Road near proposed Chorley estate 'more dangerous' than accident data shows

A councillor says there have been more accidents close to the proposed site of 250 new homes in Chorley than records presented to a public inquiry show.

Thursday, 2nd September 2021, 10:19 am

The hearing into plans for an estate on land off Town Lane in Whittle-le-Woods was told that there had been just one personal injury accident - described as “slight” - in the vicinity over the past five years.

The figure was contained in a consultation response from Lancashire County Council which had obtained the data from Lancashire Police.

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Town Lane in Whittle-le-Woods, where there is a proposal to build up to 250 homes (Image: Google)

However, Clayton With Whittle county councillor Mark Clifford supplied stats he had sought from the force showing that 11 road traffic collisions had been reported in the area since January 2017.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that County Hall was asking “the wrong question” of the constabulary by seeking information only about those accidents that had resulted in an injury - and so was unintentionally masking the “terrible record” of collisions in the area.

“All these crashes are happening, but they don’t appear in the statistics. It's sheer good fortune that the occupants walked away, therefore registering the crash in a different category - but these crashes were still serious and resulted in the police attending,” said County Cllr Clifford.

A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council - which is objecting to the proposed development on separate grounds over the adequacy of pedestrian and cycle access - said: “The statistics we provide are based on the number of collisions where someone has been killed, seriously injured or sustained a slight injury, because this is the standard metric used by organisations when considering safety policy."

There have been 11 recorded road accidents on Town Lane since January 2017 - but only one of them resulted in an injury

Highways concerns surrounding the Town Lane plot featured in the closing submissions at the nine-day inquiry, which was also considering a proposal for 80 dwellings on Tincklers Lane in Eccleston.

The two applications - both made by Redrow Homes - had gone to appeal after Chorley Council failed to determine them in the required 13-week timeframe. However, the authority’s planning committee subsequently said that it would have been “minded” to refuse the developments, which would be on land not currently earmarked for housebuilding by the borough.

The county council’s objection to the Town Lane proposal was based on the conclusion of highways bosses that it had not been demonstrated that the site could be “safely accessed” on foot or by bike - and also that bus stops were not within "desirable walking distance”.

Ian Ponter, the barrister representing Chorley Council at the inquiry, said that Town Lane “suffers from serious deficiencies in terms of its provision for those who aren’t in a car - and they can’t be overcome”.

He added that while precise details of the proposed access would be dealt with at the latter stages of the planning process - if the current outline application were approved - the developer must nevertheless show “that there is a real prospect of reaching a satisfactory solution”.

Representing Redrow Homes, David Manley QC said that one of the main issues of contention was whether the proposed gradient of the access would be “acceptable for use by people who have mobility difficulties”.

He told the inspector leading the inquiry that surrounding roads “all have gradients as great or greater than those contemplated [for] the western access”.

“Any user of that western path would face similar gradients once off the site - it is in the nature of Whittle-le-Woods,” Mr. Manley said.

The closing statements - like much of the inquiry - largely focused on a wrangle between Chorley Council and the developer over how many homes the authority should be expected to build in each of the next five years.

As the Local Democracy Reporting Service has previously reported, the argument turned on the methodology that should be used to calculate the borough’s minimum annual housing requirement - either the government’s so-called “standard method”, which would currently see the district have to develop 537 properties per year, or a previous Central Lancashire-wide agreement under which the figure would stand at 417 dwellings.

Redrow is arguing for the higher tally, while Chorley Council claims that not only should the lower figure apply, but that it should be slashed to an annual requirement of just 109 new homes over the next five years in recognition of the fact that the borough has overshot its target in previous years.

The outcome matters, because it will determine whether Chorley is deemed to have a five-year supply of land available to meet its housebuilding needs. If it does not, the borough would be left liable to having to permit development on so-called “safeguarded” sites like the two under consideration at the appeal.

Mr. Manley said that claims by the authority that its performance in the early years of its local plan period from 2010 led to an “over-supply” of housing actually amounted to “no such thing”. He told the inquiry that the figure in the Central Lancashire “core strategy” agreement represented an annual need, rather than one to be considered over the 16-year lifetime of the local plan.

He added: “[It] is expressed by reference to being a minimum requirement - exceedance of it is just that, it is not an oversupply.

“What is clear is that 109 dwellings will not meet [future] needs and therefore even if you find a five-year housing land supply exists, there is still a clear case for allowing these appeals to boost the supply of housing land in Chorley,” Mr. Manley claimed.

However, Mr. Ponter said it was clear that Chorley’s level of housing development in the early 2010s should be taken into account when determining how many homes it has to build over the next five years.

“The need for housing in Chorley identified in the development plan is a need that arises over the plan period - self-evidently, it is not a need that arises on an annual basis at a steady rate of 417 dwellings.

“If, over the plan period, at least 6,834 dwellings are provided, then Chorley’s need will have been met,” Mr. Ponter said, having previously told the inquiry that the borough is on track to deliver 7,800 homes by 2026.

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