Statement on Preston City Council Planning Department

At the Broughton-in-Amounderness Parish Council meeting on the 10th January the Councillors passed a motion of no confidence in the Preston City Council Planning Department.

Broughton in Amounderness Parish Councils motion: “The Parish Council has no confidence in the planning officers of PCC to undertake their statutory duties and as a result the Planning sub-committee of PCC cannot make effective judgements based on advice from those officers”.

This motion, with the background notes, was then sent to the Acting Chief Executive of Preston City Council, Mr Adrian Philips, informing him we have written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire MP. This letter was also sent to the City & County Cllrs., Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP & the cabinet member for Planning and Regulation

Broughton Parish Council has not taken this action lightly and is aware that nationally there is a need for more dwellings/houses to be built in this country, but the situation is not the same all over the country. We are also aware that there is a need for affordable smaller properties for those people working in the parish (over 500 people commute into Broughton with the main employers, the ambulance HQ, High school, hotels and restaurants), those wishing to downsize and those who wish to live where there are support networks.

The rural parishes around North Preston are the target of a significant number of speculative developers applying for planning permission. These applications are on the agricultural land surrounding and near to the villages and against the current policies of Preston & Central Lancashire and in our area, Broughton, the Neighbourhood Development Plan.

The NW Preston development area was a well-planned response to the housing needs in Preston and will eventually contribute over 5000 properties to Preston’s allocated need. However, over the last 3 years a significant number of developments have been given the green light in the rural parishes. Broughton had 745 properties but by the time all the planning applications with permission are built this will be over 2000, of which 500 are not in the NW Preston development area.

This crisis has come about due to the inaccurate figures used to demonstrate the “land supply” presented by the city council’s planning department which only came to light during the Broughton Appeals in February 2018. This meant that Preston, based on the original dwelling targets of 507 pa, agreed in 2012, cannot demonstrate a 5-year Housing Land Supply (HLS). This fact has been seized upon by developer agencies to inundate the planning department with applications which the case officer’s support in their reports to the Planning Committee due to this inability to show an accurate HLS.

The usual grounds for sensible decisions such as “sustainability” and planning policies such as EN1 (development in greenspaces) have all been overruled by the inability to demonstrate a 5-year HLS. As a direct result the planning committee of Preston City Council, even though it disagrees with many applications, has no option given their legal advice but to accept this situation and agree the applications. They are afraid to challenge this situation as the planners go to appeal which costs in money and resources.

Broughton has a Neighbourhood Plan that meets the revised criteria clarified in the NPFF 2018, where the 3 year land supply rule can be applied, and the Planning Policy Officer states that the agreed 3.24 supply “could be challenged by developers”.

It is apparent from a number of recent meetings and the Councillors on all sides appear to be unhappy with the situation they are forced into. 

  • This situation is the direct responsibility of the officers whose inaccurate reports were presented to the Council, used at the Appeals and their fear to challenge the developers apparent.
  • The planning department has lost a significant number of its key senior and other staff through retirement and resignations in the last six months. Not all of these Officers are being replaced, but those who are being replaced by agency and staff with no local knowledge.
  • Finally, last week when, for the first time, the council officers could use the revised criteria as the Broughton plan is now adopted, they decided to recommend approval. This site is one third in Broughton and two thirds in Whittingham; there was no precedent for split sites that was found before this meeting - so now there is a precedent that can be used nationally to challenge Neighbourhood plans.

Ref 12/19/2