Chorley Council Planning Committee Decision – Charter Lane Site, Charnock Richard

20 Jan 2023 | Planning Decisions

A Summary Statement from Chorley Labour

Chorley Labour Councillors are frustrated that, as a result of legal advice received, they are unable to maintain the Council’s opposition to the plan to develop 76 no. affordable dwellings at Charter Lane, Charnock Richard.

Central government requirements to develop huge housing numbers in Chorley and in particular more affordable housing, coupled with the lack of any Highways objections from Lancashire County Council Highways, means that if Chorley continues to fight the appeal from developers, it risks incurring over £100,000 of costs for all Chorley residents.

Whilst local ward councillors Alan Whittaker and Arjun Singh continued to argue in support of Charnock Richard residents, councillors from all parties had to accept legal advice and voted formally to withdraw their support for the reasons for refusal.

This is yet another example of where local democracy has been ignored and the imposition of top-down housing numbers by Central Government on Chorley is damaging our communities. Chorley Labour has demanded changes to be made. Unfortunately, it will not come soon enough to help this situation.


Full Detailed Statement Below

Chorley Council Planning Committee has unfortunately been forced to withdraw its support of the previous reasons for the refusal of the planning application ref. 21/00327/FULMAJ (appeal ref. APP/D2320/W/22/3313413), on land east of Charter Lane, Charnock Richard. This is a result of legal advice received and the risk of incurring significant costs to residents of Chorley Borough.


An appeal has been submitted to the Planning Inspectorate by Conlon Holdings Ltd. against the Council’s decision, made on 24 June 2022, to refuse a planning application (ref:21/00327/FULMAJ) submitted by them for the erection of 76no. affordable dwellings on a site east of Charter Lane, Charnock Richard.

There were two reasons originally detailed for the refusal, based on Highways concerns and also relating to the scale of the planned development.

As is usual when an appeal is submitted, the council reviewed the case to identify the approach to defending the decision made by the Planning Committee. It was identified that the issue of scale would be outweighed by the requirement to deliver central government housing target numbers, in light of similar appeals recently in Eccleston and elsewhere. Furthermore, as Lancashire County Council Highway Services raised no objection to the proposal, this means the Council needed to identify other expert witnesses to provide representation in the Public Inquiry.

Planning officers have been in contact with Planning, Highways and Legal experts to gain support for the Council in the forthcoming Public Inquiry where the appeal will be heard.

As a result of expert and legal advice received to date that details that a defence against the two detailed reasons for refusal would be difficult, there were two potential options left available to the Council at this stage:

  • Option 1 – Withdraw the reasons for the refusal; the appeal would then likely proceed via written representations, rather than Public Inquiry. The Council may lose the appeal, but this process would not require significant representative involvement and any cost award would be significantly lower than option 2 below
  • Option 2 – Proceed with the Planning Inquiry and defend the reasons for refusal – this would be without any technical experts as they have advised that they are unable to defend the Council as the application is compliant with technical and planning law. The Council would therefore likely lose the appeal and potentially be required to pay the appellant’s costs, forecast to be in excess of £100,000. This cost is based on an estimate of the costs of barristers and technical experts who would likely be called to give evidence to the Inquiry.

The advice received by the Council indicates significant issues for Chorley Council in defending the reasons for refusal. For example, the third-party highways consultant utilised to cross-check Lancashire County Council highways reports indicates that they do not believe the highways reason for refusal could be sustained. Planning and legal experts engaged, both raised issues with the other reason for refusal, highlighting for example, the lack of a five-year housing land supply and the shortage of affordable housing in the borough.

This means that, in this case, there is no real prospect of successfully defending the reasons for refusal. Legal advice, therefore, is that the Council should withdraw the reasons for refusal rather than seek to maintain a defence, which is very unlikely to succeed and may well risk an adverse costs award. It was therefore recommended to proceed with Option 1 above.

There are a number of locally interested parties, including the Charnock Richard Residents Association and Charnock Richard Parish Council who are considering their approach to involvement in the Public Inquiry. At this stage, they have not identified any expert witnesses or appointed an advocate to represent them. Should they continue to contest the appeal, the council will continue to engage with them as interested parties and seek to support them with the appeal process as effectively as possible despite the decision to withdraw formally.

With a heavy heart, members of the planning committee from all parties voted to take the decision to avoid punitive costs potentially being levied against all residents of Chorley. Local ward representatives Alan Whittaker and Arjun Singh argued robustly in support of those residents directly affected and for the Council to continue to support contesting the appeal despite legal advice to the contrary.

As we have seen time and time again in Chorley and our villages, the Government imposed housing numbers and the lack of Highways support from Lancashire County Council have resulted in the Council being yet again in a position where we are unable to support the will of residents locally. If we do not follow the law, not only will it incur massive costs for all the residents of Chorley, we also face the real possibility of losing the associated planning conditions negotiated in consideration of local residents’ requirements.

We have asked the Minister responsible Michael Gove to allow Chorley a short period of freedom from unwanted planning appeals whilst new legislation is brought in possibly later this year. This request was again rejected as recently as December 2022, unlike similar dispensations that have been granted to areas in the South of England. We have expressed our residents’ anger and frustration to the government and highlighted the fundamentally un-democratic result of government policy.

We will continue to fight all unnecessary and unwanted development in the face of an intransigent and unhelpful government.

Chorley Labour Party

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