South Ribble candidates clash over Pickering’s Farm and A582 ‘car park’ at hustings

Posted on - 27th June, 2024 - 10:50pm | Author - | Posted in - Bamber Bridge, Leyland, Longton & New Longton, Lostock Hall, Penwortham, Politics, Preston News, South Ribble News, Walton-le-Dale

The two frontrunners to be South Ribble’s next MP clashed over housing, transport and the much contested Pickering’s Farm development during a hustings event in Penwortham.

Conservative incumbent Katherine Fletcher and Labour’s Paul Foster argued over who was to blame for allowing the building of 1,100 homes on the Bee Lane site amid fierce local opposition. The application was rejected twice by South Ribble Borough Council before being overturned by the government on appeal.

The discussion came as four of the five candidates standing in the General Election spoke at the hustings at Penwortham Golf Club on Thursday (27 June) night, with the opening question addressing the housing crisis in the constituency. The event was organised by Blog Preston, the Lancashire Post and The Lancashire Lead and as well as Fletcher and Foster, Reform’s Andy Hunter and Liberal Democrat Ange Turner were present, with Green candidate Stephanie Mok unable to attend. Lancashire Local Democracy Reporter, Paul Faulkner, chaired the debate.

Read more: Plans for Leyland HMO rejected but it could go ahead irrespective

Foster, who has led the council for five years, rejected accusations from Fletcher, who has been MP since 2019, that it was the Labour’s council’s “out of date” Local Plan which was to blame for allowing the refusal to be overturned, pointing out the site had been allocated for housing and arguing this meant the Government was left with little choice.

However, Foster said this was only the case if the planning application was suitable but this was one that was rejected on “very, very valid” grounds of transport issues. Like Turner, he said planning reform was needed to speed up the system, adding that he wanted more freedom for local councils to be able to build social housing.

The arguments continued when the debate moved onto the heavily congested A582. Asked whether the road should be made into a dual carriageway, Fletcher said she “would support anything that stops it being a car park” and that the scrapping of HS2 had freed up funding for such projects.

In response, Foster said funding given to Lancashire County Council from this pot was being allocated to other areas, with the authority instead planning to “reprofile” certain sections of it. Earning the first applause of the night, he added: “It is absolutely critical to this constituency that the A582 is duelled”.

Read more: See all the candidates for Preston and surrounding areas in the general election

It was here that Turner moved away from the others of the panel, pointing out that it was not just car transport which needs dealing with. She said: “We need a government that’s going to start focusing on public transport because long-term that’s what’s going to be critical for our country and for the environment”.

You can watch back a live video stream of the hustings below or view it on Facebook

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