‘Muddy field halted planning site visit’

News story
News story

PLANNERS gave scant attention to a controversial proposed building site because they didn’t want to get their shoes mucky, it has been claimed.

Members of the planning committee have been accused of failing to carry out a satisfactory site visit to land which would house a major Standish development because of conditions underfoot.

Independent ward member George Fairhurst - who was watching the group of councillors from the roadside - told a council planning meeting the party spent “only two or three minutes at the very most” studying the terrain.

And he said the short nature of the visit meant the decision on the application should be delayed until after a rerun.

But councillors including chairman of planning Paul Prescott dismissed his claims, insisting the visit had been valid and pointed out that they were already familiar with the Rectory Farm area because of an earlier site visit for another application.

The committee went on to unanimously approve HIMOR Group’s outline application for 150 new homes on the site.

Coun Fairhurst, co-founder of the anti new housing development Save Standish group, insisted that the controversial decision “should be void” because of the “totally unsatisfactory” site visit.

Coun Fairhurst told the hearing: “The committee decided at the last meeting that this application should have a site visit but that, Mr Chairman, wasn’t a site visit.

“They got off the coach, walked around the back of it then came back to the front of it and got on again.

“It must have been too muddy for them.

“But the committee really should have gone on to the fields to see how the new homes will affect the site of biological interest next door to it, or postponed the application until the land was alright to go on. The edge of the housing site should have been pegged out so that the committee could know what they were looking at. A few years ago I was on a site visit and the gates to the field were still locked so we couldn’t get on the site but we didn’t decide to look over the gate, we postponed the decision for another visit to take place and that is what should be happening this time as well.”

But Labour’s Coun Yvonne Klieve hit back that the site visit had been satisfactory - and she was strongly backed by chairman Coun Prescott.

She said: “A full and proper site visit did take place and I would like to object strongly to the councillor’s comments.

“He is not right at all.”

While Aspull Coun John Hilton, a former chairman of planning, pointed out that the site had been zoned for housing since the 1990s.

A spokesman for victorious developers HIMOR, part of Bill Ainscough’s housing development portfolio of companies, said that the revised housing application was for only half of the land the firm owned at the site.

It was sustainable because of strong public transport links with Wigan.

Included in the scheme were works to “enhance” neighbouring Barrowcroft Wood and make a more valuable facility for the community.