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Wild Paws dog school in Hutton to be decided by planning inspector

Posted on - 31st March, 2023 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Business, Longton & New Longton, Penwortham, Politics, Preston News, South Ribble News
The Gables Farm site where Wild Paws would be located Pic: Google

A dog agility school planned for Hutton is to have its fate decided by a planning inspector.

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The woman behind the proposals said that locals concerned about noise had greeted her attempts to reach out to them with a wall of silence.

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Crufts agility winner Nicola Wildman wants to relocate her Wild Paws training business from one of its existing bases in Leyland to a former livery yard in Hutton, but says that she has been stymied in her attempts to consult with the community and reach a compromise.

Last month, South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee put the project on hold after hearing claims from residents in the vicinity of the Gables Farm site on Lindle Lane that their lives would be blighted by a canine cacophony if the redevelopment went ahead.

Read more: £75m revamp of Lancashire Police HQ at Hutton planned

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One vexed villager said that the only point at which she and her neighbours would get any respite from barking would be when it was time for them to go to bed, while another claimed that the bark of a single dog using the facility would equate to the noise generated by a jackhammer.

Committee members deferred their decision over whether to grant permission for the plans – sparked by Wild Paws’ Leyland site being earmarked for housing – in the hope that a solution could be found that satisfied both sides.

The application was due to go back before the committee earlier this month, but Ms. Wildman has instead exercised her right to ask the Planning Inspectorate to determine the matter – because the council has exceeded the eight-week time limit within which it is obliged to come to its own conclusion.

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that her decision had been heavily influenced by what she says was a repeated rebuff from the residents with whom she had tried to engage.

“We were blocked from all the community Facebook groups and our posts [about community consultation] were deleted.  We held an open day following the [February] planning committee – and no-one attended.

“We offered a meeting, but were told that it was too short notice,” Ms. Wildman said.

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Against that backdrop, she says that she still intended to return to the planning committee this month and defend her attempts at consultation, but opted to appeal to the inspectorate after learning at the last minute that the council intended to place new conditions on any permission that it granted for the venture.

“They weren’t going to allow any sub-letting, which is part of the business model.  They also wanted to put a temporary permission on [the site] for 12 months – but we were taking out a £150,000 loan to be paid back over five years.

“We applied for a permanent permission because that is what we need in order to do this,” added Ms. Wildman, who said that compromises already offered over opening hours and the number of arenas had reduced the capacity of the business to 60 percent of what it would otherwise have been.

A temporary approval would have allowed the council to assess whether residents’ fears had materialised after a year – and relinquish permission if their noise concerns had come to pass.

Meanwhile, locals have denied that they refused to enter discussions with Nicola Wildman following last month’s planning committee.

A community spokesperson told the LDRS that talks had been due to be arranged by South Ribble’s planning department – but that Wild Paws had taken a different approach.

“[Over] the weekend of 11th February, a member of the applicant’s team tried to arrange a meeting via direct contact with [someone from] the residents group, during half term and whilst they were on holiday. This was inappropriate as it should [have been] via the planning office.   The applicant [also] tried to contact one of the residents publicly on Facebook.

“The residents [approached] the planning officer regarding the inappropriate contact and we [were] informed that an independent councillor was being sourced to chair a meeting. The residents had a meeting to discuss [our own] conditions as a group, after which we would be in a position to discuss with the applicant.

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“The council [then] contacted us explaining the applicant was unwilling to meet and wouldn’t compromise on any points. We expressed that we would still want to meet the council planning office, but this was denied.

“Residents welcome the Planning Inspectorate’s oversight of this case and will submit appropriate representation once the appeal is validated.”

Read more: Claims that Leyland Road in Penwortham is becoming ‘dangerous’ for pedestrians

A spokesperson for the New Longton and Whitestake Community Page on Facebook confirmed to the LDRS that Wild Paws had requested to join several months ago.

They added: “However, we don’t permit business posts and the group is for local residents only – so access was not granted. This was also to protect local residents from divisive canvasing from those who support the applicant’s business from outside the area.”

The planning committee had been split at its February meeting, with proposals made to approve and reject the scheme – but the majority opted for deferral.

Council planning officer Debbie Roberts told members that although noise from the site would be “audible”, the authority’s environmental health team did not consider that it would be at such a significant level that it warranted refusal.

Ms. Wildman told the LDRS that her blueprint for the Hutton site explicitly ruled out flyball, which she acknowledged was a noisy activity.   She said that it had been incorrectly raised as an issue at the committee meeting.

The Wild Paws application should have been determined by 26th October, 2022.  The applicant agreed to extend that deadline to 13th February following a previous deferral late last year.

Since that date, Ms.Wildman has been free to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate over South Ribble’s “non-determination” of the application.  The matter will now be decided by an independent planning inspector.

Proposed operating hours for the facility are 8am until 9pm on weekdays, 9am to 6pm on Saturdays and 10am until 5pm on Sundays and bank holidays.

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