On 15th December Rossendale Council voted in favour of adopting the Rossendale Local Plan. This includes the allocation of 456 houses in Edenfield of which 400 are on Green Belt land west of Market Street.
The Forum together with the Edenfield Village Residents Association has fought against the Edenfield allocation for nearly four years but the Council has consistently ignored our challenges including proposals for alternative (and less painful) methods of meeting the housing requirement. The Inspectors’ report approved the Plan despite the serious infrastructure consequences (particularly on roads and schools) of the proposed 50% increase in housing in Edenfield raised repeatedly by the Forum and others and which are not resolved in the Plan. The intention is to kick the can down the road and hopefully sort these out later!
We have no doubt that, if the Council had submitted an alternative Plan incorporating many of the Forum’s proposals, the Inspectors would have approved that Plan – which would have been better for Rossendale and particularly for Edenfield.
In the end the approval by the Inspectors of the submitted Plan and the fear put about by the Council of what might happen if the Plan was not approved was enough to convince the majority of Councillors to vote for adoption. We thank those councillors who appreciated the alternatives and were brave enough to vote against.
Our MP, Jake Berry, had supported us by requesting the Secretary of State for Housing to call in the Plan which would have meant the Council having to reconsider the Plan and take into account the Forum’s objections. Shortly before the Council meeting we got the news that the Secretary had considered the request but had turned it down. It was not a good day! Our thanks go to Jake for his support.
So, where do we go from here? There is still a lot that needs to happen before any building can start. Developers have to submit detailed planning applications and solutions have to be found (or not!) to the infrastructure issues. There will be opportunities for residents to influence developments and the Edenfield Neighbourhood Plan will be very important in this.
Thank you to all Edenfield residents and others who have supported us over the last four years. We hope you will continue to support the work of the Forum including challenges to developments in Edenfield. If you are an Edenfield resident or work in the village and are not already a member of the Forum you can join by following this link: https://edenfieldcommunityforum.uk/join-us/. There is no cost or obligation.
A decision is to be made by the Council on 15th December on whether to adopt the Rossendale Local Plan which includes the building of 400 houses on Green Belt Land in Edenfield. The Forum have challenged this proposal over the last four years and dispute the recently issued Inspectors’ report. We issued a press release early this week which summarised the reasons why development on this Green Belt land is not justified. Unfortunately, some press articles published this week do not include many of these reasons.
See below for the full story…
456 homes proposed in Edenfield Green Belt – Council decision imminent
D-day looms for the plan to release Green Belt for housing in Edenfield. The inspectors’ final report, published last week, approves the scheme. Now Rossendale Council expect to adopt their Local Plan on 15th December, more than four years after the controversial proposals emerged.
The council propose 50% growth for the village, compared with 10% growth for the whole borough. Over 1,200 objections were lodged during the public consultation in summer 2018.
Under the plan 456 homes would be built in the village with 400 on the greenfield site between the A56 bypass and Market Street/Blackburn Road. The council says it is forced to release this site from green belt, as government figures require 3,191 homes by March 2036.
But campaigners dispute that calculation and say green belt is not needed for development at all.
At every stage Edenfield Community Neighbourhood Forum challenged the disproportionate level of growth and the substantial loss of Green Belt.
Forum chair Ian Lord explained, “National planning policy emphasises the permanence of green belt; its boundaries should only be altered where exceptional circumstances are fully evidenced and justified.
“In July 2017 the council proposed 3,795 new homes during 2019-2034. Revised proposals in August 2018 reduced that to 3,180. The green belt sites should have been removed from the Plan at that stage.
“The plan was submitted in March 2019 but was so poorly prepared that the Inspectors demanded more information which was not finally provided until this year. As more than two years had passed since submission, the local housing need had to be re-calculated. The new figure is 2,775 over 15 years, a reduction of 405 homes, sufficient to remove the large green belt site.
“The council are now extending the plan by two years to 2036. It is also adding the past two years’ housing shortfall to the 15-year target, although the way to address shortfall should be to accelerate delivery in the next five years. We suspect this is an attempt to justify development on Edenfield’s green belt.
“The allocated, committed and completed sites can yield 3,209 homes. It is realistic to expect 420 more from small sites and other windfalls, town centre regeneration, and re-purposing sites no longer suitable for employment. In total, sites for over 3,600 homes are available. The housing need can therefore be satisfied without resorting to green belt.
