Longridge councillors have responded angrily after a 55 acre site in the town originally excluded by borough planners for development has now been included in the borough future development blueprint.
One of Longridge’s councillors has called for an enquiry into why a Core Strategy report on the site already out for public consultation, was altered after the original committee decision.
Dilworth Councillor Ken Hind said: “The report concerned the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA), listing housing building sites in the borough to be commented on by the public before inclusion in the local development plan for the next 15 years.
“It was altered between approval by the committee for public consultation, and sending out the details for them to consider.
“Due to the vigilance of Longridge Councillors Stuart Carefoot and David Smith examining the data, the differences were discovered.
’The main change affecting Longridge is that site 385, which consists of the area on the north side of Longridge stretching from Willows Park Road behind the Redwood Estate, Crumpax Avenue to Inglewhite Road and the Alston Arms, was put before the committee in the schedule of rejected development sites.
“The reason given in the committee report for rejection was that it ‘it would result in an increase of over 25% in settlement size’ - in other words increase Longridge by a quarter.
“This site has now been put in a schedule recommended for approval as a potential development area. It means that planners had put in the report for public consultation, 2270 housing sites in Longridge, not 1340, as we have previously notified the public.”
He added that site 385 was the second largest potential development site in the whole of the Ribble Valley, the other being Standen Estate in Clitheroe for 1040 homes.
The Core Strategy had stated that it would be the one major strategic housing site in the whole borough. Including the Redwood site would conflict with an essential policy in the Core Strategy, Coun Hind stressed.
He added that it would be an insult to the people of Longridge if site 385 was included in the local development plan.
“I urge the public to press the planners to take their own advice which they gave to the councillors, and reject it. The committee intention was clear to reject this site and that position should remain.
“’ It is extremely worrying that papers submitted to elected representatives can be changed after a committee has deliberated. No councillors, including the planning committee chairman who has confirmed this to me, knew this had been done. This undermines the decicision making of elected councillors, and public confidence.”
However, borough council leader Stuart Hirst has apologised for any confusion over the change of status.
In a statement, he said “At my request, the chief executive has investigated this matter and concluded it was the result of an administrative error during the preparation of a very large and complex document.
“Undoubtedly this is regrettable and I apologise on behalf of the council for any confusion.
“Unfortunately, officers and members of the council’s planning and development committee, including Councillor Hind, did not notice the error regarding site 385 when the report was presented to committee.
“It is important to remember that this is a consultation document and the sites identified are only potential sites. Decisions over which sites will be selected will be made at a later date and even then they will not automatically be the subject of development.”
In a responding statement, Coun Hind commented “We made no mistake and I will publish the schedule to show that we were advised as councilors that it was excluded and had not been changed until we spotted it.
“The land had been rejected unequivocally for development so I don’t accept it was an error. I suggest that the borough now take it out of consultation and accept the advice they gave to the committee in writing on the schedule, which they now say is an error.”