Residents near Pickering’s Farm site feel condemned to ‘living on a building site for next 20 years’

Posted on - 23rd January, 2024 - 8:42pm | Author - | Posted in - Lostock Hall, Penwortham, Preston News, Roads, South Ribble Locations, South Ribble News, Transport
Bee Lane
Bee Lane

A resident whose quiet home is at the centre of long-opposed plans for a massive housing estate in the South Ribble countryside says that he and his neighbours have been condemned to “living on a building site for the next 20 years”.


Peter Hambilton was speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service 24 hours after it emerged that South Ribble Borough Council announced that it was not in a position to mount a legal challenge to the 1,100 homes set to be built on the Pickering’s Farm site in a rural part of Penwortham.

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The 79-hectare plot – which encompasses a much wider area than the agricultural business it is named after – has long been eyed for development by housebuilder Taylor Wimpey and the government agency, but has twice been refused permission by the local authority.  However, the government stepped in back in November and overturned that decision.

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Peter moved into the sparsely populated location almost 50 years ago, but says the new housing development that will eventually surround his and his wife Heather’s property is going to upend life as they have always known it – not least during the estate’s construction.


“It was bad enough when they were previously here doing exploratory work, with all the vehicles that they had.  We were constantly having to go out and ask them to move so we could get on and off our drive.  Who knows what it will be like when they actually start building.

Dog walkers in Bee Lane
Dog walkers in Bee Lane

“The flooding in this area is also a huge issue.  They keep saying that it will be made better by the attenuation ponds and flood-risk management that they are doing, but this new estate is all going to be built on higher foundations to [reduce] the risk of them flooding.

“So all the existing houses, like mine, which are on the lower ground, are then going to succumb to the raised water level,” Peter warned.

He said that the whole experience of fighting against the plans for so long – and now seeing them go ahead anyway – has left him feeling like “democracy is dead”.

“People are always going to call us nimbys, but the thing is, this was unanimously rejected by the council, twice – that’s Labour, Tory, Lib Dems, the whole lot.  But even that wasn’t good enough.

“What really baffles me is that how Homes England, a government body, can apply for planning permission and then appeal it [when they lose]  – so that means it’s a government body appealing to a government-appointed inspector and then, ultimately, it gets called in by the government itself to overrule it.”

When ministers announced, in July 2022, that they would be taking the final decision over Pickering’s Farm, not the inspector who was to chair that year’s public inquiry into the plans – in a process known as “recovering” the appeal – they said that it was because of the significance of the development to the government’s housebuilding ambitions.

According to a letter seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) at the time, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, decided to get involved, because the appeal involved “proposals for residential development…which would significantly impact on the government’s objective to secure a better balance between housing demand and supply”.

In granting permission for the site in November 2023, Mr. Gove said that he had ”not identified any conflicts” between South Ribble’s local plan and the proposed housing.

Meanwhile, Peter says that there is no prospect of packing up to escape the forthcoming development, because of what the plans will do to the price of the existing dwellings.

“Now this has been green-lighted, if you were wanting to move, your house is going to be devalued, because it’s going to be in the middle of a 20-year building site.   So we haven’t really got a choice of moving away from it – you’ve just got to stay and accept it.

“To be fair, it’s always been on the cards that they were going to put a cross-borough link road through here, but loads of people have applied for planning permission and it was always refused on the grounds that it couldn’t go ahead unless that link was built.”

The cross-borough connecting route was one of the key issues at the public inquiry.   The long-held principle of the road – first proposed 50 years ago – is to join up Penwortham Way to the already completed section of the link, running between The Cawsey and the A6, which finally opened in 2020.

The public inquiry heard the Pickering’s Farm development would create just over 1km of the unbuilt link road at a cost to the developers of more than £5m. That would amount to 89 per cent of the route as it crosses the broader, allocated housing site – leaving around 130 metres to be built.

The cost of completing the remainder was said to range from £2m to £12.5m, as a result of the need to bridge the West Coast Mainline.

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‘These chickens will come home to roost’

One of the founding members of the group set up to oppose the Pickering’s Farm plans predicts it will be proved right over the claimed chaos the development will bring to the local road network.

In lengthy – and, at times, testy – exchanges during the 2022 public inquiry, a Lancashire County Council highways expert locked horns with the barrister for the developers about the potential impact of the 1,100 new homes on the A582 between Lostock Hall and Penwortham.

The pair clashed over whether a predicted reduction in average rush-hour speeds from the current 7.5 miles-per-hour to 6.5 miles-per-hour after the houses were built could be classed as “severe” – with the inspector and government ultimately concluding that it could not.

Graham Eastham, of Keep Bee Lane Rural, told the LDRS that not only did the change meet such a definition, but the reality will be even worse.

“In what universe does the fact that the roads are already severely congested [mean you should] allow further congestion?    It’s like something out of ‘Yes, Minister’.

“Also, since [the traffic modelling was done], a lot of other housing developments have come online. So the baseline is already significantly above that which the inspector made his decision on [the basis of].

“We will be putting our review of the inspector’s and Secretary of State’s findings online for when these chickens finally come home to roost,” Graham added.

The long-stalled plan to dual the A582, from Stanifield Lane to the Broad Oak roundabout, was identified last autumn as one of the northern transport projects that will benefit from government funding diverted from scrapping the Manchester leg of HS2.  However, as the LDRS revealed in December, Lancashire County Council says it is now working on “revised” plans for exactly how to add capacity to the congested route.

However, Graham also stressed that the KBLR group had far wider issues with the development than worsened gridlock on the roads.

“This is the last bit of green space between the distinct communities of Penwortham and Lostock Hall – it acts as a leisure space for both.   In this day and age, with mental health, just being able to walk down a country lane, see the animals and just take a deep breath is worth so much,” he reflected.

Graham said that, while locals were “gutted” by this week’s news about the lack of any further options for contesting the government’s decision, the group will continue to hold the developers’ feet to the fire as they finally set about making their vision for the site a reality.

The development has been granted only outline planning approval, meaning that the detailed plans will still have to be passed by South Ribble Borough Council, the leadership of which he thanked for taking the fight against Pickering’s Farm as far as it has.

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