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West Lancashire’s Local Plan Preferred Options – flawed evidence

Saturday, 15 December 2018 09:49

We hope that enough needed jobs and houses are planned and built. But frankly, when we read the Council’s Preferred Option document that proposes a brand new local plan up to 2050, for more than 15,000 homes and 190 hectares of employment land to be developed primarily on prime farmland in the Green Belt, we were aghast. 

The proposals include three garden villages on farmland near Bickerstaff with a large distribution and warehousing site at Junction 3 of the M58 motorway, and large expansion of Ormskirk and Aughton causing the two distinct settlements to encroach into the countryside.  In response CPRE Lancashire commissioned Piers Elias, an expert demographer, to progress a demographic appraisal.  This was funded by Parish Councils and a couple of residents' groups who are keen to find the truth and to protect unnecessary growth in the countryside. 

In our response to the Preferred Options we made the following recommendations:
·         The evidence base must be reviewed and made robust. The development quantum for housing and employment must be reduced to be proportionate and justified.
·         The Preferred Option policies and allocations need a radical refocus in order to be compliant with the NPPF, 2018 and so that the vision and strategic objectives of the Local Plan are properly supported by improved policies and allocations. There should be more of a brownfield land reuse focus and regeneration of existing settlements is required in advance of greenfield allocations. Nature conservation should be promoted more in the polices.
·         West Lancashire under its duty to cooperate should not accept unmet housing from urban neighbours; it should rather see if any of its unmet need, if evidenced, can be met by them. Due to the availability of brownfield land this may not be necessary.
·         More should be done to reuse brownfield land, with the introduction of a brownfield target, and using brownfield registers more effectively. Skelmersdale needs improved policy support in line with this.
·         Site allocations should reflect the vision and strategic objectives more fully, especially with regards to climate change, which needs to be more responsibly planned with real reductions in greenhouse gases, associated with urban-focused development and much less greenfield development.

·         A stronger policy should protect best and most versatile land. There should be a presumption against development on prime farm land.
·         Land allocations under policies SP7, SP8, and other housing sites that suffer constraints, should be deleted in accordance with justified reason, including local opinion. The site suitability of future housing and employment land allocations needs further consideration.
·         More references to neighbourhood planning and the value of this local tier of planning policy protection for landscape character, promotion of good design, increasing green infrastructure and leading to more sustainable transport modes such as walking and cycling should be included in the local plan. Many parish councils may not realise they are able to decide how to spend a larger amount of Community Infrastructure Levy (25% as opposed to 15% with a made plan). CPRE Lancashire is keen to support parish councils progress neighbourhood plans.

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