Councillors are seeking planning reform

Coun Liz Oades

Coun Liz Oades

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County Councillors have called for a shake-up in the county’s planning system.

They are particularly concerned that, with many new homes due to be or being built across Lancashire, existing residents could miss out on key infrastructure improvements which developers could or should be funding.

Fears were also raised at a meeting of the council’s Scrutiny Committee that many new developments could be given the go-ahead with no acknowledgement that there are not enough school places, doctors or dentists to serve an expanding community.

Worries too were outlined that too often the cart is put before the horse. The new Preston Western distributor road listed as an example where councillors argued it would have made sense for new roads to be built to allow better access for hgvs before work started on building new properties.

The debate was sparked by an report submitted by a Planning Matters Task Group which had been set up at the request of Independent Fylde East Councillor Coun Liz Oades.

She asked for the inquiry after the county council was rapped for its handling of some planning issues. The report noted district councils had raised concerns about the ”scope, content and timeliness“ of county consultation responses, particularly regarding education, highways, flood risk management and ecological/archaeological advice.

A report to the committee noted there were also concerns that the county council’s advice “was not adequately represented in the consideration of planning applications and the council’s reputation had been damaged as a consequence.”

Draft recommendations have now been drawn up. These are out for consultation and will be considered by a future meeting of the scrutiny committee.

Andy Mullaney, head of planning and environment at the county council reported that the council is looking at how to have better dialogue between relevant organisations and district councils and for improvements in the system. He said a paper had been prepared on the topic of how the county council can press for “enhanced and protected infrasructure” when a new housing development is planned. But recent cutbacks were likely to hit the archaelogical advice service, which was subject to ongoing discussions on how to provide a future service in the county.

County Coun Vivien Taylor said : “I’m very pleased there will be an improved dialogue and communications between the county and district council, particularly with the high number of major housing developments coming through at the moment. “

* County and district councillors are being encouraged to report local flooding incidents to Lancashire County Council’s highways department to aid investigations and record keeping.