Developer Hallam Land Management has successfully appealed Fylde Borough Council’s failure to determine its application for the demolition of existing buildings and the provision of up to 360 homes on land at Blackfield End Farm, Church Road, Warton, in Lancashire on time.
The case was recovered for determination by the Communities Secretary. Despite fierce local opposition from local residents over many years the Secretary of State agreed with the inspector who held the inquiry that the scheme should go ahead.
Part of the 13-hectare site for the scheme is in green belt, but the proposals allocated to this part of the project were as open space rather than built development.
Back in 2007 when the plans were first consulted on, the original concept for the brownfield site envisaged a mixed use development on the site of the former GEC Marconi adhesives factory, alongside adjoining land. The site has been unused for more than 20 years. Proposals for a high quality business park with four office buildings, supermarket and petrol station, as well as a 25 bed hotel and linked pub.
The appeal site abuts the northern edge of the built-up area of Warton. The adjacent part of the settlement is predominantly residential. But the scheme will be close to extensive aircraft manufacturing works operated by BAE Systems.
These facilities are at Warton Aerodrome which is part of the Lancashire Advanced Engineering and Manufacturing Enterprise Zone, which was designated in 2011.
Residents sought to retain the village feel of Warton, despite its proximity to the aerodrome and industrial units, many of which had lain idle for so long. Fylde Council wanted to change Warton’s status from a village to a ‘strategic development location’ as part of a scheme which would see it increase in size by 75 per cent.
The Rt Hon Greg Clark’s decision letter said that
“although the proposed development would represent an extension of the built up area [of Warton], it represents a sustainable form of development which will provide much-needed housing and which accords with the policies of the National Planning Policy framework taken as a whole”.
Council delay on decision
Clark also acknowledged that the planning authority did not have a five-year supply of housing land. Numerous applications and changes to the scheme were laid before the council over the last few years. In the last round, the developer made the appeal after Fylde Borough Council failed to give notice of its decision within the prescribed period.
Inspector Richard Clegg had initially approved the development owing to its sustainability and positive contribution to much-need affordable housing in the area, with provision outlined at 30 per cent. The developer
The council ruled that the development would have been rejected on grounds including adverse impact on the character and appearance of the setting and failure to include various mitigations surrounding traffic control.
Clark agreed with the inspector that although moderate harm would be caused to the site itself and from nearby viewpoints, the development would have only a minor effect on the surrounding landscape.
Housing need, not traffic, is the greatest concern
Concerns over adverse effects for traffic movements on specific sections of the local highways were also agreed to be “not severe”.
The inspector noted that limited weight could be given to the Emerging Local Plan and Emerging Neighbourhood Plan in regard to these concerns, given the plans’ current state of progress.
Clark urged the appellant to prepare a more specific undertaking in its Section 106 agreement, in consultation with the council, to target funding towards primary school provision.
Clark concluded that as the policies in the council’s local plan concerning housing land were out of date, the NPPF weighed in favour of sustainable development. He noted that landscape and highway concerns were
“insufficient either individually or cumulatively to outweigh the benefits in terms of housing provision”.