Building work is underway on a plot of green land in Fulwood, despite local residents campaigning for its protection.Advertisement
The Community Gateway Association (CGA) owns the piece of land between Chapman Road and Garrison Road thanks to a 2015 land swap agreement with Preston City Council. In August 2017 planning permission was granted for the construction of eight three-bedroom houses. Work is now underway and due to complete in 2019.
As reported by Blog Preston last year, nearby homeowners objected to the Gateway homes. They described the grassy stretch as a ‘meeting place’ for the community, and said it needed to be protected.
When asked about the latest developments, local resident Philip Chapman said: “We are all incredibly disappointed and confused, as we are not aware that Gateway has fulfilled the conditions set out in the Planning Application.
Read more: Concern for lack of progress on Preston North End’s new training ground
“We tried very hard to request information from Gateway. In particular, they are using public money to help pay for this development, but would not inform us about the costs for the piling of the land. They never included these costs in the budget they submitted to the Council and considering it is old landfill, this will be one of the most expensive pieces of land they could possibly build on as the piling costs will be significant. Their response to us was that they do not fall under the Freedom of Information Act, so do not have to inform us how public money is spent.
“We wrote to Lorraine Norris and Adrian Philips at the Council when they were transitioning but never had a response. We wrote to the Planning Office asking if they could meet with us, as we were struggling to understand the documentation. Again we had no response.
“We are sure the Council are happy to get rid of the land as it is one less thing for them to maintain, and they gain Council Tax from it.
“We have spent many months voicing our concerns but neither the Council nor Gateway are interested. Our neighbourhood has sorely missed our community area, more than they will ever believe.”
What Community Gateway Association had to say
A CGA spokesperson said, “Community Gateway Association owns a piece of land between Chapman Road and Garrison Road in Fulwood, as part of a land swap agreement with Preston City Council.
“CGA was granted planning permission in August 2017 to build eight three-bedroom houses, which will be constructed by DJ Hughes Construction. A Homes England grant has been made available to assist CGA in building these new homes.
“Preparatory work is now underway, with works due to complete in 2019, to provide family homes which will be let at an affordable rent. There is a shortage of affordable housing in the area and, as a social landlord, one of our key priorities is to build much needed affordable homes for the people of Preston.
Read more: Goosnargh residents prepare to fight housing plans
“Whilst providing affordable homes for people must be our priority, we do appreciate and understand the concerns of the residents of Garrison Road and Chapman Road, which is why we have entered into frequent and significant dialogue with them over the last 18 months to discuss their concerns and keep them informed of our plans.
“This has included facilitating a residents’ meeting, responding to regular requests for information, where we are able to do so, and keeping them up to date with our progress at key stages of the development. We most recently hand delivered letters to the residents on Monday 6 August to inform them that building work was due to start.
“CGA is not a public authority and is therefore not bound by the Freedom of Information Act, however we do comply with the principles where possible, although we would not release commercially sensitive information requested via an FOI request.”
What a College ward councillor had to say
Councillor Freddie Bailey said: “My understanding is the Council have dealt with the handling of this development well.
“I am aware that some residents do not think the Council should have sold the land to CGA or granted them planning permission for affordable houses. In both cases, the decisions have been totally transparent and open. The decision on the planning application was considered by planning officers with a full report published online.
“The decision on the land transfer was also set out fully in a cabinet report, as part of the transfer of a number of sites to CGA in a land swap with Truro Place. All of these decisions were openly taken and so there is not much more to say.
“The officers I worked with checked with other planning colleagues to see if they received any queries regarding the planning conditions, but looking at the system the conditions have been met and approved.
Read more: The Sumners pub will be demolished
“In terms of the costs for piling of the land, that is a matter for CGA and not the Council. The only thing the Council has agreed to fund (using developer contributions for affordable housing) is the land remediation, i.e. treatment of knotweed, which has been carried out. CGA are not a public sector organisation so they are not as transparent compared to a Council where Freedom of Information requests can be submitted.
“We had two recent enforcement requests, which officers have dealt with. I can’t comment on individuals not responding to emails but I have been assured by officers and directors that they would never ignore a query or problem, and they would always respond to these types of matters.
“Although I was not a councillor at Preston City Council when planning permission was approved, I welcome more affordable housing being built in Preston as there is a national shortage of affordable housing, and house prices are extremely expensive.
“Building affordable homes like the ones on Garrison Road will help first-time buyers and can help to reduce homelessness, which is a major issue throughout every town and city in the UK. I hope that once the new residents of Garrison Road move in, they will fit into the community well and they are made to feel welcome.”
What do you think about the development of this site? Let us know in the comments below.