A village council in Preston has declared it has ‘no confidence’ in Preston City Council’s planning department.Advertisement
Broughton Parish Council has written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire.
In a letter to the MP, which has also been sent to the city council’s interim chief exec Adrian Phillips as well as Wyre and Preston North MP Ben Wallace and cabinet member for planning and regulation councillor Peter Moss, the parish council attacks the city council’s lack of a five-year housing supply.
This lack of supply has led to a ramping up of applications from housing developers going beyond the North West Preston Masterplan that had been agreed by the city council.
A motion to the Parish Council’s meeting in January was agreed: “The Parish Council has no confidence in the planning officers of PCC to undertake their statutory duties and as a result the Planning sub-committee of PCC cannot make effective judgements based on advice from those officers.”
The news comes as the city council’s planning committee threw out plans for the Touch of Spice restaurant at Broughton crossroads to demolish it and turn the site into a new row of shops and a retirement apartment complex.
Read more: Work begins on the Brougton crossroads layout
In a statement to Blog Preston the Parish Council said: “We have not taken this action lightly and is aware that nationally there is a need for more dwellings/houses to be built in this country, but the situation is not the same all over the country.
“We are also aware that there is a need for affordable smaller properties for those people working in the parish (over 500 people commute into Broughton with the main employers, the ambulance HQ, High school, hotels and restaurants), those wishing to downsize and those who wish
to live where there are support networks.
“The rural parishes around North Preston are the target of a significant number of speculative developers applying for planning permission. These applications are on the agricultural land surrounding and near to the villages and against the current policies of Preston and Central Lancashire and in our area, Broughton, the Neighbourhood Development Plan.
“The NW Preston development area was a well-planned response to the housing needs in Preston and will eventually contribute over 5000 properties to Preston’s allocated need. However, over the last 3 years a significant number of developments have been given the green light in the rural parishes.
“Broughton had 745 properties but by the time all the planning applications with permission are built this will be over 2000, of which 500 are not in the NW Preston development area. This crisis has come about due to the inaccurate figures used to demonstrate the “land supply” presented by the city council’s planning department which only came to light during the Broughton Appeals in February 2018.
“This meant that Preston, based on the original dwelling targets of 507 pa, agreed in 2012, cannot demonstrate a 5-year Housing Land Supply (HLS). This fact has been seized upon by developer agencies to inundate the planning department with applications which the case officer’s support in their reports to the Planning Committee due to this inability to show an accurate HLS.
“The usual grounds for sensible decisions such as “sustainability” and planning policies such as EN1 (development in greenspaces) have all been overruled by the inability to demonstrate a 5-year HLS. As a direct result the planning committee of
“Preston City Council, even though it disagrees with many applications, has no option given their legal advice but to accept this situation and agree the applications. They are afraid to challenge this situation as the planners go to appeal which costs in money and resources.”
Read more: Community Gateway homes plan for Goosnargh is approved despite protests
The Parish Council go on to say they feel the Neighbourhood Plan for Broughton, which was voted through in a referendum, has not been listened to by the city council’s planning department.
Director of development at the city council Chris Hayward has hit back at the Parish Council’s move.
He told Blog Preston: “Planning is an incredibly complicated matter that is easy to criticise, but heavily regulated by Central Government. We have consistently argued that the Government’s formula for house building supply numbers could be revised to focus on a plan-led system where there is certainty for the local community.
“Our planning officers are incredibly experienced and are qualified members of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). I do not understand what the parish council are referring to when they say the department has lost a significant number of staff. In my view, the department is the strongest it has ever been. Officers are obliged to give the best professional advice to the Council, taking into account national policy, the local development plan and other material planning considerations, and that is what they do. These are not individual judgements taken by officers, they are overseen by planning managers and myself, as a Full Member of the RTPI with over 30 years of experience.
“If it is clear that in the current circumstances a planning application should be approved, officers will make that recommendation and the committee reports will set out in detail why that is the case. If major planning applications are refused and appealed against, and the Council loses an appeal, then there is a significant financial cost in defending that appeal and a risk of costs being awarded against the Council, which can run into tens or hundreds of thousand pounds. It would be reckless to squander council tax payers’ money in this way. Where officers feel there is a case for refusal which can be evidenced on appeal, it will put all its efforts into defending that decision.
“We should look at why Preston is in this position of having to approve more housing than is allocated in the local plan. Government planning policy says that if a council cannot demonstrate that it has a 5 year supply of housing, then it should approve developments. The formula for calculating this is complex and based on the number of houses built over the plan period compared to the figure in the local plan which says how many should be built per year.
“The Council has resisted challenges to this calculation from developers on appeal for many years, and has been able to successfully defend them, but the system is heavily weighted towards developers with expensive legal representation. The most recent appeal has resulted in a planning inspector concluding that Preston does not have a 5 year supply of housing. This situation has arisen because, for several years the number of houses being built was less than that required, so there is a backlog which counts against the Council, even though hundreds of houses are now being built and thousands have permission.
“In my view, this is wrong and unfair. Our legal advice confirms that officers are taking the correct approach on planning decisions. National policy says that there needs to be adverse impacts which significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of development and in most cases things like the loss of low value agricultural land and additional traffic are not significant enough to refuse an application and defend an appeal.
“I appreciate the frustration some residents feel watching the city change and grow around them, including on what has previously been green space. Saying that, there is still a national housing crisis in the UK and we are proud to be building more homes in Preston than anywhere else in Lancashire. However, officers and Members of the Council would prefer to have more local control over where the houses are being built.
“Where a neighbourhood plan is in place and the Council has a three year supply of housing land, the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework does not preclude all development contrary to policy. That would be in complete conflict with the Government’s aspirations to boost significantly the supply of housing across the country. The Government’s National Planning Policy Framework requires a planning balance to be made which weighs the adverse impacts against the benefits of all development.”
Read more: Take our big survey about Preston in 2019
What do you think about the planning department and committee? What do you make of the Broughton Parish Council no confidence motion? Let us know your views in the comments below