Caravan site go-ahead

CONTROVERSIAL plans for a 26-plot touring caravan site on farmland near Lancaster have been narrowly approved by councillors at the second time of asking.

The application by Stodday Land Ltd on two parcels of land south of Ashton Hall Cottages, Ashton with Stodday, off the A588, was refused by Lancaster City Council’s planning committee last December.

Opposition included 24 objection letters and two petitions, one signed by 45 people and the other by 13 people.

There were fears extra traffic generated could increase the risk of accidents on the busy A588, with Ripley St Thomas CE Academy.

Other reasons cited for refusal included the impact of noise and light from the site, claims the caravans and any litter left behind would be a blot on the landscape, and fears the drainage system would be unable to cope.

But the developer re-submitted its plan with some minor changes following the adoption of a new National Planning Policy Framework, based upon a presumption in favour of sustainable development.

And the planning committee this week voted 6-5 in favour of the scheme, with one abstention, on the advice of planning officers.

The proposals also included a single-storey facilities building, a cycle link, a road serving the caravans off an existing private access road, lay-bys, landscaping and a wildlife pond.

Changes include the introduction of extra passing places on the access road, but there were still 15 letters of objection, including from Thurnham Parish Council.

Among the opponents of the scheme were residents of the private Ashton Estate, who commissioned a private firm, Sanderson Consulting Engineers, to conduct a traffic survey.

A DVD was also submitted showing vehicles, including a towed caravan, struggling at the access junction, which also serves Ashton Garden Centre.

The firm’s associate director, Bob Greenwood, who addressed the committee, highlighted the A588’s poor accident record, and said the level of visibility at the access off the A588 was below the required standard.

Highways chiefs accepted that visibility failed to meet “desirable minimum standards”, but said it met “absolute minimum” standards, and that previous accidents had not been caused by vehicles using the access.

They also accepted the survey’s finding that a caravan turning left into the site would require the full width of the access, causing problems, but concluded this would not happen often enough to threaten road safety.