CAMPAIGNERS fighting to keep Longridge green fields from developers have been devastated by borough planners’ approval for two sites on the town’s fringes.
And a furious political row has broken out after the controversial plans were proposed for approval by a Longridge councillor on the planning committee.
Residents and fellow councillors fighting the plans for 49 and 60 houses on the Dilworth Triangle and Preston Road sites were left stunned when Longridge representative Coun Jim Rogerson proposed to fellow committee members that the applications be approved – despite the strong local objections.
Borough councillor Ken Hind said after the meeting he was ‘outraged’ at Coun Rogerson’s actions.
In a letter to the News, Coun Hind writes: “The Longridge Town Council, of which Jim Rogerson is a member, voted to reject the application and put forward clear and coherent planning objections to the proposals on behalf of Longridge. By taking his stance, in the eyes of the Ribble Valley Council planning committee, he undermined the credibility of the Longridge Town Council.’’
Lawrence Ingham, chairman of a residents’ group fighting the Dilworth triangle plans, said: “I was astonished that the proposal to accept it came from a member of our town council, Councillor Jim Rogerson.’’
Both Coun Hind and Mr Ingham had addressed the planning meeting ahead of the vote, as did Lynne Ashworth for the Preston Road campaigners.
In another letter this week, Preston Road residents Stan and Maureen Hodson said they felt “totally betrayed’’ by Coun Rogerson’s vote to approve the plans close to their home.
Coun Rogerson – a long-serving Longridge councillor and former mayor – said he understood there were a lot of local feelings, but felt the sites needed developing.
Talking about the Dilworth land, he said: “The Longridge people I’ve spoken to can’t believe it has not been built on yet. Can you tell me where we are going to find the amount of land on which to put the volume of houses needed in the future?” he asked.
“We will have to build on green spaces – things are changing face in terms of housing, especially social housing. Building a lot more houses should help in the long term and eventually bring house prices down.”
Responding to the criticisms of his actions following the meeting Coun Rogerson – who declared an interest in both planning applications so did not vote when Longridge Town Council objected to them – explained that as a member of both councils, he had been trained to be impartial.
Coun Rogerson said: “You can make a comment but not a judgement – you are not Longridge when once you are on the borough council and you have to appreciate and acknowledge what your planning officers are trained and skilled at seeing what is relevant in different situations.
“I have a lot of sympathy for people’s views when things have to change but we can’t ignore all the work that has gone in for the area on the Core Strategy and other schemes – we ignore it at our peril,” added Coun Rogerson