In a quiet, leafy hamlet to the south of Lancaster, unrest is setting in.
For in a field currently being grazed by sheep, plans are afoot for a new development of luxury housing.
There are in fact two separate applications for a total of 18 new homes in Aldcliffe, which, residents say, will have a devastating effect on the landscape, and open the floodgates for more.
And the fears don’t just belong to those in the hamlet, but also to Lancaster residents who go there to enjoy the peace and tranquility it offers just minutes from the hustle and bustle of the city.
In Over Kellet, Galgate and Halton too, tensions are running high.
Residents in each village have just been presented with proposals for around 70 new homes, all to be built on greenfield land.
And in Lancaster city centre, residents on The Ridge are attempting to fight what they see as the destruction of the last bit of public green space they have, following plans for up to 70 new homes on Ridge Hill Green.
The communities’ concerns are being echoed by Lancaster City Coun Tim Hamilton-Cox, who has challenged the current figures for housing need in the Lancaster district.
Coun Hamilton-Cox argues that there is a conflict between housing targets and housing need, and that the figures just don’t add up.
It is recognised however that there is a need for new affordable homes, both in the Lancaster district and the country as a whole.
He said: “It’s the amount of land that’s being allocated that is the problem, and the concern is that we over allocate and end up building on a lot of green field land.
“We should be looking at the amount of land that’s being allocated very carefully.”
Lancaster City Council is currently in the process of drawing up a Local Plan for housing in the district, informed by a survey by Turley Associates - indicating a need for around 12,000 new homes before 2031.
The council said its current housing target is 400 homes per year and new planning guidance requires councils to make an allowance for the backlog of homes not built during the recession.
A spokesman said: “The council has not decided yet what it’s future target up to 2031 should be in its new Local Plan and will be asking Turley to recalculate their advice to the city council once the new national household projections have been released this autumn.”
Currently 3,220 dwellings in the district have planning permission, with 2,626 realistically available to start in the next five years.
The spokesman added: “Planning decisions do however have to consider whether proposals conflict with other parts of planning guidance and simply arguing that there is a shortage of housing land in the district at a particular time, does not mean that technical and design objections, or proven harm to the environment can be overridden when planning applications for housing developments are being considered.”
The figures however have been criticised both within and outside the council as being based on inaccurate assessments of the population changes to be expected.
Coun Hamilton-Cox claims there is no evidence of “under-delivery” of houses, and that based on current Office for National Statistics (ONS) projections of an increase in population of 3,625 between 2011 and 2021, the actual target would be an average 173 homes per year.
He said: “Because of uncertainties about these projections some flexibility or buffer needs to be added to this base target. If a 20 per cent buffer were included, the target increases to delivering an average of 207 new homes per year.”
Of course the calculations aren’t that simple, and Coun Hamilton-Cox has prepared a motion for a selection of councillors to consider, essentially asking them to adopt the new figures.
He added: “I think we ought to plan for a realistic view of the future and keep reviewing it. Rents have dropped over the last two years, that’s a good proxy of demand, but there is this five year picture, which is the basis of our immediate fears.”
Coun Hamilton-Cox added brownfield land should be given priority, such as creating more student properties within the city centre, freeing up homes for families and non-students just outside the city centre.
Tim Dant, from Aldcliffe, said the proposals for four bedroomed luxury houses will do nothing to meet local housing need, and are not part of the Local Plan.
He said: “They are clearly speculative developments by landowners who see the government’s knee jerk response to the country’s housing need as an opportunity to cash in on land that is clearly not designated for housing by local development plans.
“We hope that local councillors will recognise that meeting local housing need is something that must be properly planned for and that rushing to approve these speculative proposals will simply spoil the character that makes the area a delightful leisure amenity for Lancastrians. Aldcliffe is a popular route for walkers, runners and cyclists who are getting out of the Lancaster urban area onto the Lune estuary multi-use path.
“Separately each development will change the ambience of this quiet hamlet and greenfield area so close to Lancaster centre.
“Together they will begin a change the area that will turn it into a dormitory - both proposals will surely be only the beginning; once initial approval is won there will be no reason to resist further development of each field.”
The plans are due to before the council on November 10.
A proposal for 72 houses on 6.84 acres of farmland to the east of Over Kellet has been submitted.
It is not land allocated as part of the Local Plan, but has been described as being “deliverable” in 1-5 years, say residents.
Dr Chris Pogson, who lives in Kirkby Lonsdale Road, said that there were already properties for sale in Over Kellet.
He said: “The villagers are strongly opposed to this application which seeks to increase the number of houses in the village by 20 per cent.
“The villagers are supported by their local councillor and MP David Morris is taking a special interest, believing this development to be ill-informed and mistaken in principle.
“If passed, this application will open the possibility of other small villages also being ‘developed’ in this way.
“The plan has many problems involving waste disposal, road access, non-sustainability and the proximity of great crested newts, a protected species.”
A proposal for around 70 houses on land off the Forgewood estate has been put forward.
No formal planning application has been submitted, but community consultations have taken place, outlining the proposals.
Mr Hartley, who lives in Forgewood Drive said: “Halton has had over a hundred new homes built on brownfield sites in the last few years.
“There are concerns from many residents about the impact on the local school, road safety throughout the village, reduction in wildlife - deer, buzzards. David Morris didn’t want to know.
“There are 10 greens (on the council) who should be fighting harder for our green spaces and the attendance of councillors is shameful which enables a minority to over rule the needs of the citizens.
“As a community we need to raise awareness; we can fight greedy landowners but we need to be organised and communicate with residents.
“We have set up a Facebook group called Halton on housing in Halton to raise more awareness.”
MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, Eric Ollerenshaw, said: “In Aldcliffe, cumulatively, the applications could change the whole nature of the area.
“The council has got to get in place a statutory plan, and some numbers in place, so they have the capacity to say no to developers.
“In the villages, it’s the nature of the housing and its effect on infrastructure that is causing the most concern.”
MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, David Morris, said: “Schemes such as the application in Over Kellet which increase the population of an area by a quarter are not acceptable and far surpass any need in an area.
“As the Member of Parliament Individual planning applications do not fall under my direct remit, however in very large housing applications which will affect the community, I would look at the application and write a letter of objection to support my constituents.
“I have had numerous residents in Over Kellet contact me and have kept me fully informed of the application in their area. As yet I have received no correspondence from Halton only the developer asking for my help and support, which I declined.”