Greenbelt Planning Appeal off Dawbers Lane

Greenbelt Planning Appeal off Dawbers Lane

27th of November, 2023

Greenbelt Planning Appeal off Dawbers Lane

Euxton Parish Council has received notification of a planning appeal against a refusal late in 2022 for houses in Greenbelt land off Dawbers Lane. The Appeal document is attached.

Below is an update on the Councils objection November 2023 and below this one is the actual objection the parish council submitted in October 2022. The image is showing the proposed properties, next to the already built 12 properties off Dawbers Lane - appearing on the right side are the proposed additional ones.


Euxton Parish Council                                               27 November 2023

Outline application for erection of 11no. self-build / custom-build houses and associated development (with all matters reserved save for access)
Location: Land To The West Of Gleadhill House Gardens Dawbers Lane Euxton
Appellant: Metacre Ltd
Planning Inspectorate Appeal Ref: APP/D2320/W/23/3324581
Planning Application Ref: 22/00983/OUTMAJ

1        Euxton Parish Council objected to this proposed development in its objection dated 26th October 2022.  The Council wishes this objection to be taken into account by the Inspector conducting the appeal into the application.

2        In addition, the Council wishes to bring the Inspector’s attention to the following, which is pertinent to the Council’s objection but which has arisen since it was made.

3        The objection explained, amongst other matters, that the Council and the local community are extremely concerned about the pressure for development in the Green Belt around Euxton. In December 2022 Chorley and South Ribble Borough Councils and Preston City Council (who, together, are preparing the Central Lancashire Local Plan) commenced their Preferred Options Consultation.  Amongst the “preferred options” which Chorley Borough Council has proposed were potential sites for residential development in Euxton during the period of the Plan.

4        One of these is a site (19C298 – 11 Wigan Road), for 12.75 (?) houses, in the north of Euxton– in the Green Belt.  The pressure is, therefore, already on for Euxton’s Green Belt and the Parish Counsel has objected to this proposal for that reason.  This site is occupied by an old house and its grounds, including a tennis court, and lies in a narrow corridor between an A road (although it is part of the main Green Belt area which crosses the road) and the mainline railway. So, unwelcome though its development for housing would be, it would be much less damaging to the Green Belt than the full-scale assault on the green fields to the west of Euxton as is proposed under the Gleadhill application.

Below, a copy of the


Chorley Planning                                                            26 October 2022

Planning Application 22/00983 OUTMAJ

Outline application for erection of 11no. self-build / custom-build houses and associated development (with all matters reserved save for access) | Land to The West Of Gleadhill House Gardens Dawbers Lane, Euxton

Objection by Euxton Parish Council

1)       Introduction

1.1     Euxton Parish Council strongly objects to this proposal for a significant housing development in the Green Belt.  Euxton is an old settlement but its older elements are losing impact within an environment dominated by modern housing. Over-development by modern housing is a matter of great concern to local residents who fear that Euxton’s character is changing from that of a large village to that of a residential suburb of Chorley.

1.2     Most modern development has taken place in land allocated for, or reserved for, that purpose in successive versions of the Local Plan (the current version being the Chorley Local Plan adopted in 2015).  Residents have, however, taken comfort in the fact that the spread of development eventually comes up against the Green Belt. Although it must be anticipated that the Green Belt will come under pressure at some time, residents hope and expect that any break will occur somewhere else and not in Euxton.

1.3     The Parish Council has carefully scrutinised planning applications for proposals within the Green Belt, and defended it by objecting to them when considered appropriate.  The Council objected when the first phase of residential development was proposed at Gleadhill (Application 16/00633) and was extremely surprised when Chorley Borough Council (CBC) approved it. This application did at least have the redeeming feature that about a quarter of the site was previously developed with only the other three quarters stretching into the undeveloped Green Belt. 

1.4     The current application (22/0938), however, quite unashamedly seeks to extend housing further westwards entirely into undeveloped Green Belt.  As with the previous application, it seeks to persuade that its impact upon the Green Belt is negligible and that there are present the “Very Special Circumstances” (VSC) that are necessary to justify development in the Green Belt.

1.5     It is interesting that there was an earlier planning application (15/00162) for a self-build housing development in the Green Belt at the former Euxton Mill (Xelflex) site, very close to the site of the current application.  Whilst it was generally accepted that redevelopment of this eyesore site was desirable and acceptable, even though it was in the Green Belt, there was some concern that the initial proposals were for too much development (14 detached houses).  One objector noted:

“This (the 14 large detached houses) will represent a substantially different form of development on site to the previous mill and the recent planning consent, (an earlier application for a care home and associated retirement housing had been approved) both of which incorporated a central block as opposed to more widespread development. The provision of detached private dwellings is a stark contrast from a mill building or a care home.  The dwellings represent a more suburban form of development and development across a greater proportion of the site will accentuate this effect. This will result in a greater impact upon the openness of the Green Belt beyond the previous mill building or recent planning consent.

