Fylde residents reveal the impact of plans on their neighbourhood

Developer Story Homes held an exhibiton over plans for new homes in Wrea Green.  Pictured is David Hayward and Simon McClelland
Developer Story Homes held an exhibiton over plans for new homes in Wrea Green. Pictured is David Hayward and Simon McClelland
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Children wander past a duck pond on their way to school each weekday morning while commuters make their short two mile trip to Warton Aerodrome, where BAE is a major employer.

Neighbours wave and greet each other, often knowing the ins and outs of each others’ lives, while parishioners from the large Grade II listed church hand out welcome packs to new faces.

Coun Frank Andrews next to the development area in Wrea Green

Coun Frank Andrews next to the development area in Wrea Green

But the picturesque Fylde village’s landscape is changing.

Soon, the sound of cricket bats thumping against willow on a warm summer morning will be replaced by the rumble of JCBs trundling towards building sites scattered across the area.

Wrea Green – home of around 1,600 people in 635 homes and winner of Lancashire’s Best Kept Village on 15 occasions – is set to increase in size by an estimated 41 per cent.

Councillors, residents, and the local MP have battled to keep development at bay but the government, faced with a housing shortage, insist is it acceptable.

There will be no benefit and it will make Wrea Green harder to function

Whitehall wants a million homes built across the country by 2020, while the National Housing Federation estimated 974,000 homes were needed between 2011 and 2014.

Although figures from 326 councils showed only 457,490 were built, John Rowson, chairman of the Community Association to Protect Wrea Green (CAPOW), insists the village has had its fair share of new houses earmarked for building.

“Wainhomes is building 54 houses, Redrow is building 55, one approved plot for 25 houses has yet to be sold to a builder, and there are sites where they are smaller developments totalling 10 more houses,” he said.

That’s on top of the vast site off Willow Drive, where Story Homes now has permission to build up to 100 detached and semi-detached properties thanks to the Planning Inspectorate, which upheld the firm’s appeal following a four-day inquiry last month.

John said: “If Lytham or St Annes expanded by 41 per cent in three years, would those residents find it acceptable? Facilities will be overwhelmed, more flooding will occur, the roads will get even busier and more dangerous, and primary school children will have to attend school elsewhere.

“The peace and tranquility will be significantly eroded, particularly during many years of construction.

“Villagers are already quitting a sinking ship but more houses can make it more difficult to sell as developers offer incentives to move home.”

Ribby with Wrea Endowed Church of England Primary School, currently rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, has 153 children on roll as of November 2014, the education watchdog said.

Conservative councillor Frank Andrews said the small Christian school is already full but would ‘no doubt accommodate’ new pupils.

He said: “By my estimation, there are something like 237 to 241 new homes being built in what was a 635-home village.

“This is a huge increase. We will cease to become a village where almost everybody knows three or four other people, so the wonderful neighbourly cohesiveness will be harder to maintain.

“This is will degrade Wrea Green. There will be no benefit and it will make Wrea Green harder to function.

“Roads will be busier, drainage will become worse, and the bus service is already being reduced.”

He continued: “Apart from my role as a councillor I’m a member of the church, and one of the things the church has done is give welcome packs to each new person to welcome them.

“We are against new housing but not new people. We will endeavour to make them feel welcome.

“We hope they will become part of the village but it’s hugely difficult when you increase the size of the village by a third.”

Story Homes’ development planner David Hayward pledged to ‘make improvements that will benefit the local community.’

He said: “These include providing traffic calming measures on Willow Drive, and a zebra crossing on Ribby Road close to St Nicholas Church.

“Story Homes will also provide funding for five years to support bus service 61; make a financial contribution towards the cost of local secondary education; and provide an equipped playground on the site.

“Drainage on the site will be based on sustainable drainage principles that will need to be approved by the Local Planning Authority.”

Wyre Council has approved 5,109 homes recently, Coun Andrews said.

He blamed current rules for allowing ‘land banking’, where developers gain planning approval but don’t build any homes, forcing local authorities to continue approving more because they can only tick off finished homes against their housing need.

Coun Andrews added: “The UK’s biggest housebuilders have 615,152 unused plots but only 66,881 new homes were sold last year.

“Land banking needs to be either stopped or councils should be allowed to calculate their five-year supply on approvals rather than completions.”

Fylde MP Mark Menzies wrote to the inspector to say the 100-home development is not in keeping with the village’s tranquil character.

He said: “Unfortunately, without Fylde Council having a local plan or five-year housing supply in place they appear to be at the mercy of developers who can put forward a raft of smaller schemes without providing the required services and infrastructure to go with increased population.

“That isn’t the fault of the local council as they were put under a house-building moratorium by the previous Labour government, which has meant the authority has struggled to catch up.

“I wrote to the planning minister about this issue recently and received a commitment that this would be taken into account when Fylde’s calculation was done.

“I have written to him again over this decision to see if the government is able to call it in for reconsideration.”

A spokesman for Fylde Council said: “Our Housing Needs Survey indicated the need for a smaller number of houses but we now have to build more houses in the borough than previously thought.”

The survey, carried out in 2012, said between 240 and 450 houses were needed every year. That figure has been now updated to 370, the council said, although it said it is targeting sites at the back of the village that won’t ‘impact on its visual appeal’.

“We arrived at that figure by looking at demographic change – which is the increase in population – and economic change,” the spokesman said.

“We recognise the attractiveness of Wrea Green but we do also have to look at the area’s housing needs.

“In the past 12 months, we have refused five applications and approved two. Of the five we have refused, three have been allowed by inspectors on appeal.”