Rossendale Free Press
We need more local voices among council’s planners
NEWS that Rossendale councillors on the development control committee couldn’t find a reason to reject a planning application for 130+ homes on fields between Haslingden and Helmshore continues to cause debate online.
As this column suggested last week, readers shouldn’t be fooled by the notion that Rossendale Council’s hands had been tied by the Government when it came to the proposal, off the Grane Road and underneath the three reservoirs which sit alongside the Grane Road.
It was Rossendale Council which chose to mark the site as suitable for housing development in its Local Plan.
So when councillors say they have no choice but to approve the development, it’s not because Government planning rules insist they do, it’s because they chose to make the site one they were happy to see houses built on.
The minutes of the meeting confirm seven councillors voted in favour of the plan and two voted against.
Various caveats need to be confirmed with developer Taylor Wimpey before work can begin, primarily around the developer’s payments to pay for extra school places and support services, including a contribution to aid the running of Haslingden Sports Centre.
Such things will be easy for Taylor Wimpey to deal with – it’s part and parcel of the planning process – so we should expect diggers on site too.
That the councillors on the committee couldn’t find the heart to fight a development on green countryside when there are so many brownfield (preused) sites waiting to be developed is hugely disappointing.
In the meeting, councillors seemed very worried by the idea that if they refused the development, the developer would appeal
to the planning inspector, and win, and that would cost Rossendale Council at least £150,000.
What price showing you’re listening to residents, and, crikey, sticking up for residents?
Rossendale Council can find cash to fund heritage projects – rightly – which help preserve Rossendale.
Yet they can’t find the cash to stand up for keeping Rossendale’s countryside in tact?
One argument put forward was that, in years gone by, Rossendale opposed the
redevelopment of the old Airtours site in Helmshore.
It lost that battle on appeal.
But that site was also a brownfield site.
This is digging up countryside, with residents very fearful of flooding, loss of wildlife and increased traffic.
So when one councillor said they needed a good reason to turn it down, they had many. But their over-riding one should have been their duty to stick up for residents of the borough.
Of the seven councillors who voted
for the development, one was from Bacup, one from Stacksteads, one from Waterfoot, two from Rawtenstall and one from the other end of Haslingden.
Only one of the nine actually represented the area affected – Cllr Tony Haworth of Helmshore.
The development control committee needs to be more local – it seems very odd the councillors can decide what can and can’t be built, with no recourse from residents through democratic processes because they aren’t represented by the people who are voting to
change their area.
Planning needs to be truly local for our voices to be heard – local area committees which took these decisions, would be far fairer on the people who fund the council through their taxes. At the moment, we have the worst of all words: A development control committee which seems afraid to stand up for Rossendale, implementing a local plan determined by a council which seems determined to blame the Government for decisions it has made.
Something has to change.