 percent quota usually insisted upon by Chorley Council.

The planning inquiry nevertheless went ahead, because Taylor Wimpey also disagreed with a demand from Lancashire County Council to contribute approximately £400,000 to an additional 20 school places that the education authority said would be needed as a result of the development.

Education bosses at County Hall said that the estate would widen the forecast 277-place shortfall in secondary school spaces that are already forecast to exist in Chorley by 2026.

...but an attempt by the developer to reduce the number of affordable homes on the site was rejected in 2020 (image: Chorley Council)

However, the housebuilder argued that any assessment of how many places it should be obliged to pay towards should consider only demand in year 7 - first-year secondary - for which it claimed there was a declining need from a peak of 120 places in 2023 to just 13 by 2026.

It argued that the county council’s duty to provide sufficient school places meant that the authority would have to - and, according to the reduced forecast shortfall, was intending to - take action to address the gap over the next five years, which would “absorb” any demand created by the new development.

However, planning inspector Katie McDonald rejected their argument, noting that the county council had not yet set out how it planned to meet its school pace duty and concluding that it would be “inappropriate to place significant weight upon something which has not yet been considered”.

She also said that a methodology focusing solely on demand for year 7 places did not take into account the need to accommodate children moving to the estate from outside the area who needed to join a local school in any of the older year groups - and pointed out that there was still a predicted shortfall in year 7 space in 2026 even on the housebuilder’s projections.

Ms. McDonald's report also highlighted that a recent peak in the birth rate in Chorley in 2015 would filter through into first-year secondary demand when those children were 11 in 2026, when the estate is expected to be completed and have its “full impact” on school place demand.

She concluded that Taylor Wimpey should be obliged to make a financial contribution to the 20 places requested by the county council, which would be provided at either or both of Holy Cross Catholic High School or Parklands Academy.

Chorley Council leader Alistair Bradley said the principle of development on the site had long been established and that the issue with the scheme had been one of “a developer wanting to maximise its profits with little regard for the local community”.

“It’s important new housing developments cater for a range of needs and have decent affordable homes for local people, so while I appreciate residents are disappointed that the site has gained permission for housing we now know it will have an appropriate number of much-needed affordable homes.

“It’s vital Lancashire County Council now puts in place a coherent approach with regards school places, because we’ve raised this issue time and again and in the planning inspector’s report it highlights the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a plan in place for how and when school places will be addressed in Chorley. Those school places must be available local to where the children live,” Cllr Bradley said.

Jayne Rear, cabinet member for education and skills at the county council, said: "We closely monitor demand to ensure there are enough school places available against the projected impact of new housing developments that are planned for the next five years.

"Careful planning and management of the required number of school places means that most pupils in Lancashire attend one of their preferred schools, with the vast majority getting a place at the school they wanted the most, and our strong track record in forecasting the future need for school places means we are recognised as being one of the best authorities in the country.

"We are currently revising our school place provision strategy which will be considered by cabinet in due course. We have been working closely with Chorley Borough Council on this matter and have shared with them our approach to forecasting, funding and providing additional places when and where they are necessary," County Cllr Rear added.

In addition to the affordable housing and school place contributions that have now been secured, Taylor Wimpey will also pay more than £321,000 to enhance the facilities at Astley Park Playing Pitches and almost £112,000 to improve green space at Plock Wood on Lower Burgh Way. Around £3,000 will also be provided to create new allotment provision on Harrison Road.

A spokesperson for Taylor Wimpey Manchester said: “We are pleased to receive planning consent and we now hope to be able to deliver much needed new housing on this allocated housing site. Our adjacent Eaves Green development has proven popular and has provided a significant number of construction jobs for the area.

"As part of the planning consent we will deliver £1.0m of contributions towards allotments, green space, playing pitches and education and a £1.5m community infrastructure levy contribution. Thirty percent of the 201 new homes will also be allocated as affordable housing.”