THE PUBLIC INQUIRIES to develop a beautiful, largely unspoilt slice of countryside, known locally as The Rough, just outside the edge of the dense urban settlement of East Colne with either 90 or 270 houses are now complete.
The Wilson Room in Nelson Town Hall was the setting for the six day hearing overseen by Government Planning Inspector, Mike Robins. He heard evidence from the appellant, Junction Properties Ltd, a Guernsey-based offshore trust believed to be owned by local property speculators who will sell it to developers to build, and from the defendants, the Lidgett & Beyond Charity and Pendle Borough Council. The original applications were unanimously rejected by the Council’s Development Management and Colne Area Committee last Spring.
At a public meeting in Colne Town Hall on Tuesday night, the Inspector heard 20 informed and impassioned speeches from older and younger people talking about life on and around The Rough. Andrew Stephenson MP opened by praising the Council’s efforts in getting planning permissions granted for nearly 2,000 homes, with a further 2,000 potential brownfield developments being the subject of initiatives to bring them forward. He believed that this was clearly an example of developers landbanking sites and the general depressed state of the local housing market.
The audience of over 100, with standing room only, then heard anecdotes which brought the character and value of The Rough to life from Geoff Crambie, Barry Birtwistle, Elizabeth Lane, Kevin Hey, Jerry Stanford, Ella Rogers, Christopher Richards and others. The Rough was affectionately described as a “Rough Diamond” and its value was highlighted in educating local people in rural activities and life lessons and providing a much-needed recreational resource for hundreds of years. The risks of the development, particularly in respect of dangers to children going to and from Park High School from increased traffic, were also highlighted.
Junction Property maintains there is an under-supply of housing sites in the Borough and development of The Rough should be brought forward as harm to heritage and landscape were overstated. Barristers for the Lidgett & Beyond Charity and Pendle Borough Council countered by highlighting the comments made by the public and the overriding principle should be that it is only sustainable sites should come forward and that The Rough was certainly not one of them.
Chairman of L&B’s Trustees, David Cockburn-Price said: “Local people have yet again lent terrific support to our campaign to save The Rough and the meeting in the Town Hall was a memorable night. Now the Inspector will probably take a couple of months to decide on the Appeals, so L&B’s supporters will all have their fingers crossed and we will continue with our fundraising activities to help protect, enhance and improve access to this treasured area.”