It is our contention that the amount and scale of development should therefore be reduced for this sensitive Green Belt location.  We do not oppose the principle of residential on site however 14 self build dwellings is excessive within the Green Belt.”

1.6     The objector clearly had a great concern for the impact that suburban housing could have on this sensitive Green Belt location, where it replaced an ugly old mill building.  One must assume that they would have still greater concern for a nearby location where the Green Belt is quite undeveloped. The name of the objector – Northern Trust Company, the letter signed by its Planning Manager, a man with relevant professional qualifications.  The current applicant, Metacre Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Northern Trust Company.

1.7  Metacre’s current application (22/0938) seeks to convince that:

a) The proposed development will have only limited impact upon the Green Belt and

b) that their proposal for an estate of high-end self-build houses provides the Very Special Circumstances necessary to justify development in the Green Belt.

2. Impact on the Green Belt

2.1     The applicant’s Planning Statement reports in its conclusion as follows:

6.5. The development would cause some harm to the Green Belt by virtue of inappropriateness and the loss of openness, however, there would be limited impact on the Green Belt beyond the site’s confines due to the level of containment by the existing and proposed woodland/landscaping and nearby development. There would also be no more than limited impact on the purposes of including land within the Green Belt”.

2.2     What this means, on reading the material that leads to this conclusion, is that the site is not very visible and is not very large in the overall context of the Green Belt.  So, if it cannot be clearly seen and is only a tiny part of the Green Belt, it doesn’t matter very much.  This could however be said of any number of locations within the Green Belt and it follows that development in any of these would also be acceptable – a rather casual appreciation of the Green Belt.

2.3     Interestingly, the earlier planning application (16/00633) for the existing development at Gleadhill made some similar points.  The Planning Statement concluded:

“91. The character of this urban fringe location is of compartmentalisation due to existing dense and significant woodland belts and the strong feature of the stone boundary wall. Views of the site are therefore very limited from public vantage points”.

2.4     CBC Planning officers were persuaded that this view was correct and, in his report to the Planning Committee, the case officer (Mr Paul Whittingham) confirmed:

“26. In conclusion the site is a contained site and due to the package of mitigation measures then the visual impact is considered to be limited.”

2.5     It is now clear, however, that this was simply not true. Despite the old boundary walls and the tree cover, when driving past the site, as thousands do each day, or walking on the Dawbers Lane footway or the public footpath (FP43) east of the development, it is quite obvious that what used to be green fields and countryside has been replaced by an, admittedly very attractive but nevertheless, suburban housing estate.  In a part of the Green Belt close to the developed parts of Euxton, suburbia has replaced countryside.

2.6     The new proposed estate would also, despite the assurances, be similarly visible, especially in winter and would simply enlarge this suburban development making it more dominant in the local environment.  CBC should not allow themselves to be persuaded otherwise.

2.7 So, when the Planning Statement in Paragraph 5.3.12 assesses the impact of the proposed development against the purposes of the Green Belt (as laid down in the National Planning Policy Framework, two purposes of which are relevant to this application) and concludes that in respect of checking the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas, that “the site is well contained by woodland and well- established tree planting which would reduce or avoid any perception of ‘sprawl’,” CBC should simply not accept it.

2.8 The Statement goes on to consider the purpose of the Green Belt in assisting in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment and concludes “The site is visually and physically separated from more open countryside areas by existing woodland and development. It is capable of accommodating change without undue harm to the wider landscape character and/or landscape features. Consequently, the development of the site would have negligible impact on the purpose of safeguarding the countryside from encroachment”.  In other words, because it cannot be seen there is no encroachment. Nonsense! No doubt the white fallow deer that frequent this part of Euxton and the roe deer that roam generally around the local rural area will notice the encroachment. And, of course, the housing estate will be visible.

2.9     The site, in the overall context of the Green Belt in the Chorley area is tiny.  In the context of Euxton though, it is highly significant. 

2.10   In connection with the earlier development the applicant was able to suggest that the proposals met a third Green Belt objective of Assisting in Urban Regeneration.  This was achieved by the doubtful mechanism of knocking down some older buildings and replacing them with some more attractive ones (but spreading them into a much large previously undeveloped area)  The current application however can claim no such “virtue”

2.11    There is a further concern for the Parish Council about the impact upon the Green Belt.  The proposed development, would, together with the existing Gleadhill Estate and the Armetriding Reaches Estate, form a continuous band of housing development that would trap an “island” of Green Belt fields, of about 5 hectares (say 250 houses) area, west of the existing housing at Fieldside Avenue, with the river an effective break point to the south.  Fragmentation of the Green Belt in this way must weaken it and set up pressure for development of the ‘island’ areas.  Indeed, more suspicious minds than those of the Parish Councillors might wonder if this was the real objective of the proposed housing at Gleadhill.

