A huge swathe of land on the border with Blackpool should be used to build a “new town” including more than 1,500 new homes for Fylde, community leaders have said.
The plea comes amid fears developers in the Fylde borough area are ‘land banking’ large tracts of green space, thanks to a planning loophole which could leave the area with more new homes than it needs.
Whyndyke Farm, which lies opposite Little Marton Windmill off Preston New Road, looks like part of Blackpool but lies within Fylde borough’s boundaries.
And councillors in Fylde believe it should be used to meet the borough’s house building targets, rather than sacrificing open countryside.
Kirkham councillors Liz Oades and Elaine Silverwood, along with other opposition councillors on Fylde Council, are battling to persuade the authority to prioritise this land for house-building in the emerging local plan.
But at the moment developers are trying instead to build hundreds of new houses on agricultural fields in the borough.
A decision is currently awaited on the latest planning inquiry into a bid by Bloor Homes and Gladman Developments to build 320 homes at Little Tarnbrick Farm on Blackpool Road, Kirkham. Many councillors say they feel their hands are tied and they are being forced to approve such developments in order to meet house-building targets set by government.
Crucial to the future is the Fylde local plan, currently out for consultation, which will determine which land is earmarked primarily for future housing.
Coun Oades says Whyndyke Farm has the capacity for up to 1,500 houses with new roads, schools and shops.
She said; “Fylde is a lovely place to live and we believe we should preserve our countryside and develop other land instead.
“Developing Whyndyke Farm would help both Blackpool and Fylde meet their housing needs, and we are asking why can’t we develop Whyndyke sooner. Let’s create a little town there and then we can preserve the character of our existing towns and villages.”
The call comes amid increasing ‘land banking’ fears in the borough.
The set number of homes to be built in the area is closely watched by the Planning Inspectorate.
But perversely, that number is not reduced by planning permissions granted – the number only falls when developers start building.
And fears have been raised green space is being reserved by developers who are happy to get permission and hold the land for development at a later date.
Councillors Oades and Silverwood have raised a series of concerns as the Local Plan goes out to consultation.
The plan earmarks Warton as an area which could grow by 75 per cent.
Coun Oades said: “We’ve now got developers taking a speculative punt all over the place.
“Officers are telling us that because of the Government numbers we have to say yes to almost everything put before us.
“They warn us that if we say no we will be at more inquiries. It really is a mess.”
Coun Silverwood added: “What is happening is they’re just land banking.
“They’re not building anything but have the permission. We can’t make the developers build, but they get the permissions.
“What we worry about is our green countryside that is being targeted.
“Why aren’t the developers being told to develop brownfield sites first?”
And they also want Whyndyke Farm to be considered to help meet the housing targets.
An opposition group of Fylde councillors has produced a ‘minority report’, setting out what they believe should be the priorities for the local plan.
They also say consultation demonstrates the public are in favour of development at Whyndyke Farm.
In the report they say: “We have spoken to the agent of the landowner and he informs us that it will be possible to deliver 100 houses per year, 500 in the first five years and up to a total of 1,500 within the plan period.
“He also informs us that the developer will also supply a school, roads, bus routes, shops, cycle lanes and employment land on the site which will mean that, rather than developing a big housing estate on the edge of town, all facilities will be on site and sustainable.
“He also states that the statutory infrastructure providers are on board with this development and are happy that there will be more than enough capacity in the system.”
But Fylde planners warn there are significant obstacles to development at Whyndyke, including drainage issues.
In the council’s Local Plan documents, they say the site “has some wastewater infrastructure issues” but there is “good access to the primary services in the Blackpool sub-regional centre.”
Planners admit using Whydyke has “the potential to take the pressure off rural areas”, however “the area has drainage problems and infrastructure problems would need to be addressed.”
Land ‘needs to be more than just housing’
Blackpool’s core strategy proposes 150 houses on the area of Whyndyke Farm which lies within its boundaries, which is less than 10 per cent of the site.
The council is not opposed to the development of the land which falls within Fylde, but wants to ensure the right infrastucture is delivered, including roads, schools and employment land.
Steve Matthews, head of housing at Blackpool Council, said: “We are working together with Fylde Council for a solution for both our communities.
“It is important it is a balanced development.”