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New Lancaster sheltered housing approved due to "absolutely desperate need"

Councillor June Greenwell said there was "an absolutely desperate need" for supported living housing in Lancaster

New flats will be built at a Lancaster sheltered housing complex after councillors spoke about the "desperate need" for help for elderly and disabled people.

The four new one-bedroom flats will be built at the Alder Grove cul-de-sac on the Marsh in Lancaster, where there are currently 53 sheltered bungalows.

Alder Grove is one of the largest such housing schemes in the district and is owned and operated by Lancaster City Council.

The plans were approved by the council's planning regulatory committee, a group of elected councillors, at a meeting on Monday.

They voted in favour of the scheme, although council planning officers had recommended it should be refused because the housing lies in a recognised flood risk zone.

"It is considered unlikely that there are no other suitable sites within the district that are in areas that are at a lower risk of flooding," said a pre-meeting council report.

"As such, the proposal represents an unacceptable form of development, classified as more vulnerable to flood risk within an area defined as having a high probability of flooding."

Councillor Mandy Bannon, Green ward councillor for Marsh (pictured below), spoke in favour of the plans at Monday's meeting held at Morecambe Town Hall.

She said the new flats would "expand and improve the council's Alder Grove sheltered housing and allow more of our elderly and disabled residents to live independently."

"It seems our planning officers are (recommending) refusing it due to a flaw in the planning system," said Councillor Bannon.

Councillor June Greenwell, Liberal Democrat and a member of the planning committee, also backed the development, saying: "There is an absolutely desperate need for this kind of supported independent living.

"I hope that we will support this development and find a way around the planning regulations."

Councillor Keith Budden, Conservative, said: "If we refuse it, there will be people who think one council department doesn't know what the other is doing.

"If we approve it, they'll say it's because it's a council development. I don't think we should make a decision on this. I would recommend that we defer the item for further discussions."

But Councillor Dave Brookes, of the Green group, said delaying a decision would be "kicking the can down the road" which "doesn't achieve anything".

Councillors then voted on whether they should defer a decision. Only three voted in favour - councillors Budden, Guilding and Bryning. The others, councillors Thornberry, Lenox, Tyldesley, Redfern, Cleet, Thomas, Greenwell, Brookes, Frea, Dennison and King voted against.

Councillor Roger Dennison, of the Morecambe Bay Independents (pictured below), then moved that the plans should be approved.

He said the housing would provide very high benefits to the community, allowing vulnerable people to stay in the area where they currently live.

This, he said, would outweigh concerns over the flood risk. 

Councillors then voted unanimously in favour of the plans.

The scheme will see the demolition of an existing manager's house and the building of a new two-storey building of four one-bed flats and a community room and office.

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