2.12   If CBC Councillors are in any doubt as to the Parish Council’s view that this site would have a major impact upon the local environment, by replacing countryside with visible suburbia, the Parish Council recommends that they view the site from Dawbers Lane and from FP43.

3        The Very Special Circumstances (VSC)

3.1     The VSCs that are offered to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt (although as explained above, this has been grossly underestimated) are set out in Paragraph 5.3.17. of the Planning Statement:

………… it is considered that the proposed 100% self-build housing scheme will secure a range of benefits which would outweigh the harm to the Green Belt in this location. These include contributing towards addressing the significant housing shortfall as well as contributing towards meeting the specific need for self-build properties. Assisting in addressing affordable housing need through the proposed off-site contribution. Together with increasing the amount of housing supply on small to medium sized sites in line with Government objectives and securing economic benefits. Very special circumstances therefore exist to justify the development under the terms of Green Belt policy, especially given that there would be limited harm to the Green Belt beyond the boundaries of the application site due to its concealed nature.”

3.2     So, the VSCs are essentially the fact that the proposed development is for self-build houses for which Government has defined a particular need and is a small development which again meets a specific government objective.  In addition, the proposed development would make a contribution to CBC’s housing shortfall.  The Parish Council accepts this to be the case but would point out that Euxton has contributed more than its fair share of new housing in Chorley Borough, even without taking into account the massive number of new houses that lie in the Euxton part of the Buckshaw development.  In further addition, the developer would make a contribution to affordable housing. Unlike most new housing projects though, the developer, because this is a high-end, self-build niche development, does not make this contribution by constructing affordable housing but simply makes a financial contribution.  Set against this, the Parish Council would note that they (and CBC) do not receive a CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) contribution from a self-build housing project - a disadvantage as far as the Parish Council is concerned.

3.3     The Parish Council accepts that the development would offer opportunities for smaller builders than those which have built most of the local housing estates in recent years. That is hardly a VSC justifying the damage to Euxton’s Green Belt.  The VSC essentially is that this development offers a particular high-end, self-build opportunity for owners and builders that meets specific government objectives. Before embarking on such a venture, it is worth having a closer look at its predecessor.

3.4     The existing Gleadhill Gardens is comprised of 12 large and very attractive detached houses.  The Parish Council understands that a number of these were custom-built by owners having some connection with the applicant developer (the Gleadhill House Stud Ltd) and companies related to it.  There is no implied criticism in this statement; groups of people with some common interest combining to procure houses through self-build is a perfectly acceptable approach.  

3.5     As a consequence, though, not all the properties were available on the open market for self-build.  Less than twelve were.  The Parish Council is, however, aware that CIL contributions were subsequently made for two of the properties.  This can only mean that the purchases did not meet self-build rules and so CIL became payable.  This raises two issues.  Firstly, unless it was sure that there was a genuine market for high end self-build, should CBC have approved the application for such a site in the Green Belt?  Secondly, given the doubts raised by the history, should CBC now contemplate approving a similar new proposal in the Green Belt?

3.6     As further warning that caution should be exercised before giving encouragement to high end self-build projects in the Euxton Green Belt, reference must be made to the nearby Armetriding Reaches.  This self-build site for 8 houses with a wonderful river frontage was approved in 2015.  Its progress has stuttered ever since with only two houses completed.  Indeed, three of the houses are now available for sale through an agent as completed dwellings not, apparently, as self-build.

4        Conclusions

4.1     The applicant’s parent company, when responding to a nearby planning proposal in 2015 demonstrated appropriate respect and concern for the wellbeing of Euxton’s Green Belt.

4.2     This has not subsequently been the case and the attitude now appears to be that if an area of Green Belt is small and not very visible, then its OK to develop it.

4.3     The previous development at Gleadhill demonstrates quite clearly, for all to see, that assurances given about the visibility of the development were wrong and suburbia has replaced countryside.  No similar assurances can be accepted by the new proposal which would only inject a further piece of suburbia into Euxton’s rural Green Belt.

4.4     The new development would also effectively fragment the Green Belt and trap an” island” of undeveloped land rendering it vulnerable to future development.

4.5     There is evidence to suggest that the market for high-end, self-build properties is not strong and that the VSCs necessary to justify development in the Green Belt do not exist.

4.6     The application should be refused