An “unprecedented attack” by Jake Berry MP

Following the comments from Jake Berry MP about Rossendale Borough Council’s planning department, Cllr Christine Lamb said:

I am writing in response to Jake Berry’s unprecedented attack on Rossendale Council’s Planning Department, who strive always to secure the best and appropriate development within the Borough, within legislation and guidelines

set down by the National Government. This can involve making some difficult decisions and not all development will be considered acceptable. Notwithstanding this the Officers regularly work with developers to secure the right development for the Borough.

I assume Jake’s reference to 80 jobs refers to the appeal decision at Cedar Lodge which, as noted by the Planning Inspector, will provide office accommodation for 4 staff members only.

Jake Berry also commented on the development proposals for the former Bacup Hub site. As a council we are keen to secure new development within the Borough with associated job creation, however this will not come at the expense of securing a high quality development in line with National Planning Policy and the aspirations the Local Authority have for the future of Rossendale. The original submitted scheme for this site incorporated a standard garage design which did not complement the site or the character of the surrounding area. This scheme was refused. However, since this decision the Planning Team have worked with the applicant and their agents to amend the scheme, with the result being a bespoke stone built building
incorporating full height glazing and a good quality landscape scheme.

The development now incorporates a high quality scheme which if constructed will enhance the site and the wider area, and incorporates the type of development this council wants to promote
and secure for Rossendale. We will not be an authority that accepts sub-standard development just because a site has been left derelict by the owners.

The Local Planning Authority have worked very hard to develop a scheme for the regeneration of Rawtenstall Town Centre which has generated a lot of interest, including support from Historic England and the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce. The Council want to bring new investment and employment opportunities within the Town Centre which the new development will secure.

The Secretary of State did refuse the proposed Wind Turbines in the boundary of Rossendale. However, the majority of the costs associated the consideration of the proposals, related to a public enquiry which was a direct result of political pressure for the Secretary of State to call in determination of the application, rather than determination at local level.

The production of a local plan takes a number of years due to the numerous steps and processes dictated by National Government. There have been suggestions that this process will be simplified at national level. The Council’s housing target of 265 dwellings per year was the result of an assessment of housing need calculated by the consultants appointed to assess the borough’s housing need. Hopefully this will reduce to approximately 212 per year if the Government adopt the new calculation for housing need. We await their decision.

In respect of the access road referred to by Jake Berry the issue was that it did need planning permission, and the land owners were made aware of this. This fact was also supported by the Planning Inspector who agreed that the owner should have applied for planning permission. The Inspector did not consider the Council had acted unreasonably in this and did not award any cost against the council. The Local Planning Authority cannot and will not support unauthorised development
within the Borough.

All Planning Authorities work within a strict set of Government regulations and policies. The team are working hard to bring new investment and job opportunities into the Borough.

I consider that our Planning service is first class. Not only is their work being recognised by the Royal Town Planning Institute, winning the North West Planning Excellence Award last year, and the team has been shortlisted for a national prestigious award for Planning Team of the Year, one of only five local authorities in the UK to be shortlisted. They are putting Rossendale on the map both regionally and nationally.

I do not consider this would be the case for a poorly performing planning authority. The finals will be held in London in May and we wish them every success.

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Steve Hughes

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