Pickles in U-turn over Lancashire homes

Plans for a major greenfield housing scheme in Lancashire - along with a link road passing through green belt - have been allowed after an about-turn by communities secretary Eric Pickles.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles
In a decision letter last week, the secretary of state said that the Queensway scheme at Lytham St Annes and an associated link road to the M55 motorway are "in accordance with national policy, including the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)".

Developer Kennington PT Partnership had appealed against Fylde Borough Council’s non-determination of plans for 1,150 homes, provision of land for a school and 34 hectares of parkland at Lytham Moss.

The site was not allocated for development in Fylde Borough Council’s 2005 local plan. But Pickles found that the Queensway scheme’s contribution towards the area’s housing needs, including affordable housing, should be given considerable weight.

He also found that the wider planning benefits of building the link road, which would be paid for by the housing scheme, amounted to "very special circumstances" that would justify the harm caused to the openness of the green belt.

The letter said that blocking the proposal would thwart national policy requirements for schemes to be approved where plans are out of date and councils are unable to demonstrate a five-year housing supply. "These requisites have recently been reinforced in the NPPF," it added.

Pickles noted that Fylde Council agreed with the appellants that it currently only has a housing land supply of 1.4 years. He was also concerned that the council’s core strategy is unlikely to appear until the end of 2014 at the earliest.

Two years ago, Pickles rejected the proposal against an inspector’s advice, finding that it would conflict with local plan policies and restrict opportunities for assessing the merits of other greenfield locations through the local development framework process.

At the time, the secretary of state described Queensway as "a less than ideal location in terms of connectivity with the rest of the settlement". He also said that he could not give any weight to the benefits of the link road.

That decision was quashed by the High Court in December 2010. A second inquiry was held this January by inspector Philip Asquith, who agreed with the previous inspector that permission should be granted.

Fylde Council cabinet member for planning and development Trevor Fiddler said: "We know we need extra houses in the St Annes area, but we had wanted the Queensway site to be considered alongside other potential development sites through the local plan process.

"On the plus side, we have to bear in mind that the proposed link road to the M55 has been approved. It will be of great advantage to residents, although there is the penalty of the Queensway development to pay for it."

The decision letter (DCS Number 100-077-723) is available from DCS Ltd, call 01452 835 820 or email dcs@haymarket.com