A city councillor has hit back at claims of “sneaky subterfuge” after green belt sites in two villages were named as possible land for house building.
Janice Hanson wrote to us in response to a letter we published from a member of the public.
Dr AT Fear accused Lancaster City Council of “quietly overturning a transparent and democratic vote at a time of year when many people are on holiday and won’t notice”.
This came after fields in Bolton-le-Sands and Slyne-with-Hest were named on a list of 39 possible sites for development – eight months after the council voted to remove the land from their major housing blueprint the Local Plan.
Residents had run a campaign to keep the ‘GB4’ site out of the Local Plan fearing that new housing between the two villages would ruin their individual identities and create a ‘Bolton-le-Slyne’.
Coun Hanson, cabinet member for regeneration and planning, wrote: “Dr Fear imagines that a shadowy ‘cabal’ sits in darkened rooms making decisions about local housing policy, overturning decisions at whim. The truth I’m afraid is not quite so fanciful and is, in fact, the complete opposite.
“The preparation of a Local Plan has to go through a number of stages set down in law which gives all parties the opportunity to have their say.
“The council, having listened to local residents opposing the GB4 allocation, took the view that the site should not be included in the consultation version of the Local Plan.
“However, it must now follow set down processes and consider the counter objections to that decision from parties who want the land to be allocated, and also accuse the council of not providing for enough housing land.”
Coun Hanson also said there would have to be “exceptional circumstances” for the council to put the land back into the Local Plan.
“The council must follow this procedure if it is to have its community engagement process for the Local Plan found to be sound,” she said.
“What this does not suggest is that there is a strong likelihood that the GB4 site will find its way back into the plan.
“There would have to be exceptional circumstances to change our view, but we all have to recognise that once submitted to the Government the Local Plan has to undertake an Examination in Public.
“During this process the development industry has the right to challenge the council’s decision and ask the Planning Inspectorate to include the site in the plan.
“This is part of the national planning process and it is quite unjust of Dr Fear to suggest that it arises from the council having some motive of its own to change the decision it made last December.”
Meanwhile David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, wrote to the council voicing the community’s dismay over GB4 being possibly reintroduced into the Local Plan.
Mr Morris said he received a reply from the planning department assuring him that GB4 would not be included in the Local Plan.
“I have always been strongly opposed to building on Greenbelt 4 and have presented a residents petition to Parliament in the past,” he said.
“I am pleased that Greenbelt 4 is not included in the current local plan as other more suitable alternatives have been found.
“I have written to the city council to ensure that this will remain the case and they have assured me that there are no plans to include Greenbelt 4 in the draft local plan.”
For more on this story see HERE.