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Residents "extremely pleased" after 129 new homes near Torrisholme Barrow get thumbs down

The houses would have been built in fields close to Torrisholme Barrow

Residents are "extremely pleased" after controversial plans to build 129 new homes near Torrisholme Barrow were rejected.

Dozens of homeowners who live near fields close to Fulwood Drive - where the new housing was planned - packed into Morecambe Town Hall to hear the decision on Tuesday.

After a debate, Lancaster city councillors decided by eight votes to six to turn down planning permission.

Resident John Gibbison, speaking to Beyond Radio following Tuesday's decision, said it was a "very good result".

LISTEN to our interview with resident John Gibbison 

"I'm very pleased, I think all the people who have come today will be extremely pleased with that decision," said Mr Gibbison, who is a former long-serving outdoor pursuits teacher at Morecambe High School.

"I live on Fulwood Drive towards the top end and I don't see how they're going to get all the material there in the big lorries that are going to be necessary. The impact is just going to be devastating. What happens if the road's damaged?

"There's also the flooding. We know that flooding occurs in the area. Fairhope (Avenue). It happens on Fulwood Drive. We know that around Happy Mount park there's flooding. And the golf course floods. As the silt builds up, where's all this water going to go?

"A very good result today."

The Oakmere Homes scheme was for 129 new houses on land close to the gardens of existing bungalows on Fulwood Drive, Williams Avenue and Hamilton Road, and also near the railway line and Torrisholme Barrow.

The application had originally been before the Lancaster City Council planning committee last month, when councillors voted to delay a decision.

This was so an alternative route for construction vehicles to access the land, rather than Fulwood Drive, could be investigated.

A council planning report, published ahead of the meeting, said: "The suggested route was from Slyne Road/ Hasty Brow Road which would allow large construction vehicles to be diverted away from residential properties on Fulwood Drive.

"Particular concern has been raised in relation to the amount of material that may be required to be imported to allow for land levels to be raised.

"(Lancashire County Council) have advised that Hasty Brow Road is an unsuitable alternative to Fulwood Drive for construction traffic. They have set out that all traffic would need to approach from the west, given the restrictions imposed by bridges to the east, and this would put construction traffic through a residential and retail area which would not be a change for the better from using Fulwood Drive.

"Over recent years, complaints have been received regarding the use of Hasty Brow Road for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and they have introduced the unsuitable signs due to damage to structures. In addition, they have advised that the restrictive width of Slyne Road/Hasty Brow Lane is not suitable to accommodate significant HGV movements."

City council planning officers had recommended the scheme should be approved subject to a legal agreement with the developer to ensure a minimum of 27 per cent affordable housing, a financial contribution for open space, a travel plan contribution of £6000 and other conditions - 31 in all.

They said that "whilst the development is considered to cause less than substantial harm to the setting of designated heritage assets (Torrisholme Barrow) it is considered that this is outweighed by the public benefits of the scheme".

Residents disagreed and spoke out against the scheme at the meeting.

William Cornthwaite said that agreeing planning permission would "set a dangerous precedent" allowing other developments on nearby land.

Andrew Good said: "During construction we're talking thousands of movements of heavy trucks.

"Once it's done, you've got pollution, traffic problems, road damage and accidents, on roads that just aren't designed for it.

"If you say you're going to get 27% or 30% affordable housing, I'll believe it when I see it."

Graham Love, speaking on behalf of Oakmere Homes, said in response: "The development will boost housing supply and delivery, with very little landscape harm and very little heritage harm."

Mr Love also said a new pedestrian crossing would be installed on Bare Lane as part of the scheme.

Eleanor Fawcett, Lancaster City Council planning officer, said the scheme would not set a precedent as they would "assess every scheme on its merits".

Councillor Sandra Thornberry (pictured below), a Labour councillor and chair of the planning committee, then proposed that the scheme be rejected.

She said "the development doesn't seem to satisfy any exciting criteria in terms of what it would look like, energy usage, and 30% affordability".

Her proposal was seconded by her Labour colleague, Councillor Louise Belcher.

But Councillor Colin Hartley, also of Labour, said: "I agree. But you know full well what happened to the Watery Lane development."

Councillor Hartley was referring to a similar scheme in a meadow near Watery Lane in Lancaster, which had been refused planning permission in April 2022, and is now going ahead after Oakmere Homes appealed.

A government planning inspector upheld the appeal in February, saying the council had a "woeful" undersupply of housing in the Lancaster and Morecambe district.

Councillor Hartley (pictured below), went on: "We had excellent reasons for refusing (Watery Lane), it went to the planning inspector and we lost. For us as a planning committee to refuse this, I fear we would postpone the inevitable."

In response, Councillor Thornberry said: "The Watery Lane plan didn't have any designation on it. This one is Key Urban Landscape. This is stronger protection for us, but the risk is still high risk."

Councillor Joyce Pritchard, a Liberal Democrat, then asked what the chances were that the council would lose an appeal if they voted to reject the scheme.

Mark Potts, from the council planning team, said: "Watery Lane had no affordable housing with it. This application does. 

"We have lost appeals before on Key Urban Landscape, in Lancaster. But we are now in the bottom five district councils in terms of housing supply.

"You can never say never, but it would be incredibly unlikely (to win an appeal)."

But Councillor Louise Belcher of Labour, said: "I don't think we can afford to lose the green spaces that we've still got in Morecambe."

Councillors then voted to reject the application, eight votes to six.

Beyond Radio has approached Oakmere Homes for comment.

Read more: New date announced for decision on controversial housing plans near Torrisholme Barrow - Beyond Radio

INTERVIEW: Residents "very disappointed" as controversial housing near Torrisholme Barrow could still go ahead - Beyond Radio

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