“Additionally, the forum has identified non-green belt sites for up to 2,760 homes that the council has wrongly ruled out.”
Mr. Lord added: “The forum recognises the need for housing and doesn’t object to proportionate growth in Edenfield. But green belt is for everyone, not just local residents. It is meant to be permanent. There is simply no justification for destroying it to meet an exaggerated housing requirement.”
Mr Lord questioned the suitability of the site next to the by-pass; “As well as the green belt there are serious issues around highways infrastructure, education, cultural heritage and land stability, all unresolved.
“The forum’s transport consultants are concerned about local road capacity and problematic site access. Access on Market Street is proposed, but any alteration to layout is likely to affect residents who rely on street parking. The council just says there will be a transport assessment of the Blackburn Road/Market Street corridor.
“The report skates over the difficulties. Even the agents for Peel L&P, one of the site promoters, now say its allocation is unsound for want of evidence that a highway mitigation scheme is achievable and affordable. The can has been kicked down the road for this and other matters such as how many extra primary school places will be provided, how the setting of the parish church, a grade II* – listed building with parts dating back to 1614, will be enhanced and whether difficult ground conditions prejudice the viability of development. These are all crucial issues, which we raised and which the examination should have fully explored.
“We are dismayed that our arguments have simply not been addressed but we hope that at this late stage the council will see reason and protect the green belt. Otherwise the plan could be challenged in court and set aside as not being sound,” concluded Mr Lord.
6th December 2021
Rossendale Draft Local Plan
Following the provisional acceptance by the Inspectors that Green Belt land can be released for development we met with our MP, Jake Berry, in late August. Jake then wrote to both the Secretary of State for Housing and the Inspectors expressing his concern that Green Belt land was being allocated for development despite government regulations that Green Belt land should not be built on if there is sufficient non-Green Belt land available. Both letters were acknowledged but without a constructive response.
In view of this and recent comments from Boris Johnson and Michael Gove that Green Belt should not be built on and brownfield development should be prioritised we met with Jake again in October. Jake confirmed his full support and belief in the challenges we have submitted and said that he would do all in his power to prevent development on Green Belt land in Rossendale. He has now made a a direct request to Michael Gove as Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities to “call in” the Plan. If the Secretary of State agrees that the Plan conflicts with national policy he is able to call it in which means that he will appoint an Inspector to carry out an Inquiry.
In September the Council published their Main Modifications to the draft Local Plan which, not surprisingly following the Inspectors’ comments, did not make any changes to the proposed building of 456 houses in Edenfield. There followed a six week consultation period during which we submitted detailed representations supporting our case. Later in October the Council published all the representations they had received. The Main Modifications and all the representations made can be accessed through the Local Examination page of the Council website in Examination library 12:
The representations include some interesting and positive comments including:
– Turley on behalf of Peel (EL12.012e – from page 1253). They say parts of the Plan are unsound including the H62 (formerly H72) allocation which is the 400 houses on the land west of Market Street. Peel are one of the three promoters of this site. They say that H62 “has not been proven to be developable at this point owing to significant uncertainties around the practical delivery and viability of the highway mitigation which is now acknowledged by policy H62 as being needed to deliver the allocation”. They have even commissioned a report by traffic consultants which throws doubt on whether the problems are capable of being resolved.
– National Highways (previously Highways England) (EL12.012a) are still insisting on a geotechnical survey on H62.
– Rossendale Civic Trust (EL12.012a page 213) argue against the loss of views and farmland.
– Roman Summer (EL12.012b,c,d) who are the planning consultants acting for Edenwood Mill have submitted over 500 pages which give great details on the proposals for the site. Initially 47 houses were proposed for the site but this has been increased to 66 by including the adjoining Green Belt land to the north east under Wood Lane.
We have recently discovered that the Inspectors’ final report will be published very soon and also that the Council are proposing to adopt the draft Local Plan at their meeting on 15th December. Once we have seen the Inspectors’ report we will decide on what further action to date. It is extremely disappointing that the Council have given very little time for the public to review the report before such an important meeting.
Edenfield Neighbourhood Plan
Our work on the Neighbourhood Plan is temporarily paused as we concentrate our efforts on challenging the Draft Local Plan.
