PROPOSALS to build nearly 100 houses on former green belt, with an access road running through safeguarded land have been refused unanimously by the council.

Wain Homes North West sent in the controversial proposals for land west of Mill Lane, on the edge of Newton-le-Willows, earlier this year.

The plans sought permission for 99 houses but drew opposition from residents with 39 objections lodged.

The application had claimed: “The site is located within the urban area of Newton-le-Willows where the principle of development is acceptable”.

However, at a town hall planning committee meeting on Tuesday, case officer Daley Parsonage recommended the proposals be refused.

He said part of the site had been removed from the green belt as part of the Local Plan but the northern part where an access and emergency link road was proposed is safeguarded.

He said policy states that “planning permission for safeguarded sites will only be granted following a future Local Plan update that proposes such development based on the evidence shown and need for additional land or issues with the supply of land identified in the Local Plan.

“Other proposals for housing and employment development of safeguarded sites in the plan period should be refused.

“The proposals require the formation of access and emergency link roads through safeguarded land. It is considered that the proposal is not a form of development necessary for the operation of the existing use of the land” and “is in conflict” with planning policy.

Mr Parsonage said the planned houses would have “poor visual appearance when viewed from Mill lane” and the layout is “considered to be poor”. He said there were a “number of technical matters where insufficient information has been provided”.

This included failing to “ensure satisfactory safe vehicle access” and “sufficient consideration of flood risk” and insufficient landscaping impact on future residents from the impact of noise from the railway and air quality and “no agreement to secure affordable housing”.

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Addressing the committee, Stephen Harris, planning consultant at agents Emery Planning, said the site was an “unusual position” with some being white land and the other half safeguarded land.

He said in pre-application discussions with officers before about the access road coming through the safeguarded land, that it was agreed that ”would be acceptable” adding “it’s disappointing that’s now a reason for refusal.”

Mr Harris said the land “is still safeguarded for development albeit at a later point in time do I don’t see how an access road coming through the safeguarded land would prejudice that coming forward for development.”

“We consider this a sustainable development, we’ve taken on board what the Local Plan says about safeguarded land and the pre-application response, progressed an application and we respectfully disagree with officers’ recommendations for refusal.”  

St Helens Star: The committee refused the plans at the St Helens town hall meetingThe committee refused the plans at the St Helens town hall meeting (Image: Stock)

Kieran Birch, head of planning, at the council said the authority gives advice “in good faith” that “pre-application advice isn’t binding, it’s caveated and we have to consider an application that comes in with all the information that is submitted and in this case”.

Committee chair Cllr Derek Long noted the current application seemed “under-cooked” and added: “I personally take a dim view about large organisations submitting planning applications which aren’t complete for the committee”.

Mr Harris said in terms of the outstanding information “we were hoping they would be submitted as part of this application” and “going forward we’ll resubmit that as part of a resubmission”.

Committee member Cllr Gomez-Aspron, said he would vote to refuse the plans.

He said: “Even if some if the consultation responses were missing and we deferred it will doesn’t solve the issue that they want to build permanent structures through safeguarded land.”

“Whether the road was going to be built anyway in future because you might get houses on that safeguarded plot is irrelevant because you’re still getting permanent structures on safeguarded land. There is no way of getting around that. There is no way on earth you can get an access road in.”

He added: “That’s not refusal because we don’t need houses or there’s pressure on the NHS or the fact there’s not enough school places in Newton, which there is, it’s policy.”

Cllr Richard McCauley said: “It is incumbent on us to respect that (Local) Plan and the policies within that plan.”

Cllr Long added: “I do think there are some deficiencies in that plan and the argument about safeguarded land has substantial weight”.

Committee members voted unanimously to refuse the application.