Campaigners are ‘rent-a-mob’ jibe

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The deputy leader of Lancaster City Council has called protesters against plans to build 72 new homes at Bolton-le-Sands a ‘rent-a-mob’.

Councillor Janice Hanson said some campaigners went too far by making personal written attacks against her and fellow councillors.

Outline planning permission was granted last November for the houses on greenfield land between the Coastal Road and Lancaster Canal.

But nearby residents lodged a 1,000-name petition with the council opposing development of the eight-acre site and received backing from David Morris MP to take their fight to Parliament.

“There was uproar over the development in Bolton-le-Sands, we got disgusting emails from people,” said Coun Hanson.

“It’s scary when you get ‘rent-a-mob’ coming to planning (meetings) and they have a right go. It puts committee members off.

“But I suppose it’s understandable. They don’t want it and are making their voices heard.

“It’s difficult. If you live in an area where a row of houses are going to be built behind you, you won’t want it. Nobody would.

“But we haven’t met any of our quotas from the Government. They will be down on us like a ton of bricks. We need to build more houses.”

Peter Griffin, a resident from the Coastal Road Action Group, refuted Coun Hanson’s allegations.

“We did everything properly,” he said. “We certainly have asked questions and I’ve no doubt we will cause the council more problems.”

Residents raised concerns over drainage and possible flooding problems, as well as road safety and emergency vehicle access.

They also lodged 12 complaints against 10 councillors after planning permission was given.

These went before the council’s standards committee, who found councillors had not breached the code of conduct.

Developers Oakmere Homes (formerly Briery Homes) had indicated it could make a detailed planning application for a first phase of the scheme, meaning the principle of development would have to be reconsidered.

Meanwhile Lancaster City Council has announced plans for a public consultation on their new Draft Local Plan. This plan identifies sites districtwide for possible new housing developments.

Proposals include up to 400 new homes on greenfield sites Grab Lane near Lancaster Leisure Park, up to 900 new homes at Whinney Carr between the A6 and Lancaster Canal, and new housing at Bailrigg for Lancaster University employees.

Brownfield sites include Luneside East near the Quay, which has been levelled in readiness for around 140 homes.

Luneside West, Lancaster Moor North, Nightingale Hall Farm, a car park at Lancaster Leisure Park and Frontierland have also been earmarked for possible future building.

“Lancaster has an expanding population and further growth is expected,” said Maurice Brophy, planning and housing policy manager. A lot of people want to live in the district but can’t due to the lack of affordable housing.”

The Government gave Lancaster City Council a target of building 400 new houses a year, but only 99 were built in 2011 and 79 in 2010.

“Developers haven’t been able to borrow the money to create developments and at the same time people haven’t been as able to borrow money to buy the houses,” said Mr Brophy.

“We didn’t expect to be allocating greenfield sites for a good while yet but due to the downturn we have to provide a steady supply of housing sites.

“We can’t just wait for a better day.

“If anyone has any suggestions for other sites where we can build, we would be glad to hear them.”

The Local Draft Plan also includes proposals for improvements to other parts of the district including Morecambe town centre.