Chatterton Hey field
Highways England (now called National Highways) used the field for access when they were doing work on the bypass embankment. That work has now finished but the Methodist Church was able to arrange for HE to put up a gate and fencing to stop unauthorised vehicles. The Church are happy to let pedestrians (and dogs!) continue to use the field.
Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP)
This Plan is being prepared by Lancashire County Council in partnership with Rossendale Borough Council and Hyndburn Borough Council who would like input from interested parties to help shape the Plan. There is an upcoming public consultation and the Forum has been asked to register an interest which we have now done.
Minutes from the management committee meeting held on 2nd August 2021
The Inspectors’ post hearings letter mentioned in our last update now been published on the Council website.
It is not good news for Edenfield. The Inspectors have provisionally accepted the Council’s position that there are exceptional circumstances to justify the release of Green Belt land for development and so the 456 houses allocated to Edenfield in the Plan will be unchanged. The Forum has long argued that there is no need to release Green Belt for development as there are more than enough brownfield and greenfield sites available in the Borough. We have supported our arguments with an enormous amount of detail but all of this seems to have been ignored.
The letter also specifically mentions Housing Allocation H72 which covers the three sites west of Market Street with a total allocation of 400 houses. There is an acknowledgment that there are issues related to heritage, schooling and highways but that these can be addressed when the Plan is updated. These are all issues raised by the Forum in our representations on the Plan so we await the proposals.
Needless to say we are extremely disappointed with the Inspector’s comments but the fight is far from over and we are now exploring how best to continue our challenge to the proposed over-development of Edenfield
The Council have also published “Potential Compensation Measures for Green Belt Release” which includes proposed measures to compensate Edenfield should a lot of land in the village be released from Green Belt for development. There is a public consultation on this document which ends on 28th July.
Both of these documents and other information related to the Local Plan can also be accessed through the Local Examination page on the Council website:
Rossendale Draft Local Plan
It took a lot longer than expected for the Council to complete their responses to the Inspectors’ Schedule of Actions which had been issued after the Examination Hearings in October 2019. They were eventually completed in February of this year with the consultation on them finishing on 22nd March. The Forum has reviewed all the responses in detail and submitted comprehensive representations to the Council on all which are relevant to Edenfield.
The Council’s responses to the Schedule of Actions are available to view in Examination Library 8 on their website:
The consultation representations on these responses including those made by the Forum are available to view in Examination Library 9:
On 2nd June the Council published Housing and Employment Land Updates with a two week consultation. These Updates have been produced to take into account changes to the National Planning methodology for the calculation of housing need which is the number of homes to be provided in the Local Plan. Because it is more than two years since the draft Plan was submitted to the Inspectors the Council can no longer rely on the housing need figure in the draft. The Council’s proposal is to make only a small change to the number of homes to be built from 3,180 to 3,191 but the time period is increased from 15 years to 17 years. Again the Forum reviewed these and submitted detailed representations as part of the consultation process. The Updates and all of the consultation representations are available to view in Examination Library 10:
The next stage in this long drawn out process is for the Inspectors’ to issue a post Hearings letter which is expected soon. Following that the Council will publish their proposed Main Modifications to the Local Plan which will go to another consultation.
Edenfield Neighbourhood Plan
We eventually received the Council’s comments on the draft Neighbourhood Plan in January. We have now reviewed these in detail and have responded.
We are now working on updating the draft Plan to take into account these comments and make it ready for the Regulation 14 public consultation.
Annual General Meeting
We have still not been able to hold an AGM since the meeting scheduled for March 2020 was postponed. due to Covid. Hopefully restrictions will be lifted during July so that we will be able to arrange a meeting for later in the summer.
General Meetings are only open to members of the Forum but anyone who lives or works in Edenfield can join – just complete the application form on this website.
Chatterton Hey Field is at the bottom of Exchange Street and is owned by the Methodist Church. The Church has let us know that in the coming weeks Highways England will be doing drainage work on the southbound carriageway of the A56 bypass and they will be using part of the field for a compound for vehicles and equipment. A temporary track will be laid from the bottom of Exchange Street to the compound further down the field.
The Church are well aware that the field is well used by residents and they have been assured by Highways England that precautions will be in place to minimise the risk of accidents.
Do not panic if you see construction activity on the field – they are not building houses!