Not So Champion Front Page?

The Champion front page this week makes a bold statement of “residents and council celebrating victory in Aughton homes row”. Hardly a row, more a war to match any seen in local government versus greedy bullying developers? And its picture of the wrong field does it no credit. 

“Victory in a three year battle” is in reality a victory in a much longer war. Colin Atkinson of Aughton Residents Group (2012) told the Visiter in March 2015 “Our group has been contesting the development on this land for the past three years and warned residents some time ago to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ and to be aware of the developers’ intentions to eventually turn this beautiful area into a giant housing estate. These proposals are unwarranted, totally out of order and nothing more than aggressive marketing and bully boy tactics by the developers who obviously consider themselves above having to comply with the Local Plan”. 

The campaign against development started in 2011, leading to the creation of ARG in 2012 and eventually to the scenes in the Aughton Parish Council meeting of 9 December 2013 reported by Danielle Thompson Calls for councillor to quit after the ‘waste of time’ slur “Aughton residents are calling for Councillor David Westley to resign – after he called the two-year campaign to keep Parrs Lane in the greenbelt ‘a waste of time’ and alleged that door to door campaigners had told lies. 

After Colin Atkinson, chairman for the Aughton Residents Group (2012) raised the issue of the formulation of the neighbourhood plan to discuss the future of Aughton at public question time at the Aughton Parish Council meeting on Monday December 9, Lancashire County Councillor Westley, who represents Aughton and Downholland told Colin Atkinson that campaigners had wasted two years talking to the Borough Council. He said “The campaign was a disaster, lies were told door to door and the campaign was a waste of time”. He then walked out of the meeting at Aughton Village Hall amid shouts that the campaigners had not lied, jeers and calls for his resignation.

There is no doubt of the resilience and professionalism of the WLBC planners, nor that of the legal representation. What has always been in doubt, due to the Westley accusations, is the party political stance of Aughton’s own parish and ward councillors. It was their Local Plan, their accusations, their Plan B for Parrs Lane, and when they took on Aughton itself they have lost.

Hopefully the remarks reported in the Champion that Redrow “will review the Inspector’s findings” are more hot air. Meanwhile we suggest the Champion corrects its picture published as “The land at Parrs Lane that was under threat of development” which is not so!

Redrow  reported recently “The Group added 5,419 plots with planning permission to our owned and contracted land bank in the year. This more than replaced the record 5,319 legal completions (excluding JV) and we ended the year with 26,100 plots in our owned and contracted land bank. This was a small increase on the very strong closing position in the previous year and represents about five years output and a Gross Development Value, based on our 2017 average selling price, of £8.2bn. Forward land again made a significant contribution, comprising over 60% of the 5,419 additions in the year across 22 sites. This included the important strategic ‘Plasdŵr’ site – Cardiff’s new Garden City. Despite transferring 3,356 plots to the owned and contracted land bank, we still increased our forward land bank by a net 766 plots to 26,400 plots. Over 40% of these plots are allocated for housing in Local Authority Plans”.

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