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Battle to save green belt land on Preston’s eastern edge not over yet

Posted on - 18th June, 2024 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Central Lancashire Development Plan, Housing, Politics, Preston News, South Ribble Locations, South Ribble News
Cuerdale Garden Village would see 1,300 homes built on Samlesbury farmland. Pic credit: Story Homes.

Just over the M6 motorway, on Preston’s eastern edge, a battle for the soul of the countryside has been raging for the past two years.

Cuerdale Lane, which links Samlesbury with Walton-le-Dale, has been the site for an emotive campaign to save green belt land from a huge new residential development.

Back in 2022, Story Homes submitted plans for what was badged as Cuerdale Garden Village. Essentially a 1,300 home new-build suburb, it would swallow up large swathes of green belt land and productive farms if approved.

Read more: Plans lodged for six new homes on the edge of Grimsargh

And while no decision on the scheme has yet been reached, campaigners were given some hope at the end of 2023 when, on appeal, the equally controversial Pickering’s Farm development at Penwortham, which will see 1,100 houses erected, was granted planning permission by the Government.

Councillors and campaigners in Samlesbury hope the Penwortham approval means that there is now enough land earmarked for development within Lancashire to meet housing targets, although it could be next year when they know for sure.

The massive development would swallow up land between Samlesbury and Walton-le-Dale. Pic credit: Story Homes.

For Samlesbury parish council leader Graham Young, protecting green belt land is a must.

He said: “Just think about the role those fields play next to the motorway in terms of sequestering carbon dioxide and acting as a green lung for large urban areas like Preston and Blackburn.

“This area was always meant to be the green lung between Blackburn and Preston, especially as the plan was to build the Central Lancashire New Town after the Second World War.”

The Central Lancashire New Town plan was part of the mass creation of new towns by the post-war Labour government, with the likes of Skelmersdale and Milton Keynes being iconic examples of that house building zeal.

The 1970 Central Lancashire New Town plan was intended to effectively join up Preston, Penwortham, Leyland and Chorley.

Mr Young said this has, in reality, been the case over the past half a century as large swathes of central Lancashire have succumbed to both residential and commercial development.

He argues, therefore, that modern planners should not forget the importance of green belt land to serve a number of purposes, be that food production or supporting leisure and recreation for nearby towns and cities.

The Cuerdale scheme, if approved, would see productive dairy units such as Walmsley Fold Farm lost forever.

A lot of farmland in Samlesbury is owned by Booth Charities, an historic Salford-based charity, which means many farms are run by tenant farmers. The Cuerdale Garden Village proposals relate to Booth Charities land.

Mr Young said: “Those farms which would be lost currently produce enough milk to serve 75 per cent of South Ribble’s dairy needs on a yearly basis. How silly it is, then, that we would ever look to build on such land and be forced to bring in milk from elsewhere. Just think of the carbon footprint alone.”

According to the Story Homes website, a decision on the scheme is due next year, with work starting at any stage after that if approval is granted.

And with the potential for a new Labour government after next month’s general election, the picture is clouded yet further for places like Samlesbury as potential future Prime Minister Keir Starmer has pledged to build 1.5 million new homes in their first five years in Downing Street.

For now it is a case of wait and see how the planning landscape evolves but, for the moment, the green lungs of Samlesbury can breathe a little easier.

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